Running at altitude – how high and what’s happening?

Many professional athletes go to altitude training camps, some like Kenyans living high altitude all the time. There is a lot of discussions about whether you should live and train at altitude or just live. We will look, what the basic information you should know about altitude training.

How high and why?

Altitude training often happens 1825-3050m above sea level. There is 21%-32% less oxygen available than at sea level. Anything higher than this is not safe anymore for high-intensity training, as it can cause altitude sickness. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, coordination problems, nausea and vomiting, and many other symptoms that might require medical attention.

Whereas, anything below 1825m provides more oxygen, which doesn’t give as big benefits. A low oxygen environment increases red blood cell production, which transforms more oxygen and increases the performance level. Normally the increased performance level can be seen when returning back to the sea level.

Live high, train low – give the body opportunity to get used to low oxygen levels, but allow you to do high-intensity training. The suggestion is that athletes would spend 12-16 hours of their day at high altitudes. But in the reality, this is often impossible. There are high altitude rooms and hypoxia sleep chambers, which of course will cost a lot of money. This lead that many athletes live and train at high altitude or travel to the next city to train.

What to take account?

Regular runners, might not get any major benefits from high altitude training. So, save you money and don’t worry. But, if you are arriving at a high altitude and planning training, remember certain things. It can take up a few days to body get used to the altitude. Take care of your hydration and iron levels. Your performance level probably will drop at the beginning. Take an easy start and observe your feeling and any sign of altitude sickness.

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