Why is high altitude training different from any other kind of training? The difference is that at high altitudes there is much less oxygen in air. This isn’t threatening or a cause of worry for those who aren’t working out, but is somewhat challenging for the athletes.
Usually these trainings focus on endurance and competition. There is also need for some time to adapt, and the higher the altitude is, the more it takes for this to happen. There are several physiologic changes that happen at high altitude, and while some can be seen immediately, others take weeks to show and some appear on even longer term.
The first thing that you might notice in case of training at high altitude is that your heart rate and respiratory rate speeds up. This happens regardless if you exercise or not.
This means that you won’t be able to touch your normal vo2 max, so don’t get frustrated because of this.
Regarding the long term changes caused by high altitude training you have to take into consideration and check if there is any decrease in the maximum cardiac output and also if there is any decrease in maximum heart rate.
This could have an affect resulting in the increase in the red blood cell numbers.
Your acid-base balance will be changed because of the exercises at high altitude and this means that there will be an excretion of base through the kidneys in order to restore this balance. Also this will mean that you will be less tolerant towards lactic acid.
The chemistry of the red blood cells will also change and this way they will be able to unload more oxygen to the tissues. The enzymes will also suffer some changes caused by high altitude training: there will be an increased number of mitochondria and oxidative enzymes.
Regarding the athletes, there are some practical implications, like in case of the diet. If you are preparing to make some exercises at high altitude, prepare a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in salt. This way you will be able to adapt faster and you won’t get ‘mountain sickness’.
There are some athletes that lose their appetite at high altitudes, and so their muscle mass will decrease, also decreasing their performance. Since there are more red blood cells produced, and these are produced with the help of iron, you might need to take some iron supplements.
Nonetheless you should keep in mind that in case of training at high altitudes mega doses of vitamins aren’t really helpful and in some cases they could be dangerous.
Consider the fluids when thinking about training at high altitude. Because of the air is cool and dry, you will lose a lot of water, so make sure that you have enough water provisions to keep yourself hydrated.
The majority of people like alcohol, but in case of the exercises at high altitude, it should be avoided, because it increases the risk of getting ‘mountain sickness’.
These are just some basic things that you have to know regarding high altitude training. It might sound challenging enough to take on for the sake of testing your limits but remember that being safe first and fit later is the logical way to go.