Once reserved for top professional athletes, altitude training is making its way to the mainstream. Training facilities are now offering rooms that can replicate the conditions of some of the world’s highest mountains. They’re taking efficiency to a whole new level.
Altitude training became prominent as early as 1968 during the Mexico Olympics. Mexico City sits at 2240 metres above sea level, and this high altitude is believed to have contributed to a number of performance anomalies during the games. Namely, many athletes struggled with the unfamiliar conditions.
According to Peak Altitude Training, centres that offer altitude training reduce oxygen levels by filling the room with around 7% nitrogen. This can reduce the amount of oxygen from around 21% (normal) to between 15-12%. It might not seem like much, but this makes a massive difference. Simulated altitude levels can range from 2500-5000 metres. These simulated environments can lower the body’s oxygen saturation to around 80-90%.
At altitude, there is much less oxygen in the air than normal. Being exposed to an environment low in oxygen means that your body is forced to adapt to the harder conditions. Basically, attempting your usual training routine at altitude will be much harder.
The benefits are numerous and substantially supported by scientific evidence. The increase in training difficulty causes your body to become more efficient at transporting and consuming oxygen. This means your respiratory muscles become stronger, and your red blood cell count improves. When you ‘descend’ from altitude and attempt the training routine at normal oxygen levels, it should be much easier due to the way your body has adapted.
It’s important that training is completed correctly – too much time spent training at altitude can increase the risk of overtraining, while not enough time means your body won’t adapt. When done correctly, altitude training can help anyone from elite level athletes to people looking for a new and effective way to increase your lung capacity, endurance, and respiratory efficiency. But, be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted.