Whenever a person can find an “edge” in training, it should be utilized. Fitness is no slouch when it coms to new training methods and theories. One that has become quite popular in the past few years is high altitude training.
High altitude training is training that takes place 5000 feet above sea level. Many amateur and even professional athletes have resorted to high altitude training for a heightened conditioning for their respected sports. Many runners are now resorting to high altitude training as well. And if you cannot find somewhere that is 5000 feet above sea level to train, you can buy a mask to help mimic the higher altitude (plus they look pretty cool and serious).
When it comes to high altitude training, there are some misconceptions. Many people believe that high altitude training is all about strengthening the lungs which in return helps out with cardiovascular health. This is a small part of what happens during this kind of training.
When a person gets above the required 5000 feet, the science behind high altitude training is pretty cool. When we breathe in air, the oxygen goes to our lungs which in return puts oxygen in the blood. After oxygen hits the blood, red blood cells are created which goes to the muscles to help performance and function. When people train above 5000 feet, our body notices that lack of oxygen at that high elevation. This lack of oxygen triggers small cells in the kidneys to release a hormone called EPO. That hormone then signals the body to release more red blood cells to the body which in return goes to our muscles to help function, keeping the muscles going in the midst of the lack of oxygen.
So, when a person returns back from the higher altitude, their body contains more red blood cells which means more oxygen for the muscles to function and have better endurance. Now this is disputed at times, but the testing and results behind it is pretty solid. People said they feel like they could run forever after returning from training at a high altitude.
Now, it should be known that the abundance of red blood cells only last for about 15 days after returning from high altitude. A good formula to use to find out how long it takes for the body to acclimate to higher elevation is 11.4 days per 1000 meters of elevation.