Have you ever wondered why athletes head for the hills pre-season to fine tune their training and endurance? Or wondered why Kenyans are hard to beat in any world class marathon? The answer lies in the fact that winning athletes often live or train at altitude (Kenya’s highest point is Mount Kenya at 5,100m above sea level) where the air is much thinner and their bodies have to work harder to move.
Altitude training has been used for decades by athletes across a wide range of sports to improve performance (preferably over 2,400 metres (8,000 ft) above sea level).
Now, for us sea level dwellers we’re not going to jet set off to the Rockies to train for a month in order to see a boost in our performance or everyday wellbeing —even though it would be amazing… So, the next best thing is to simulate the experience of working out at elevation by using high altitude training equipment.
In a nutshell, altitude training the lowers oxygen concentration in an altitude environment causes the body to be more efficient at using fuel and oxygen, and triggers a variety of physiological responses and changes in your body at a number of levels that improve metabolic efficiency.
Hypoxic training sessions can give you a great workout with much less stress on your body, or enhance the effectiveness of any workout you do while making your exercise more time efficient. It really is like accelerating your workout session plus it’s great for people with limited exercise tolerance (e.g. can only walk) get more value from altitude training.
Altitude Training Assists In
- Fat Loss, reduced appetite and increased leptin hormone levels
- Diabetes management/prevention and insulin/glucose sensitivity
- Osteoporosis and bone density
- Aerobic endurance and energy levels
- Anaerobic fitness and lactic acid tolerance
- Anaemia, due to increased EPO, red blood cells and haemoglobin
- Testosterone and growth hormone
- Hypertrophy (lean body mass) and strength training outcomes
- Cardiac surgery rehabilitation
- Insomnia, serotonin and endorphins
Other potential benefits include:
- Improved dexterity, co-ordination and cognitive decision making under stress and when fatigued.
- Excites neural plasticity and facilitates positive re-wiring of the brain and central nervous system.
- Enhanced collagen production, with improvements in wound healing, beauty treatment outcomes and skin elasticity.
Altitude training technology is currently used extensively by:
- The Australian Institute of Sport and many other world class institutes of sports.
- Many professional sports teams such as Collingwood, Lions, St Kilda, Crows, Suns, Storm,Titans, South Sydney,Tigers and the Bulldogs.
- Elite sports people (including golfers and formula one drivers) seeking to improve co-ordination and performance under stress.
- Leading edge executives to enhance their performance, decision making, negotiating and cognitive abilities in stressful and demanding situations.
- Hospitals, physios and beauty clinics to optimise the outcome for their patients and clients.
Altitude Training Wellness Benefits
If you are not looking to necessarily improve your endurance levels but are more interested in the wellness aspects of altitude training then its interesting to note that everyday inefficient oxygen utilisation accelerates aging, whilst efficient oxygen utilisation minimises the effects of aging on the body. Our bodies are in effect much like burning candles, or decaying fruit, but hypoxic training in a simulated altitude environment makes our bodies use oxygen more effectively, thereby slowing down the aging process and increasing the characteristics of youthfulness.
Clinical research and empirical evidence suggest the following potential positive outcomes of low intensity hypoxic training in a simulated altitude training environment.
- Accelerated fat loss
- Increased fat burning aerobic enzymes and mitochondria
- Boosts resting metabolic rate for days after your hypoxic workout
- Powerful stimulant effect of the hormone EPO
- Reduced appetite and increased leptin hormone levels
- Improved insulin and glucose sensitivity and decreased diabetes symptoms
- Increased growth hormone production (the bodies most powerful fat burning hormone)
- Improved skin elasticity, tone and appearance
- Reduction of skin wrinkles
- Increased collagen production
- Accelerated wound healing
- Greater skin micro-circulation
- Dramatically faster recovery from plastic surgery, with superior outcomes
I have completed a few altitude training sessions at Project Sparta* at Burleigh on The Gold Coast, and although I’m building up my time conservatively (altitude specialist and Rob Darley keeps a watchful eye over the programs)
Project Sparta offers two simulated altitude training rooms
Alpine Conditioning: 3300m to 3500m (where most people workout)
Himalayan Strength: 5300m to 5500m
I am super excited by what may come from it! Everybody reacts differently to altitude environments and sure, its not for everyone, but with so many awesome benefits to come from this type of training, it’s certainly worthwhile to give it a shot! It could just mean sitting on a bike or walking on a treadmill for 30 mins at a talking pace a couple of times a week.
* Project Sparta is a Gold Coast high performance conditioning facility with a cutting edge altitude training environment that caters for all levels of fitness. 100% of the income goes to Australian charity PROJECT FUTURES, to fund projects like the Child Wise National Child Abuse Prevention Help Line in Australia (1800 991 099) and safe houses in both Cambodia and Australia that rehabilitate, educate and empower women. Train to change! Contact +61 7 5508 2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in joining the club of 300 members.