Living in the Mile High City has its advantages. Too many to name here, one of them is simply in the nickname: Mile High. 5280 feet.
I’ve had my best and worst races training and racing in Colorado. I’ve also had my best and worst races racing out of state. But I’ve often felt that training at this altitude has come in handy when racing at sea level. My legs have felt lighter and my breathing has been easier. Has it caused me significant PR’s and the transition into a different caliber of running? Absolutely not. But I’m okay with being a mid-packer.
So when the boy and I decided to take this summer to camp in the Colorado mountains as much as possible, we both got excited for this high altitude training. Me, running; him, mountain biking. Most of the places we camp are around 9,000 feet or higher. And for two athletes who are craving some trails, this is just what we want in our next level of fitness and training.
As a quasi-native of Colorado, I’ve seen many “flatlanders” visit our state and have difficulty breathing, even suffer from altitude sickness. I’m not exempt! I even have a hard time when I start climbing 14’ers in the summer!
So what benefit does high altitude training have, if any?
When this article surfaced, I started to take a closer look.
For 16 weeks, a cycling group was divided into two smaller groups, both kept at varying altitudes; one at just under 10,000 feet and another at just under 4,000 feet. After training, the research reported that they “were unable to find any differences, either in blood measurements like hemoglobin mass or in cycling performance, between the two groups either during or after the training period.”
Then, in a similar research, elite swimmers were divided into three groups. Each group approached training differently: one with a “live high, train low” philosophy, one with a “live high, train high” philosophy, and another with no altitude whatsoever. “Once again, there were no differences in race performance among the three groups, either immediately after altitude training or throughout the season. If anything, the altitude-trained groups swam slightly slower for up to a week following the training camp.”
The final thoughts? The altitude debate continues!! Basically, an athlete can’t train as hard at altitude, because she has to go a little slower due to the lack of oxygen. So, stronger lungs; weaker legs.
So, is altitude training really that effective?
I still hold to the belief that IT IS!! Even if is is all in my head…
And since I just sold my altitude tent on Craigslist to offset my credit card bill that I have coming due to my pushing the credit limit last week in assurance that I’d be winning the Mega Millions, I guess I’ll have to go old school and still plan to camp at high altitude on the weekends this summer. Good thing I’m not going for intense workouts.