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ptownclimber

altitude training?

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Week one of training in the altitude room at Evolution. I haven't read up on altitude or exercise physiology in over a decade. Any good resources, articles, training plans, etc. out there?

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Lots of data, journal articles, etc etc that show "no proof athletes at the simulated higher altitude performed any better than those at sea level."

 

I consider Brad a friend and wish all the best on his endeavor but I think your money is better spent if improvement in climbing is your training goal.

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Sat in on a presentation from a researcher (physiology PhD) from Nike when Club Sport opened their altitude lab (John, believe I saw your image panned on the LCD TV in front of it). Anyways the take away was unless you live at altitude or are able to spend enough time (most of your day) in simulated low oxygen environment, you're not really doing anything but possibly accelerating your cardio fitness regimen. The only advantage is if you live at altitude and can adapt by growing more red blood cells, which takes a damn long time and probably only really benefits for going down to sea level. Also, seemed like it made more sense to train at sea level but live at altitude due to the strain and diminishing returns one gets being at altitude.

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This would probably fall in the category of "things not likely to help, but likely to take some of your money."

 

There has long been interest in the idea of training at high altitude. Years ago, elite endurance athletes did this (for example, cyclists living and training in Colorado). It was found this wasn't effective for race training, however, because maximum exercise capacity decreases at altitude and the athletes were not able to hit and sustain the top speeds they would be racing at lower elevations.

 

Several years back, interest developed in a different model... live high - train low in which people resided at higher elevations but came down to lower elevation to train. The data on this has been mixed with one study out of Utah showing a benefit and another nicely done randomized trial in Europe showing no benefit. The one kicker from the study in Utah is that in order to derive a benefit the athletes had to spend a lot of time living at altitude each day (> 20 hours) and it needed to be done for a while.

 

Altitude rooms like the one at this gym are now popping up and there is no systematic evidence in the research literature that they are of any benefit. The major problem is that the duration of exposure is probably far too short to lead to significant physiologic benefit. A one hour session just a few times a week isn't likely to do much. It's the more sustained exposures to hypoxia that are likely of greater benefit. There is growing evidence that intermittent hypoxic exposures can yield a variety of benefits but no one really knows the exact recipe of those exposures for generating benefit with exercise performance or climbing.

 

A lot of high altitude mountaineers have started to use the high altitude tents as preparation for their climbs. In fact, some guiding outfits are now having clients use these prior to big mountain climbs and using it as a way to shorten acclimatization time on the mountain. The data on this are also very limited with one study showing decreased incidence of acute mountain sickness after 14 days of use when the person went up to 4500 m in elevation. There is no good evidence yet that it leads to benefit at extreme elevations. No harm in using it (aside from the cost and sleeping apart from your partner who may not appreciate the tent much). A key difference between this and the gym that may account for some benefit would be that people spend more time in the tent each night and do it daily as opposed to the random hour here or there at the gym.

 

While we're at it... you might as well give up on the high altitude masks popularized by Marshawn Lynch. The purported explanations for how they simulate high altitude make no sense from a physiologic perspective. They are likely good at making exercise feel miserable however because you're now breathing against far more airflow resistance.

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seemed like it made more sense to train at sea level but live at altitude due to the strain and diminishing returns one gets being at altitude.

That makes total sense to me. Years ago when I was nordic training the thinking was that the ideal altitude for living (this was before altitude tents, etc.) while training was 6,000 to 7,000 ft. Any higher and it was too much strain on the system. Also, the thinking was that there is a benefit to training at sea level and that is that it makes your diaphragm stronger since it is working with denser air. So yeah, train at sea level and live at altitude. Isn't there a "Nike house" in Portland that is kept at altitude for living. I suspect no one trains in the house though.

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There is a notion out there that some of these training strategies like the masks are useful because they help make the diaphragm stronger.

 

Diaphragm strength is not really a limiting factor for normal individuals at heavy levels of exercise. In fact, with heavy exercise, you recruit a lot of other breathing muscles into the process (intercostal muscles, for example) to assist with ventilation. That being said, normal people who lack underlying lung disease are not limited in their ability to exercise by their breathing muscles at all. If you do detailed cardiopulmonary exercise testing on normal individuals you see that at peak exercise, most people have lots of ventilatory reserve (i.e., their breathing muscles have much more to give). They are limited by the ability of their heart to pump sufficient blood to the exercising muscles. That is what reaches its maximum first.

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Diaphragm strength is not really a limiting factor for normal individuals at heavy levels of exercise. In fact, with heavy exercise, you recruit a lot of other breathing muscles into the process (intercostal muscles, for example) to assist with ventilation.

I'm no expert, but I remember myself and others sometimes getting the dry heaves after prolonged hard exertion. I assumed that was due to a weak diaphragm?

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Diaphragm strength is not really a limiting factor for normal individuals at heavy levels of exercise. In fact, with heavy exercise, you recruit a lot of other breathing muscles into the process (intercostal muscles, for example) to assist with ventilation.

I'm no expert, but I remember myself and others sometimes getting the dry heaves after prolonged hard exertion. I assumed that was due to a weak diaphragm?

 

Nope... not the reason at all.

 

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Diaphragm strength is not really a limiting factor for normal individuals at heavy levels of exercise. In fact, with heavy exercise, you recruit a lot of other breathing muscles into the process (intercostal muscles, for example) to assist with ventilation.

I'm no expert, but I remember myself and others sometimes getting the dry heaves after prolonged hard exertion. I assumed that was due to a weak diaphragm?

 

Nope... not the reason at all.

 

You mean to tell me all those situps were in vain?! :)

What is the cause of dry heaves after hard exertion?

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Isn't there a "Nike house" in Portland that is kept at altitude for living. I suspect no one trains in the house though.

 

It is in Eugene for select members of the track team.

 

Club Sport opened their altitude lab (John, believe I saw your image panned on the LCD TV in front of it)

 

I have a sponsorship with ClubSport which means you'll see me on the TVs in the club.

 

The most compelling data I have seen is sleep high (actual real altitude) and train low which for us would mean sleeping in the Timberline Parking lot each night and commuting to Portland.

 

Some data out there for sleep low train high (altitude rooms and real altitude) but not enough to suggest it gives a measurable advantage. As I have access to the ClubSport altitude room in 2013 I experimented with doing my zone 4 and zone 5 work in there. No noticeable difference for me.

 

 

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Lots of data, journal articles, etc etc that show "no proof athletes at the simulated higher altitude performed any better than those at sea level."

 

I consider Brad a friend and wish all the best on his endeavor but I think your money is better spent if improvement in climbing is your training goal.

 

John, it's $10 a visit or less. Where else would my money be better spent?

 

In Houston's book, a lot of the research on altitude has been inconclusive. So we haven't learned anything since then?

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The most compelling data I have seen is sleep high (actual real altitude) and train low which for us would mean sleeping in the Timberline Parking lot each night and commuting to Portland.

 

Timberline is just shy of 6 000 ft, I think that elevation would not make much of a difference, as usually human body is not greatly effected by altitude till about 9000-10000 ft level. It would definitely make for inconvenient commute, with very little of a real benefit.

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The most compelling data I have seen is sleep high (actual real altitude) and train low which for us would mean sleeping in the Timberline Parking lot each night and commuting to Portland.

 

Timberline is just shy of 6 000 ft, I think that elevation would not make much of a difference, as usually human body is not greatly effected by altitude till about 9000-10000 ft level. It would definitely make for inconvenient commute, with very little of a real benefit.

 

Some of the physiologic responses to hypoxia do actually start around 6,000 feet but the stimulus from that degree of hypoxia is mild compared to higher elevations, which is why one wouldn't gain much benefit from exposure to an altitude like Timberline.

 

The positive study on live high-train low, was done in Utah. The athletes lived in Park City and then came down to Salt Lake City to train. The key aspect of this was that it required a lot of time each day at the higher elevation for there to be any benefit.

 

There has actually been quite a lot of very good high altitude research since Houston's book, which came out a long time ago. It covers a huge range of topics and is not just focused on narrow issues like whether training in a hypoxic room makes a difference.

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I know OP is about training in a hypoxic environment; I don't know anything about that but it's counterintuitive to me (hobbyist here, no medical training).

 

I've known three bike racers who lived at low elevations and got hypoxic tents to sleep in for some timespan (usually early in their periodization).

 

Two of them said they couldn't tell a difference - and one was a sales rep for the company selling them.

 

A third actually was nutty enough to prick his finger and measure his hematocrit every day - the idea being that if you see a rise in hematocrit that it's evidence the tent is working (he had a little blood spinner). This guy said that the measurement was so noisy day-over-day that he saw no firm evidence of adaptation. I don't know how long he did the tent, but recall from conversation that he committed to at least a multi-week spell.

 

I knew a couple of researchers working on this back in the day, and their opinion was that the tents for low-elevation folk didn't work because it simply wasn't enough duration (sleeping hours only) to stimulate adaptation.

Edited by jared_j

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Things are proven to help with altitude climbing:

Cardio-vascularly fit person will adopt fairly quickly

A healthy and cardio-vascularly fit person will adopt quickly

Better to spend your money on diet, training and proper length of the trip, rather on some latest and greatest hypoxic chambers, tents or masks- which when looked in scientific terms offer no real benefit.

Like with training for climbing (best method of improving your climbing is to do a lot of climbing and push your limits), the best method of training for altitude is spending time at altitude.

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There has actually been quite a lot of very good high altitude research since Houston's book, which came out a long time ago. It covers a huge range of topics and is not just focused on narrow issues like whether training in a hypoxic room makes a difference.

 

So where do I find this...books, articles, rumors...?

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Dr Peter Hackett, of Telluride, CO is one of America's leading authorities on human performance at altitude. Peter was one of the founding fathers of Himalayan Mountain Rescue, and it was his high altitude research facility on Denali (first year 1981) which evolved into the "clinic" the NPS now operates at "Denali City" (14k camp) each season. altitudemedicine.org is the website for his Institute for Altitude Medicine in Telluride. Peter's institute should be able to connect you with anything/everything you want to know...

-Haireball

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Sorry I'm late to the party.

Here is some research that specifically shows the benefit of training in a hypoxic normobaric room. It shows the physiological benefit with even just several hours a week of 'altitude training'.

 

Czuba et al, 2011:

"The most important finding from the present study is that the 3 week training program, associated with 3 IHT sessions per week (180min per week, where 90 - 120min per week corresponded to a workload equal to 95% of the lactate threshold), significantly improved aerobic capacity (VO2max by 4%) and endurance performance (time in TT by 2.6%) in well-trained cyclists at sea-level." That’s a 4% increase of VO2 max an improvement in their TT time in elite athletes in only 3 weeks of training!! So this study did indeed find an improvement in endurance performance with hypoxic and normobraric intermittent hypoxic training. There were also small improvements in red blood cell count, hematocrit and other red blood cell indices.

 

Galvin et al, 2013: “...gains were significantly greater in the hypoxic than the normoxic group. During the 10x6s repeated sprint training there was a tendency for greater increases in oxygen consumption in the hypoxic group…” Twelve repeated sprint training sessions in hypoxia resulted in twofold greater improvements in capacity to perform aerobic high intensity workout than an equivalent normoxic group. Performance gains were evident in the short term (4 weeks).” Another study using high intensity intervals and getting results in only 4 weeks. These rugby players training in a hypoxic environment had double the improvement than the control group.

 

Kon et al, 2014: This one is really cool! “The increase in muscular endurance was significantly higher in the hypoxic resistance training group. Plasma vascular endothelial growth factor concentration and skeletal muscle capillary to fiber ratio were significantly higher in the hypoxic resistance training group than the normoxic resistance training group following training. Our results suggest that, in addition to increases in muscle size and strength hypoxic resistance training may also lead to increased muscular endurance and the promotion of angiogenesis in skeletal muscle”. What!! Angiogenesis!! That’s right, increased capillary density in 8 weeks of hypoxic training!! Now that will get more oxygen to the tissue level. And!!...increases in growth factor with hypoxic training, sweet! That’s also been found in a type of rehab that cuts off circulation to injured areas of the body, but with this study it was systemic.

 

Meeuwsen et al, 2001: “Nine days after training in hypoxia, significant increases were seen in all important parameters of the maximal aerobic as well as the anaerobic test. A significant increase of 7.0% was seen in VO2max, and the mean maximal power output per kilogram body weight increased significantly by 7.4%. The mean values of both mean power per kilogram body weight and peak power per kilogram body weight increased significantly by 5.0%, and the time to peak decreased significantly by 37.7%. In the sea level group, no significant changes were seen in the above mentioned parameters…” This study was done with elite male triathletes, and again huge results that equate to improved performance for endurance athletes.

 

Bobyleva and Glazachev, 2006: “Intermittent hypoxic training increased the efficiency of the mechanisms of autonomic regulation of heart rate at rest by increasing parasympathetic control and optimized changes in heart rate variability during simulated acute hypoxia. The hypoxic preconditioning contributed to increased resistance of the body to simulated acute hypoxia, as reflected by less marked hemoglobin desaturation and a smaller increase in the heart rate”. This hypoxic normobaric study basically found that the body adapted to the hypoxic environment with a lower resting heart rate and a decrease in red blood cell oxygen desaturation. This is just another adaptation the body makes due to the increase in oxygen demand in a hypoxic environment. Lower heart rate due to more efficient oxygen transfer. Heart rate goes up according to demand of blood/oxygen by the body.

 

Shie et al, 2013: “Waist circumference, preperitoneal fat thickness, brachial ankle pulse wave velocity, and high sensitive CRP after training were significantly lower in the hypoxic group than in the normoxic group. Our results suggest that regular short-term hypoxic training may more effectively reduce arterial stiffness, and thus prevent arteriosclerosis, compared to training at a similar exercise intensity under normoxic conditions”. While this study looked at cardiovascular risk factors, we can consider their results for an endurance athlete. Improved metabolism of fat. I know I don’t have to explain what that means for an endurance athlete!

 

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Several years back, interest developed in a different model... live high - train low in which people resided at higher elevations but came down to lower elevation to train. The data on this has been mixed with one study out of Utah showing a benefit and another nicely done randomized trial in Europe showing no benefit. The one kicker from the study in Utah is that in order to derive a benefit the athletes had to spend a lot of time living at altitude each day (> 20 hours) and it needed to be done for a while.

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