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Transcript of Altitude Training
Exercise Prescription - Seminar Presentation
What do we know about Altitude Training?
Burtscher, M., Nachbauer, W., Baumgartl, P., & Philadelphy, M. (1996). Benefits of training at moderate altitude versus sea level training in amateur runners. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 74, 558-563
Fulco, C., Rock, P., Cymerman, A. (1998). Maximal and Submaximal Exercise Performance at Altitude. Aviation, Space and environmental medicine. 69(8), 793-801
Ingjer, F. & Myhre, K. (1992). Physiological Effects of Altitude Training on Elite Male Cross-country Skiers. Journal of Sports Sciences. 10(1), 37-47
Levine, B. & Stray-Gundersen. (1997). “Living high-training low”: effect of moderate-altitude acclimatisation with low-altitude training on performance. The American Physiological Society
Rusko, H., Tikanen, H., Peltonen, J. (2004). ALtitude and Endurance Training. Journal of Sports Sciences. 22(10), 928-945.
Saunders, P., Pyne, D., & Gore, C. (2009). Endurance Training at Altitude. High Altitude Medicine and Biology. 10(2), 135-148
Simpson, A. (2007). Altitude Training. Retrieved from http://www.altitude.org/altitude_training.php
Wilber, R. (2001). Current Trends in Altitude Training. Sports Medicine. 31(4), 249-265
Discussion of common methods
The ways in which altitude training can be used can vary
Living high and training high (LH/TH)
Living high and training low (LH/TL)
What is Altitude Training
Is training which occurs at high altitude. Generally >2000m above sea level.
Altitude is classified into 5 different categories based on how far above sea level the activity occurs.
Sea level (0 to 500m)
Low (>500 to 2000m)
Moderate (>2000 to 3000m)
High (>3000 to 5500m)
Extreme altitude (>5500m)
(Saunders, Pyne & Gore, 2009)
Methods of Training
Traditional v New Methods
Traditional - Live and train at high altitudes >2000m
Live high, train low. Live >2000m. Train at sea level < 500m
Normobaric hypoxia via nitrogen dilution
Hypoxic sleeping devices
Intermittent hypoxic exposure (IHE)
Living high and training high can be associated with the consistent domination of endurance sport athletes coming from East Africa in counties such as Ethiopia and Kenya (Wilber, 2011).
The environment in this area is perfect for the development of long distance runners as the lack of oxygen forces the body to produce more red blood cells. This allows the body to carry more oxygen around the body due to the increased levels of haemoglobin. Runners such as Mo Farah have exploited this and have moved away from their families to high altitude environments, in his case, the famous Rift valley, in Kenya.
For those not born into high altitude conditions, Living high and training low may be the best option (Wilber, 2011). This can allow for a higher training stimulus and therefore improved performance when at sea level.
Important to determine whether altitude training enhances performance over similar sea level training (Burtscher, Nachbauer, Baumgartl & Philadelphy, 1996). There are clear positive effects which link oxygen deprivation to improved performance at sea level (Rusko, Tikkanen & Peltonen, 2004)
Performance in short distance events (e.g., 200m running) is relatively unaffected at moderate altitude (Saunders, Pyne & Gore, 2009)
Performance in long distance events (e.g. greater than 1500m) appear to be greatly affected by moderate altitude (Saunders, Pyne & Gore, 2009)
Years of research has failed to conclusively determine the effects of altitude training on endurance performance, yet many athletes dedicate vast levels of time to altitude training (Wilber, 2001)
Live High – Train High
Live High – Train Low
Advantages of Altitude Training
For athletes and other target groups the advantages are:
Stimulation of lipolysis process (fat-burning)
Decreased muscle fatigue
Increased erythropoietin levels
Increased quantity of red blood cells
Disadvantages of Altitude Training
Too many red blood cells in the body can make the blood thick and difficult to pump around the body and as a result decrease the amount of oxygen moving around the body. This is known as chronic mountain sickness and can occur when living for an extended period of time at high altitude (Simpsom, 2007)
The body cannot exercise as intensely at altitude. This results in reduced training intensity, which can reduce performance in some sports. (Simpsom, 2007)
May not meet the training principle of specificity as training at high altitude is not specific to performing at sea level
For athletes and other target groups the disadvantages are:
Acute Mountain Sickness
Decreased exercise performance (inability to maintain intensity)
Potential weight loss
Increased risk of infections (immune system weakened)
the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for athletes
Normobaric – Normo = normal (at sea level).
Baric = air pressure. Creating an air pressure equivalent to that at sea level
Hypoxia – Depriving body of adequate amount of oxygen
Erythropoietin (EPO) – Hormone which stimulates the release of Red Blood Cells in response to decreased oxygen levels
Example: Welsh Rugby Team in preparation for 2015 Rugby World Cup
"In both Switzerland and Qatar our philosophy was that we should sleep and recover at altitude and then train at lower levels, because you produce more red blood cells at altitude but you need to train at a lower level if you want to do so at a high intensity"
Living/sleeping at altitude for extended periods of time enables total red blood cells in the body to increase. While training at sea level allows athletes to maintain their current training intensity and also meet the training principle of specificity.
– training at same altitude as where competition is held. i.e. If competition is being held at sea level, training high does not meet the training principle of specificity
– Decreasing supply of oxygen at same intensity, or keeping oxygen supply at same level and increasing exercise intensity
– begin with short stints of oxygen deprivation and over time increase the time that athlete is deprived of oxygen
– catering to needs of individual athlete. Done by considering their fitness level, previous exposures to bouts of oxygen deprivation and current living altitude.
Mo is an Olympic Gold Medalist from England.
For athletes and other target groups
the advantages are:
Stimulates lipolysis process (fat-burning)
Decreased muscle fatigue
Increased red blood cell production
Ultimately all linked to an increase in red blood cells