What is high altitude training and how can you benefit from it? We asked former athlete, qualified personal trainer and PE teacher, Brooke Williams for her thoughts.

Expert advice: high altitude training

 

 

ON WHAT IT IS

There is less oxygen in the air the higher you are above sea level. If you live or train at a high altitude your body starts working like crazy to produce red blood cells, which does amazing things for your body.  When you come off the mountain, you have about 10 days to adjust back to sea level (but keep in mind that everyone is different). You may feel sluggish for the first few days, but after that your fitness is at its peak, so it’s great to plan a race or a competition around that time. I remember eight days after a mountain stint my legs were running so fast.

ON HOW IT WORKS

There are two ways to go about the training:

1. You can do a training camp for three to four weeks. Research suggests that three to six weeks is a suitable amount of time to gain the benefits.

2. You can purchase or rent an altitude tent to sleep in, which follows the principles of living high and training low. The reason sleeping at high altitude is beneficial is because sometimes training at high altitude means you lose speed as you physically cannot push yourself as hard as you can at sea level. So you are getting the benefits of gaining red blood cells during your sleep, as well as the benefits of training.

The one thing that surprised me when I went to an altitude training camp was how hard it was. The first time was the hardest but my body adjusted better each and every camp I attended. I was running at a very slow pace and my heart rate was going about 170 to 180 beats per minute at the very first camp.

ON BENEFITS

Increased stamina: You can run longer, feel less tired and have more energy. You can run faster with less effort.

ON WEIGHT LOSS

Weight loss is easier to achieve at altitude. My first few days I lost about three to four kilos because my body was working harder to keep up with oxygen demand. When I came back from my first stint at altitude I had lost about five kilos and was in the best shape I’d ever been in.

ON IDEAL CANDIDATES

A mixed bag of people do altitude training, from gym-goers and fun-runners to the more serious athletes. I think anyone can benefit.

ON PRECAUTIONS

Anyone with medical conditions should check with their doctor before doing altitude training.

ON SAFETY

Yes, it is safe. However, if planning to go on an altitude camp, I’d recommend getting in contact with a doctor and a coach who has experience with altitude.

You need to check your iron levels before you go because if you go to altitude with low iron, your body can’t produce any red blood cells and you might be at risk of becoming anaemic.

Don’t go overboard the first couple of days, as your body needs time to adjust. Try an easy jog, walk or yoga.

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