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.
Over the past year, lockdown has made it very tough to keep up a fitness routine that not only keeps you strong and healthy but is also challenging, fulfilling and fun. As someone whose fitness routine revolved mostly around tough conditioning sessions in the gym, kickboxing, bouldering and the occasional indoor spinning class, I was certainly thrown through a loop in March 2020 when these activities were essentially no longer available to me!
An early saver for me personally was a half-marathon that I had signed up for a few months previously (before lockdown). My boyfriend and I had signed up to run the Wimbledon Half Marathon that May. It would be my first ever proper running race while he had run a full marathon the previous year in Edinburgh. I was very excited, but also quite nervous about training for a long distance event. The training I was used to was based more on short, intense bursts of power like those used in Muay Thai or plyometrics, as opposed to longer, sustained cardiovascular training that required more endurance. In fact, I think the longest I had run up till then was about 10 km! However, I was certainly up for the challenge and we began planning a full 6-week training plan leading up to the half-marathon. I spent a lot of time considering how I would balance half marathon training with my already jam-packed, gym-based fitness routine.
Unfortunately, 2020 had very different plans and not only was it looking like the half marathon would likely be cancelled, but we ended up in separate countries as I spent early lockdown back home in Ontario and he remained with his family in the UK. We decided for the sake of it to just follow the training plan anyway, in case by some chance we might still be able to meet again in May and run the race. Those training runs which started short (2-5 km) and then ramped up (10+ km) became such key parts of my early lockdown. It was a chance to get outdoors and most importantly, it was an opportunity for some consistency in a time that was otherwise incredibly unpredictable and uncertain! I tried to go into it with no expectations and I enjoyed feeling stronger with each run and more able to handle the longer distances. I loved listening to music during the runs, exploring my neighbourhood and feeling a tiny bit like I was achieving something together with my boyfriend even though he was so far away and I wasn’t sure when I’d see him again.
Eventually, May rolled around and we were both still very much in separate countries and the race was now very much cancelled. However, we were both well trained at this point and decided to just run the half marathon anyway. And so we picked a day to do it and set off simultaneously – me in the morning in (a very sunny!) Oakville and him in the afternoon in (a very windy!) Essex, 5 hours difference between us. We actually called each other a few times during the race to check in and my sister even joined (with no training at all – she’s quite the runner!). I ended up running the race in just under 2 hours with a time of 1:53:20 and an average pace of 5:22 min/km – not bad for someone who’s more into sprints and burpees!
I tried some of Endurance Tap’s maple-based energy gels during the run for a boost!
The race through Oakville, tracked on Map My Run!
The half-marathon was a highlight for me in a year that was tough both on the fitness side of things and just in general. One thing I’d say I learnt from it was the benefit of setting yourself challenging but achievable goals and trying to achieve something new. Even though we didn’t get a chance to experience that revved up ‘atmosphere’ so typical of race events, it was almost more special to me in that it was such a personal experience that I got to share with someone I was separated from and that we managed to stick to it in such a bizarre and difficult time.
If you’re away from someone you love right now and want to try and achieve something fitness related (or anything really – doesn’t have to be fitness based!) a race that you both train for together is a good option!
About the Author
Jessica is based out of London, UK and consults early stage businesses on how to raise investment for their companies. She is an avid fitness enthusiast and loves kickboxing, plyometrics, weight training and calisthenics.
Training for your first triathlon can be an intimidating experience. From seemingly endless amounts of gear to scarily fast transitions, there can be a lot to wrap your head around leading up to the day. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you feel ready when it’s time to race.
Tip 1: KNOW THE COURSE:
Register for a race close to home, so that you can visit the course before your race to check it out. Take note of the current and terrain; have a sense of how hilly the bike and run will be. Have a sense of what the weather will be like around race day so that you can properly prepare for the appropriate conditions. Prepare at least 12 weeks before your race to give yourself ample time to get ready both mentally and physically. Try practicing specific course sections you may find tricky; this could be a sharp U-turn on the bike, an uphill climb you are nervous about, or running through a transition zone so you don’t get lost or forget something. After all, transition time counts too and while we’ve all ran with that bike helmet on, it may be easier without!
Tip 2: KNOW YOUR GEAR:
You may feel pressured to have a lot of equipment from your online research or local triathlon group. The most important thing is to be comfortable and able to work with the equipment you have. Run through your gear the night before race day to avoid forgetting anything essential! Here are a few things you do need: Shoes: Do NOT break in new shoes the day of the race. We often recommend getting running shoes that fit to your gait & tread pattern but go with what you’ve trained in and are most comfortable with. If you have cycling shoes and clipless pedals, be sure to be comfortable with clipping in and out. Race Kit: You don’t NEED a tri suit for your first race, especially if it is a short course. Swimming in a swimsuit and quickly throwing on shorts and a t-shirt for the other two disciplines will work; I’ve done it and have even thrown on a hoodie for a rather windy bike ride. If you’re lucky enough to have a tri suit for your first race, do a training session or two with it before race day to avoid any surprises. All of these options including your wetsuit (if the race calls for one) can be sleeved or sleeveless. Don’t forget an extra layer if the forecast looks a bit cold. Wetsuit: To prevent chaffing and to help with removing your wetsuit in the transition zone use petroleum jelly or Vaseline around key connection points like the neck, ankles, and wrists!
Bike: While there is technical assistance on each race, you should feel comfortable with basic maintenance (eg. fixing a flat). Bring a spare tube and CO2 or a small pump in the trusty bike bag. Be comfortable on the bike you are riding, and double check that the gears shift well the night before your race. Give it a test run if you are renting a road bike for your first race. Pump up your tires the morning of to avoid the awful, sluggish ride I endured on my first triathlon. Don’t forget your helmet, sunglasses, and a water bottle!
Your first triathlon is not a race to win: Triathlons are a test of mental endurance. There are two common issues: struggling with a section too often or exhaustion from trying to keep up with someone else. A 5x Iron man once said: “Understand if the swim if your hardest leg; it is also the shortest a mere 20-40min of the +3hrs often spent on a course. The bike is your time sitting, eating, drinking and drying off before you set out on a nice scenic run. Some people will beat you in the water but understand they won’t be as comfortable in their splits on land.” For training: BRICK workouts! Try riding your bike the length of the course, and then immediately going for a run. Time yourself and your split times of each kilometer to understand how you feel & where you can improve on your own time. You will encounter a jelly leg feeling and it’s better to encounter this in training than on race day.
TIP 4: START SHORT
While IRONMANs seem exciting to watch and read about, they are extremely taxing on the mind, body, and wallet. Starting with a sprint triathlon allows you to get the jist of a (potentially chaotic) open water swim start, learn how to navigate transition zones, while being able to make some forgiving mistakes. Avoid a race long enough that requires you to worry about fuel (besides a bottle of water on the bike) during your triathlon, as that is a whole other discipline in itself.
TIP 5: LEARN FROM OTHER ATHLETES
Finding a group to train with can boost confidence (and speed). A seasoned athlete can easily tell you what to look out for, and can give simple but important tips on your posture/form to help you be a little more aerodynamic. Plus, it’s always nice to have someone there for you on those bad weather training days to keep you motivated!
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.
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.
Have any plans for December 13th, 2020? If not, you might consider signing up for The Antarctic Ice Marathon – the southernmost marathon in the world! If by any chance you’ve run a marathon on each of the other 6 continents, you might be one of few to join the ‘7 Continents Marathon Club’.
A formidable physical challenge and incredibly unique opportunity, the Antarctic marathon (42.2 km) occurs at the base of the Ellsworth mountains by Union Glacier, Antarctica. It is comprised of conditions including ice, snow, strong winds and an average temperature (with windchill) of -20ºC. The event occurs at an altitude of 700 metres. To get to the site, runners are flown into Union Glacier Camp from Punta Arenas, Chile. The camp is only accessible by air.
The scenery is no doubt indescribable – here’s a photo taken on a recent trip to the Antarctic Peninsula
So what kind of gear do you need for a challenge of this magnitude? Layered clothing, ski goggles, a facemask and trail runners are highly recommended along with feet/hand warmers. To prepare, some experience running on ice is recommended. This might be doable if you live in a country like Canada, but those who live in temperate climates have been known to train in giant industrial freezers! Other methods for preparation include running on a sandy beach (likely a welcome environment before heading to a place like Antarctica).
And of course, here at Altitude Athletic we can help you prepare for any challenge, on any continent. Our memberships are ideal for goals involving challenging environments and variable conditions. Read more about memberships at Altitude here.
Gentoo penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Sadly, there are no penguins there to cheer you on as no penguins live that far south. This is a shame given their undeniable cuteness!
The event record for men was set at the 2019 marathon by William Hafferty of the United States, who ran the race in an impressive 3:34:12! Meanwhile, Lenka Frycova of the Czech Republic dominated the female race with a time of 4:40:38. Last year, competitors came from all over the world, including Canada, France Denmark, China and Japan.