Altitude Training for summer

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by UMDRoadie, Dec 9, 2004.

  1. UMDRoadie

    UMDRoadie New Member

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    I am a student at UMASS Dartmouth in N. Dartmouth, Mass right now. Would it be advantageous to my cardiovascular fitness to live as well as train at an altitude of say, 5000 feet for the summer (about 2 months) and then move back to sea level? I have heard many different things such as that it is best to live at altitude and train at lower elevations at higher intensities. If this scenario has the potential for physiological benefits, how long do the adaptations last?

    Frank Pearson
     
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  2. grchester

    grchester New Member

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    Like weight training there are to be conflicting views on the effectiveness of altitude training. I personally believe it is an area of training worth pursuing. My personal experience so far has been mixed. But I suspect that may be due to not understanding the effects both positive and negative that are brought about by exposure to altitude. It appears that altitude camps are becoming popular, especially amongst pro endurance atheletes prior to their targeted events. Do a google search under altitude training, etc. and you will find some interesting material. But it can be as confusing as it is informative. My general feeling is that it can be a positive training tool. But I can not find any definitive answers to how long you need to be at altitude to gain x amount of performance gain, or how long the effects last after returning to sea level. How high is high enough, or too high. And apparently the reaction is very individualistic, and I suspect may vary even with one individual depending on variations in the test protocol, i.e., stress, rest, nutrition, hydration, altitude, etc. Sorry for answering your question with more questions.
     
  3. grchester

    grchester New Member

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    Try this link. This is one of the better summations I have seen. It was just posted on another forum.

    http://www.cptips.com/altitud.htm
     
  4. Smartt/RST

    Smartt/RST New Member

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    This is indeed a subject that demands a good understanding of what you are getting yourself into for it be of any benefit. And if done incorrectly, can be detrimental to sea level performance. But I can say this to your question: if you stay at 5000 ft., you are not at an altitude that is considered high enough to stimulate the desired adaptive responses. But as was pointed out, altitude training is highly individual, with studies identifying "responders" and "non-responders" (typically using higher altitudes, btw)....only one way to find that out. So, if you are going to train at altitude, you'll want to spend a couple of weeks slowly bringing your intensity and duration back up to pre-altitude levels, and then just generally focus on aerobic endurance (no joke here, it takes quite a while to acclimatize). After the period of acclimatization to 5000ft, you can do some very short, high intensity training to maintain a little bit of high end power, but not until ~3-4 weeks (depending on how fast you respond, if you do at all) will you be able to truly do the kind of threshold and higher intensity training you could do at sea level. This is why high intensity training is performed at a much lower altitude (i.e.: below ~3000ft.) while typically "living" above 7000ft.; if you can do this, you're likely to experience much better results. How long those results last is again varied, but usually around 3-4 weeks, and not necessarily when immediatley returning to sea level.
     
  5. Comatose51

    Comatose51 New Member

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    Here's a reverse question: How do you train for altitude when you're stuck at sea level? I'm training for a fairly long distance ride that will eventually take me into the Rockies. I live in Dallas. How do I prepare?
     
  6. Smartt/RST

    Smartt/RST New Member

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    Don't get anywere near high altitudes until the day you need to ride there. i.e.: it's worse to try and ride hard after 2-3days at altitude than it is on the first day you get there. And hydrate like crazy!
     
  7. Orange Fish

    Orange Fish New Member

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    2 months may not be enough time for you to gain all the effects of actually training at altitude. Within two months, you can become acclimatized to living at 5,000 feet and above, but as far as training goes, you would need more time to see effects that may or may not be seen upon your return to sea level. Where are you looking at going for those two months?

    There are a few different schools of thought on altitude training. Some say live high/train low, while others say live high/train high. I personally did the live high/train high & higher method and saw very good results upon my return to sea level. I lived at around 6,200 feet and trained anywhere from 6,200 to 14,000 feet. At the time, I couldn't afford to have blood tests done, but that would be a good thing to do just to make sure you're not wasting your time. As one poster mentioned, there are responders and non-responders. One suggestion would be to have a baseline blood test to get values such as hemoglobin and hematocrit measured. Then, around 2-4 weeks later, get tested again to see how/if they changed. If you see an increase, then you're probably a responder and may be able to see some good effects if you train properly. Like I said though, 2 months may not be enough time, and if it is, you may only see the results for a very very short time at sea level (1-2 weeks if you're lucky). My stay at altitude lasted for 9 months and when I got back, my first ride was amazing, and the racing for the next few weeks went very well. So I think that if the training is done right, and you live at altitude long enough, and if you're a responder, you can see good results. :D
     
  8. Smartt/RST

    Smartt/RST New Member

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  9. Orange Fish

    Orange Fish New Member

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    How can one see training effects in as little as 4 weeks at altitude? By the end of the first 4 weeks, the person should be fully acclimatized, but one month of training after that? That's hardly enoughg to see any significant changes in performance. You said that full training intensity and volume can build over 5 weeks, but this is only for the summer, and one month of that time spent at altitude is going to be used for acclimatization, so I don't see how over the next 4 weeks of the 8 week stay would serve to increase performance any more than simply staying at sea level and training for those 8 weeks instead of getting involved in a costly trip to live at altitude where it may or may not work.

    I completely understand what you're saying about having a measurable benefit, but I'm only using anecdotal evidence to support my reply right now. I know it wasn't a placebo effect, and I can say that with complete confidence because I was able to see the return to my original sea level performance as the days/weeks went on and as I lost the benefits I gained from training at altitude. None of these studies, whether they looked at live high/train high or live high/train low, have shown conclusive results, so neither one is very reliable here, hence my reply to the original post about living at altitude for as little as two months. There is simply not enough time in the 8 weeks to acclimatize and then progress training enough to see a measurable effect. That's like saying that 4 weeks of training at sea level will significantly improve his performance. 4 weeks is nothing when you look at the big picture of periodization...there's no progression...nothing. It would just be a 4 week block of training at altitude. How that can show a measurable benefit that would actually last long enough to take him through even more than 1 race is beyond me.

    I completely agree on following the guidelines and making small changes. But he simply doesn't have enough time to do all of this in the small time frame he's talking about.
     
  10. Smartt/RST

    Smartt/RST New Member

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    Well, according to R. Wilber, US Olympic team consultant for altitude training (among his many other consulting jobs on this issue) and the research that I have seen him present from several different labs, it's not a question of whether Live High/Train Low works, it's a question of whether or not you are a "responder", training at altitude "correctly" (e.g.: proper altitude, sufficient duration at altitude, continuing to perform some high intensity at lower altitudes or w/supplemental oxygen, etc) and then properly fitting the training into your overall program. Your point about overall periodization is starting to go down the right road, but you seem to be assuming that athletes go to altitude to *gain* fitness. The goal of training at altitude is to effect red blood cell production, myoglobin, hemoglobin and other hematological components in ways that promote the oxygen carrying capacity of the body and its subsequent use in working muscles. The real training goal is to not lose fitness; which is typicall of Live High/Train High for sea level performance. When you go to train at altitude, you should already be late in your overall periodization program. The 4 weeks of training at altitude (for example) is then undertaken to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood shortly before returning to sea level for the goal event.
    I wasn't clear on the "5 week" comment, so I'll go back to that: it's recommended that training volume be reduced much more than intensity, especially if the athlete is able to peform intervals at a sufficiently low altitude (or w/supplemental O2), in which case the intervals can be reduced in intensity as little as 5%.
     
  11. Roadie_scum

    Roadie_scum New Member

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    Michael I'm sure you are on the money for the most part, but I have seen studies where a measurable and (from memory) statistically significant benefit was seen without changes in blood parameters. It was suggested that other mechanisms (like improved lactate buffering or other adaptions at the muscular level) also mitigate performance enhancement under live high/train low protocol. This would also mean hematological composition is not necessarily what one is trying to effect at altitude. (I'm talking about stuff out of the AIS, from memory perhaps Dave Martin and Asker Jeukendrup???)

    Great posts though, cheers.
     
  12. Roadie_scum

    Roadie_scum New Member

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    I'm not sure what you do when you train, but in my experience 4 weeks (at sea level - I've never had the funds to train at altitude) is definitely long enough to see a performance benefit from training. This is confirmed by looking up almost any paper on interval training in the entire world. Try Dave Martin's studies on interval training in cyclists for a start.
     
  13. UMDRoadie

    UMDRoadie New Member

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    Thanks very much for all your replies, this has given me lots to think about. It seems like a tricky proposition to get it exactly right, but one that could pay dividends if done correctly. Ride fast.

    Frank Pearson
     
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