By: Dylan Bowman, Director of Endurance at Hypoxico Altitude Training
Can’t make a camp or move to the mountains? At-home altitude training is the next frontier in performance and acclimatization.
“The record has shown that since 1968, 95% of all Olympic and World Championship medals from the 800 through the Marathon were won by athletes who lived or trained at altitude. It can therefore be concluded that altitude training is necessary for success in endurance events.” – Dr. Joe Vigil, 2008 USA Olympic Team Running Coach
It was the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics where altitude training first caught the attention of the endurance world. In these games – in the thin air of 7,000 feet – endurance athletes who had spent time living and training in high altitude environments significantly outperformed those who came from sea level. Though it was not fully understood at the time, the high altitude athletes arrived in Mexico City with distinct physiological advantages over their competition.
Why altitude works
Today altitude training is universally accepted as the most effective way to maximize one’s potential in endurance events. Though the above quote from Dr. Vigil focuses solely on middle distance running, the principle applies even more to ultra distance, and especially to runners and cyclists preparing for the Leadville Trail 100.
For decades, runners have been flocking to high altitude training havens like Boulder and Flagstaff to soak up the performance boosting adaptations of altitude training. Of course, most cycling events take place at low or moderate altitude, where oxygen is readily available, if not abundant. When the race instead takes place at high-altitude – Like the 10,200’ start line in Leadville – it’s critical for athletes to pre-acclimatize in order to race to their potential. Even the fittest person on the start line, if they are not conditioned to the elevation, will have no chance against altitude-dwelling athletes in their category. Quite simply, the roughly 30% decrease in oxygen availability is a critical variable to address in training to ensure Leadville success.
In addition to acclimatization, the benefits of altitude training include:
- Amplified pulmonary oxygen absorption.
- Increased O2 uptake and delivery (VO2max) for enhanced power output and increased speed, strength and endurance.
- Boosted production of red blood cells (RBCs) and enhanced oxygen transport in the body.
- Increased capillarization for greater oxygen delivery to the tissues, muscles and brain.
- Enhanced production and rejuvenation of mitochondria (the cell’s hub for aerobic energy production) and mitochondrial enzymes, allowing more efficient use of oxygen.
- Decreased average heart rate and blood pressure.
- Increased production and release of Human Growth Hormone.
- Stimulation of fat metabolism.
Altitude Training at Home
For years now, our phones have rung off the hook in the days and weeks after Leadville with calls from unacclimatized but otherwise super fit athletes who didn’t adequately account for the altitude before the race, resulting in a disappointing experience, and in a lot of cases, a DNF. Don’t let that happen to you! The reality is if you want to have your best day on ultra-endurance’s biggest stage, you must prepare for the altitude.
Many athletes relocate for part of the year, or attend altitude-training camps in order to acclimatize and boost performance. Unfortunately, most athletes don’t have the time, money, or flexibility to spend six to eight weeks at altitude to ensure proper adaptation before their goal event. Let’s face it; while we’d all love to spend the summer training in the mountains, most of us have jobs and family responsibilities that preclude such an indulgence. Fortunately, sea-level athletes can now achieve the same adaptations from home, without the expense or inconvenience of travelling to altitude. With the help of Hypoxico technology, LT100 runners and cyclists can now simulate Hope Pass and the Columbine climb from the comforts of home.
Reach out to us today to learn how you can get ready for Leadville! https://hypoxico.com/