If you are reading this, you are probably thinking about experimenting with low oxygen (hypoxic) training.
Great move. Altitude training has many benefits—exercise physiologists around the world say that it can improve fitness by increasing mitochondrial activity, augmenting red blood cell count, even changing gene expression.
But here’s the thing: no matter your fitness level or sport of choice, it’s best to have a plan when implementing a new form of training. Here, we suggest how you can make the most of Altitude Athletic in each phase of your race build-up.
The Base Phase
When: up to two months before race day
You might like to start to build your base five to six months in advance of your race, particularly if it’s a longer event like a half-marathon, marathon or Ironman. If so, your question might be: when do I start implementing altitude training? New research indicates that there could be a memory component to altitude training benefits—the more accustomed you are to low-oxygen training, the greater the benefits you might reap. So, best to acquaint yourself with thin air as soon as possible.
That being said, ease into running, cycling or other workouts at altitude slowly. If this is your first experience with low-oxygen training, and your goal race is still months away, start your build with easy efforts in the first week at altitude. So, if you’re focused on an upcoming marathon, begin by targeting recovery and non-workout runs, and adjust how you define “easy pace.” Unlike running at a measly 250m in Toronto, running even the easiest of paces at, say, 9,000 ft will at first feel challenging. After one month of base, also try one of your weekly workouts at altitude.
Tip: Monitor your blood ferritin and haemoglobin levels monthly during this phase to see how you are responding to the change in stimulus.
2) The Added Stimulus Phase (two months to two weeks before race day):
This is when you dive into harder, higher-volume and race simulation workouts. Executing these tough sessions at altitude can boost fitness and confidence.
In this phase, alternating between altitude simulation and sea level workouts can be useful for two reasons:
First, working out in a low-oxygen environment will make it harder to hit splits. Use those workouts for building fitness and accustom yourself to the feeling of running hard, and use the sea level workouts for teaching your body what it’s like to run at your goal pace.
Second, doing big workouts at altitude may tire you out at times in this phase. By mixing in sea level workouts, you mitigate the risk of overtraining and burnout.
Tip: Hard training at altitude will likely elevate your basal metabolism, so hydrate aggressively and eat many nutrient-rich foods in this phase. Remember that this phase is more refined: it’s where you can make the most gains, but it’s where you are most likely to overexert yourself. These tenets are significantly augmented at altitude, so make sure you are giving your body enough fuel to recover.
The Sharpening Phase
Last two weeks before race day
If altitude simulation feels comfortable by now, try to train exclusively at low oxygen for these last two weeks. It is common practice for athletes to spend the two weeks prior to a goal race at altitude, before coming down two to three days before your race. That is because even though it likely takes longer than two weeks to see haematological (blood) adaptations, studies show that other benefits of altitude training can be made faster. In the two weeks before your race, training at altitude could improve your muscles’ buffering capacity, making them better at working in acidic conditions (like the final parts of your race.)
Tip: Do not fret over workout splits in this phase. Remember that workouts at altitude will still feel harder than normal, even if you are sharp. If you have made it to this phase healthy and fit, your reward should be to feel good during workouts, instead of worrying about pace.
Tip II: Do your last training session at altitude at least three days before your race, to ensure that you do not have leftover fatigue on the start line.
No matter the training phase you are in, approach altitude training like regular training: with diligence. Eat well, drink lots of water, and always listen to your body’s signals. Do those three things, follow our tips, and put in the work – the results will take care of themselves.
Altitude uses PNOE Metabolic Testing to provide a complete picture of your cardiovascular and metabolic function. The accuracy of the test results allows Altitude coaches to determine precise health and fitness metrics like VO2 Max and Resting Metabolic Rate. These metrics serve as a foundation for coaches to create workout and nutrition plans that can help you achieve your goals.
Find out how PNOE compares to your Apple Watch when it comes to measuring caloric expenditure:
What is Metabolic Testing?
Metabolic tests measure the rate at which your body burns calories and uses oxygen during rest or during different activities. Some of the data from these tests includes:
Resting Metabolic Rate – the number of calories your body burns at rest.
Metabolic Efficiency – the number of calories your body burns during exercise.
VO2 Max – the max amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise.
2. Why do I care about Metabolic Testing?
Understanding these values helps guide specific and individualized nutrition recommendations to help you fuel your body for training and peak performance, as well as for reaching your health and body composition goals.
Welcome to our Summit Stories series, where we feature stories about your expeditions from around the world. From trekking in remote destinations, to practicing extreme sports in outdoor adventure spots, to summiting some of the highest peaks on the planet – our Altitude community has done some pretty cool things. Scroll through and click to check out some awesome places, get inspiration for your next active trip and learn about the achievements of our remarkable community of everyday athletes.
New Zealand is famous all over the world for boasting some of this planet’s most breathtaking natural scenery. The landscape all over the country is incredibly diverse – from lakes, beaches and coastline to glaciers, volcanos and dramatic alpine terrains. If you want to take it all in, heading over to Wanaka in the South […]
I started rowing in my first year of university and instantly fell in love with it. As an outdoor adventurer, athlete, and water lover the sport just seemed a natural fit. Over the past two years, I started taking the sport more seriously and started training several times a week with the intention of competing […]
Just a little over a year ago I took a spontaneous trip with one of my closest friends, Emily. I flew from London to meet her in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. I didn’t know much about Slovenia beforehand but was eager to explore! One of our most memorable days in Ljubljana was our hike around beautiful Lake Bled and the Ojstrica and Osojnica hills…
Outdoor sports and adventure travel fans all know about the popular go-to destinations. Mountain biking? Head to the Alps. Trekking? Try New Zealand or the Inca Trail in Peru. Rock Climbing? The national parks of the US never let us down.
One place you may not have heard of for adventure sports is in the mountainous state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. Pico da Ibituruna is a national park and mountain that can be found on the banks of the Doce River and hovers over the city of Governador Valadares.
The adventure sport options you’ll find there are numerous – from hiking and mountain biking, to climbing, abseiling and gliding. And the stunning green landscape is a great backdrop as you get your adrenaline rush.
To get to the beautiful views though, you need to first overcome the 17 km climb. And with a summit rising 1123 meters above sea level, the climb up Pico da Ibituruna – Pico – is a reasonably challenging one. Let’s look at what makes that climb worth-it:
1) Free Flight:
Pico da Ibituruna is one of the best places to practice free flight. Thousands of enthusiasts come here from all over the world, dotting the sky with the colours of hang gliders and paragliders. The site has a free-access flight ramp, but does not offer instructors or equipment. So, if you are going to Pico with the intention of flying, you need to go with your own equipment, with an instructor or look for companies that offer this service in Governador Valadares.
Apart from the climb up to the summit, which is a couple hours’ hike along a marked trail, you can also get your hiking fix at Vale Silvestre. This is an ecological park found on the return from Pico that offers trails for all-levels. There’s even activities such as kayaking available there if you want to keep your heart rate up and try something a little bit different!
3) Climbing and Abseiling:
Pico also offers some of the best climbing and abseiling in Brazil. The best known trails are Via do Ralf and Via do Catão, both about 400 meters high. To get down, the most popular trails are Rapel da Santa and Rapel do Mirante.
Looking for another way down the mountain? Try ziplining. This options offers quite the adrenaline rush and one one of the most incredible ways to enjoy the landscape, second only to free flight.
5) Mountain Biking:
You can also boost your adrenaline (and your quad muscles) on the numerous mountain bike trails. The mountain descent from Pico da Ibituruna is one of the most challenging in Brazil, so remember to be very careful!
Buying a new bike can be like welcoming a new family member into the home. It will need a place to stay (preferably inside where it’s warm and clean), it will need maintenance, cleaning and upkeep, and it will continue to cost you money for years to come in exchange for hours of joy, happiness, frustration, and anger. Nonetheless, cycling has become more and more popular over the last decade – Business Insider even wrote an article on the newly-coined phrase, “Cycling is the new golf”.
There are a few things to consider before you shell out several thousand dollars on your new toy. Read on for what to think about before pulling the trigger.
1. What are you hoping to use it for?
If multisport is your primary goal (duathlon and triathlon), then you might be thinking of going the direction of an aero triathlon or time-trial bike. These machines are built for speed over anything else, but they can have some drawbacks. Aero frames are often less efficient in climbing hills, and so if your A-race is on a hilly course, you may be wiser to stick to a lightweight road bike that is easier to climb with. Many road bikes are actually lighter than tri bikes, whereas the actual wind tunnel-tested aerodynamics of tri bikes are better than road bikes. Another idea to keep in mind is that you can always purchase a pair of clip-on tri bars for your road bike to temporarily convert it into a tri-bike where you can settle into an aero position for long periods of time. It’s also good to keep in mind that most cycling clubs don’t accept tri bikes during group rides because the aero position decreases the rider’s ability to control the bike well in a group scenario.
If your primary goal is to hit the roads and solid surfaces and be able to get outside, a road bike is likely the perfect fit for you. Under the road bike umbrella, there are several options to choose from. Road bikes intended for speed and racing are typically a little lighter weight and will have more carbon components (read: more $$$), and are generally stiffer with higher road feel, kind of like a pair of racing flats for runners. They are designed to be responsive and ultimately to be fast. The frames are built more aggressively with lower front ends and handlebars, meaning they aren’t quite as comfortable for the long ride.
Road bikes that are designed for the more casual rider or someone looking to go longer but not necessarily as fast as possible are considered endurance road bikes. Contrary to the lightweight, speedy road bikes, these bikes are built with more flexible frames, generous fits, and less aggressive gearing to allow for greater comfort over longer time. Many beginner riders find these bikes fit the bill perfectly. They also tend to come in a little on the less expensive side since the components aren’t geared to be as light as possible.
2. What type of surfaces are you looking to ride on?
If you’re hoping to hit some dirt roads but not exactly an intense forest trail, a gravel bike may be just what you’re looking for. Gravel bikes are newer players in the bike world, and have become a fantastic choice for both experienced and beginner riders as they offer wider tires, greater stability, and more riding flexibility than traditional road bikes. If you’re looking to get into the up-and-coming sport of cyclocross, this is what you’ll need!
Not quite a road bike and not quite a mountain bike, these bikes are of course heavier than racing bikes, but will give you the flexibility to ride on virtually all types of surfaces. They are fantastic for more social rides, where speed is less a concern and all-day riding is the name of the game. Frames can come in different materials offering heavier or lighter rides, but as with all bikes, it’s up to you what you want to shell out.
If you’re really hoping to go all-in with nature, your best bet would be a full-blown mountain bike. These bikes offer the thickest, most textured tires with the most stability, with frames equipped with shocks and components to absorb high amounts of force from bumps and jumps. These bikes are not terribly practical for much else other than the woods and tend to not make great commuters either as they are quite bulky.
3. What’s your budget?
This is a very important question to ask, as you can spend anywhere from $800 for an aluminum frame bike to thousands and thousands of dollars on a custom-made bike with all of the high-end fixin’s. In general, the lighter the bike, the greater the price. Keep in mind there are many “middle of the road” options that utilize a combination of materials such as an aluminum frame but with a carbon fork. We suggest that if this is your first bike purchase, look for something decent and not too heavy, but don’t break the bank. You can consider buying a bike used, but it’s crucial that the frame size is correct for you, otherwise even the best used bike will feel horrible to your body if it isn’t fit properly. Don’t just “try to make it work” – this is a one-way ticket to getting injured. Finally, invest in a proper bike fit. Most shops will offer you a “complimentary fit” with the purchase of your bike, but these are rarely more than a crude fitting where they ensure the seat is the right height. A truly well-done bike fit takes 2-3 hours and will run you $200-$600 dollars – worth every cent in our opinion. Most bike fitters stand behind their fit for at least one year, so if you start to develop an ache or pain that doesn’t feel good, you can go back and have an adjustment made.
With the right bike, for the right price, you can confidently ride into the future and enjoy every hour that your new toy brings you. Cycling changes many peoples’ lives and you may just find your next favourite sport off of the links.
About the Author
Lauren Roberts is a Registered Physiotherapist and Founder of The Running Physio in Toronto. For more information on her team, the clinic, and for more great blog articles, visit www.therunningphysio.ca.