Higher Training, Better Performance

Many athletes are looking for a way to enhance performance and turn to training in high elevation for an extra edge. Improved blood flow, extended endurance, and enhanced performance are known benefits of training 7,000 feet or higher above sea level. Runners, cyclists, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, and swimmers are most commonly known for training at high altitudes. To successfully improve athletic ability, consider high-elevation training.


High elevation changes

When a person trains at a higher elevation, the oxygen concentration in the atmosphere is considerably lower than at sea level. This means athletes breathe less air every time a breath is taken. With less oxygen reaching the bloodstream, the amount of energy reaching cells in the body is much lower. Athletes tire out more quickly at higher elevations and will feel more lethargic. Although this sounds less than ideal, adapting to such an environment makes performing at sea level much easier once the person returns home to compete.

Improve blood flow

When athletes consistently train at high altitudes, the body starts to acquire more red blood cells, which allows for more oxygen to be carried. After returning to a lower altitude, the athlete gets a natural muscle boost when extra oxygen is available. The effects of such blood expansion can enhance performance in elite athletes enough to make a noticeable difference.

Enhanced endurance

Another noted benefit of high-elevation training is a higher lactic acid threshold. Lactic acid is a byproduct of the muscle respiration process. As the acid accumulates in the muscles during a workout, athletes start to experience muscle fatigue. Research shows that consistent high-altitude training can increase the body’s tolerance to lactic acid. When the athlete returns to sea level, athletic endurance is enhanced.

Breathe better, perform better

High altitude training also can increase lung capacity, providing an advantage to serious athletes. Training in low-oxygen environments forces the athlete to work harder to breathe. Back at sea level, the lungs are primed to operate optimally as oxygen is readily available to support breathing and athletic performance.

Any downsides to training higher?

Although many athletes benefit from a living low-training high lifestyle, there are some possible downsides. If training commences too soon after arriving at a higher altitude, an athlete could experience altitude sickness. Headaches, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping are signs of mild altitude sickness. Usually, the symptoms go away after 1-2 days as the body adjusts. Worsening fatigue, shortness of breath at rest, chest tightness, confusion, and coordinator problems are more serious signs of altitude sickness that may require medical attention. Elite athletes may feel immune to such risks, but such symptoms can occur even in seasoned high-altitude trainees.

Perform optimally at all levels

Athletes looking for a way to enhance performance may seek out high-elevation training. When undertaken safely, this approach can improve athletic endurance and performance. Training high allows athletes to perform optimally at lower levels and reach new competitive goals.

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