Training high racing low

The phenomenon on altitude never dawned on me until I was training for my last marathon and the girl I was running with mentioned how training in Colorado and running in Arizona would make a difference on our breathing. I never gave it much thought, but since I stopped training 6 weeks before that marathon and still finished strong, I think the altitude may have contributed to it.

The “flat” roads of Maine

My awareness of this phenomenon has grown even more this training cycle or rather, I might be desperate for any excuse why I am not running fast. Regardless, it has not been easy training in Laramie (7,200-8,200 feet above sea level). But, running down at my Mom’s in Colorado (4,900 feet) has been easier. Yesterday, running in Maine (665 feet above sea level) felt even easier.

Yesterday I went out for a test run on the roads in Maine. My skin is not dry any more, I hit 8’s in my pace no problem, and I could take deep, long breathes. It was glorious. I sweat naturally as well too. When I trained in Colorado, the altitude was completely manageable, but this last training cycle in Wyoming was hard. It takes a lot to sweat, my  breathes are short, and my heart rate sky rockets fast.

The science of training at high altitude:

  • Most research in the area says that optimal improvement comes from training high and living low. Think running around in the mountains and then coming home to sleep.
  • Training at high altitude allows the body to acclimatize to less oxygen.
  • Less oxygen leads to: more red blood cells that bring oxygen to the muscles, increase in small blood vessels, an increase in the ability to manage the build up of lactic acid.(Source)

Benefits of training at high altitude:

Mountain biking in Summit County, Colorado at 11,000+ feet

  • Improvement in coordination and reaction times
  • Aerobic fitness during and post injury

Most of the research is still up for debate as to whether altitude training makes a difference in your performance at sea level. Despite the inconclusiveness of the research for training at sea level, elite athletes are still using high altitude training.

Here’s who uses high altitude training:

  • Shalane Flanagan
  • Kara Goucher
  • Lance Armstrong

I’m crossing my fingers that this idea gets me to the finish line too!

Those of you living at altitude-do you see any difference running at lower elevations?

Any ideas or insight to add to this conversation?

Those of you living at sea-level, do you see the effects of going to higher elevations?When I first moved to Colorado, I used to get drunk really fast.


3 responses to “Training high racing low

  1. Pingback: The effects of training at altitude | Mountain Kait·

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