Breathing Thin Air: A Sea-Level Runner’s Guide to Trail and Mountain Ultra Marathons

For sea-level athletes venturing into the world of ultra marathons set in trails and mountains, the journey is not only a physical test but also a thrilling exploration of diverse terrains and elevations. In this guide, we’ll delve into the unique challenges faced by sea-level runners tackling trail and mountain ultra marathons, and outline a specialized training approach to prepare for the altitude changes and rugged landscapes that lie ahead.

Understanding the Altitude Challenge:

  1. Altitude Adjustments:

    • Acknowledge the impact of increased elevation on your body’s oxygen intake and adjust your training accordingly.
    • Gradually acclimate to higher altitudes by incorporating altitude-specific training strategies.
  2. Terrain Dynamics:

    • Trail and mountain ultra marathons present varying surfaces, including rocky trails, steep ascents, and descents.
    • Train on similar terrains to build the necessary strength, agility, and proprioception.
ultra marathon training

Ultra Marathon Training Plan:

  1. Altitude Adaptation Runs:
    • Plan training runs at higher elevations to adapt your body to reduced oxygen levels.
    • If possible, incorporate specific trail sections of the race route to familiarize yourself with the terrain
  2. Hill Training with Mountainous Challenges:
    • Prioritize hill workouts to mimic the elevation changes of mountainous races.
    • Focus on both uphill and downhill training to build strength and resilience.
  3. Specificity in Long Runs:
    • Schedule long runs on trails and mountain paths similar to the race course.
    • Include elevation gains and losses to simulate race-day conditions.
  4. Technical Trail Running:
    • Develop technical trail running skills, including navigating rocks, tree roots, and uneven surfaces.
    • Incorporate agility drills to enhance your ability to adapt to the unpredictable trail conditions.

Mental Preparation:

  1. Visualization in Mountainous Landscapes:

    • Visualize success by imagining yourself conquering the mountainous trails.
    • Cultivate a positive mindset by focusing on the breathtaking views and the sense of accomplishment that awaits.
  2. Mindfulness in Nature’s Playground:

    • Practice mindfulness during training to stay present and attuned to your surroundings.
    • Embrace the serenity of nature to foster mental clarity and reduce anxiety about the challenging course.

Gear and Nutrition Considerations:

  1. Trail-Specific Gear:

    • Invest in trail running shoes with proper traction for varied surfaces.
    • Consider lightweight and moisture-wicking clothing suitable for unpredictable mountain weather.
  2. Nutrition for Altitude:

    • Adjust your nutrition plan to account for the increased calorie expenditure at higher altitudes.
    • Stay vigilant about hydration, recognizing that dehydration can occur more rapidly in mountainous conditions.

Our coaches at Altitude Athletic Training are experts in ultra-marathon training and simulated altitude training. Schedule a time to meet with one of our coaches and learn about the benefits for you:

The Benefits of Intermittent Hypoxic Training for Mining Professionals

In the demanding world of mining, where physical exertion, challenging environments, and high altitudes are part of the job description, finding effective ways to enhance performance and well-being is crucial. One innovative approach gaining attention for its potential benefits is Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT). Let’s explore how this training method could be a game-changer for mining professionals.

1. Improved Oxygen Utilization:

Mining often takes place in environments with reduced oxygen levels, presenting a challenge for the body. IHT has the potential to enhance the body’s ability to utilize oxygen efficiently, reducing the impact of lower oxygen levels commonly encountered in mining areas.

2. Enhanced Endurance and Fatigue Resistance:

Mining is physically demanding, requiring individuals to perform strenuous tasks over extended periods. IHT has been shown to improve endurance and reduce fatigue, offering mining professionals the stamina needed to tackle long shifts and demanding work conditions.

intermittent hypoxic training for mining professionals

3. Increased Altitude Tolerance:

As miners and mining professionals on site visits navigate varying altitudes, adapting to changes in oxygen availability is crucial. IHT aids the body in acclimating to lower oxygen levels, potentially reducing the risk of altitude-related illnesses and ensuring miners can operate effectively at different elevations.

4. Cardiovascular Health Benefits:

A strong cardiovascular system is essential for the physical demands of mining. IHT has been linked to improvements such as increased capillary density, enhanced blood flow, and improved cardiac function, contributing to overall cardiovascular health.

5. Optimized Physical Performance:

Mining operations require peak physical performance. IHT promotes physiological adaptations like increased mitochondrial density and improved oxygen transport, allowing miners to achieve better performance during physically demanding tasks.

6. Efficient Use of Resources:

Efficiency is key in mining operations. One of the benefits of intermittent hypoxic training for mining professionals, is that it enables individuals to achieve similar training adaptations with less volume and intensity. This means that miners can maximize their training benefits while optimizing time and resources spent on physical conditioning.

7. Reduced Injury Risk:

Improved strength, endurance, and overall physical fitness resulting from IHT may contribute to a lower risk of injuries among miners. Stronger, more resilient individuals are better equipped to handle the physical challenges associated with mining work.

8. Employee Well-being and Morale:

Prioritizing the well-being of mining personnel is not just about productivity—it’s about creating a positive work environment. Incorporating IHT into employee wellness programs demonstrates a commitment to the health and satisfaction of mining professionals, potentially boosting morale.

Our coaches at Altitude Athletic Training are experts in reduced-oxygen training and how it can benefit you as a mining professional. Schedule a time to meet with one of our coaches and learn about the benefits for you:

Unlocking the Secrets of Longevity: The Power of Hypoxic Training

In the quest for a long and healthy life, people have explored a multitude of avenues, from diet and lifestyle choices to cutting-edge medical advancements. But what if we told you that a unique and promising approach to enhance longevity involves a form of training that manipulates your body’s response to reduced oxygen levels? Enter hypoxic training – a revolutionary fitness strategy that holds the potential to unlock the secrets of longevity.

In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of hypoxic training and how it can play a pivotal role in promoting a longer, healthier life. We’ll explore the key benefits of this innovative training method and why it might just be the best type of training for longevity.


The Foundations of Longevity

Longevity, simply put, is the art of living a longer and healthier life. It’s about optimizing your years, not just extending them. To achieve this, a holistic approach that combines various elements is essential. Among these elements, fitness for longevity is a critical pillar. But not all exercise is created equal, and hypoxic training stands out as a powerful tool in this context.

Understanding Hypoxic Training

Hypoxic training involves working out in an environment with reduced oxygen levels, simulating high-altitude conditions. The idea is to challenge the body to adapt to the reduced oxygen, leading to various physiological changes that can benefit overall health and longevity.

The Benefits of Hypoxic Training for Longevity

  1. Improved Cardiovascular Health: Hypoxic training can enhance cardiovascular health by boosting the production of red blood cells and increasing capillarization. This results in better oxygen delivery to your body’s tissues, improving heart function and reducing the risk of heart-related issues.

  2. Enhanced Metabolism: Exercising in a low-oxygen environment revs up your metabolic rate, helping you burn calories more efficiently. This can aid in weight management, a key component of longevity.

  3. Stress Reduction: Hypoxic training has been shown to reduce stress and improve mental well-being. Less stress means a healthier, more extended life.

  4. Increased Longevity Gene Activation: Some studies suggest that hypoxic training may activate certain genes associated with longevity and cellular repair, promoting healthier aging.

  5. Improved Endurance and Fitness: Hypoxic training challenges your body to adapt and perform better in oxygen-deprived conditions, ultimately enhancing your overall fitness. A stronger, fitter body is better equipped to age gracefully.

Is Hypoxic Training the Best Type of Training for Longevity?

While it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fitness for longevity, hypoxic training offers a unique and promising avenue to explore. It combines physical and mental health benefits. This makes it an attractive option for those seeking a comprehensive approach to extending their lifespan.

In conclusion, when it comes to training for longevity, hypoxic training is the real adventure. So, if you’re eager to unlock the secrets of longevity and take charge of your health, consider adding hypoxic training to your fitness routine. With its multitude of benefits, it’s undoubtedly worth exploring this innovative method that holds the promise of a longer, healthier, and more fulfilling life.

Let’s talk about how hypoxic training can boost your longevity. Schedule a time to meet with one of our expert Altitude coaches.



Altitude training for injured runners

Are you a runner dealing with injuries? Altitude training could be your best friend

Most runners have been injured, and it’s a dreadful part of sport. We spend hours pool running. We do endless glute bridges. And we watch our friends leave for runs and disappear into the abyss just like our abs. We get bored out of our minds, and stressed about losing the fitness we worked so hard to build.

As we lope and mope on the local gym’s elliptical machine, we think of three things:

How can I make cross-training less boring?

How can I maintain fitness?

Is this thing ever going to heal?

 Thankfully, there might be an answer to these questions that has nothing to do with stepping foot into the pool with an aqua belt.


Altitude training could be your most valuable cross-training tool. Here’s how:

Research shows that low-oxygen (hypoxic) training increases red blood cell count, which facilitates oxygen transport to the working muscles. Better oxygen transport can lead to more aerobic benefits (which can help us maintain fitness when we are injured) and decreased injury recovery time. As well, seeking out a new method of cross-training can be mentally refreshing, and can make our time away feel less terrible.

Plus, no matter where you are on the injury spectrum, altitude training can be your ally.


The Injury Spectrum

How might altitude training be helpful to you

Injury Prone

You’re not injured right now, but you push your limits and regularly find yourself sidelined. Maybe it’s pesky runner’s knee, or notoriously weak hips (they especially don’t lie when you’re a runner). You want to keep making gains, but you struggle handling your workload before a nagging “issue” turns into a full-blown problem. Do a portion of your training at altitude instead in order to maximize your time on your feet without additional stress to your weak spots. Your 75-minute run can become a 60-minute hypoxic run. Similar aerobic stimulus, less pounding.

On the Comeback

You are returning to training, and can only handle half your regular volume. Because you are doing less than what you are used to, you find it difficult to gain much fitness. Doing that reduced volume at hypoxia can produce physiological stimulus that will let you get fit at a faster rate. This way you can get back up to speed in a reasonable timeframe. See training at altitude as the bridge to get you back to your full volume of running again, but safely.


running your fastest 5K

Short-term Sideline

It’s the middle of your season, and you are in the shape of your life, and you are told to back off for three weeks. Not enough to kill the race goal, but enough to lose your edge. You don’t want to take time off, and you want to keep building fitness. For a short period, use an alternative form of training to maintain your fitness. Do it in low-oxygen conditions, and you might not miss a beat—red blood cell count and oxygen transport tends to spike after three weeks to a month of hypoxic training. You may actually come out of this mini-pause in your run training fitter than before. Plus, it’s a great excuse to try something new.

Out for the Season

You are riding great fitness, and come down with a pretty serious injury, say, a muscle tear or the dreaded stress fracture. You might be off for a few months, but you are motivated to stay fit. In the past, you’ve put in two to three hours of work on the bike or in the pool per day to get enough aerobic stimulus, only to come back to running with bike legs (this is when you discover how strong your quads can get) or pool arms (swimming reminds runners that a bit of upper body is perhaps not a bad thing).

But how can you maintain fitness for two months, without coming back with a body that would rather swim or cycle than run? Do that cross-training at altitude, and get the desired aerobic stimulus without having to cross-train excessively. This approach will also free your afternoon for more glute bridges or planks (which can be done at altitude as well). You’re welcome.

Far Gone

You have been injured for a long time, and feel like you have lost all fitness. Generally, the more unfit you are, the greater the results of hypoxic training. Use our training methods as your first step back to action, either on your own terms during our open gym time, or with the help of a coach and a personalized training plan.

If you are injured and want to get back to competition in a more effective and less painless way, give Altitude Athletic a try. If nothing else, it’s way more fun and adds stimulus than staring at the wall of your local pool for an hour.

Let’s talk about how altitude training can help you with your running injury. Schedule a time to meet with one of our expert Altitude coaches.

So what exactly is a Red Blood Cell? And what does it do?

If you have been around endurance sports for long enough, you’ve definitely heard a coach, a training partner, or a Tour de France broadcaster mention something about red blood cells and how they are important for aerobic exercise. But, what are they, really? And how do they work?

Red blood cells (also called erythrocytes) are miniature concave saucers, and exist in trillions in our blood stream. Their main function is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the working muscles. They are important, because muscles need oxygen to perform aerobic exercise.

Red blood cells move oxygen with the help of haemoglobin, a red protein that gives the cells its colour. Millions of haemoglobin molecules bind, or grab, four oxygen molecules in the blood. Then, the red blood cells shuttle the molecules to working muscles.

Look at it this way: if we are oxygen, red blood cells are public transit. The more shuttles we have, the more efficiently we get to where we want to go.

The more red blood cells we have the more haemoglobin we can carry the more oxygen we can transport to working muscle the better our muscles exercise the slower we tire.

Recap: if you’re an endurance athlete, you want those red blood cells.

But, can we control the amount of red blood cells that we have? Can we train our bodies to make more?

Red blood cell count is in part genetically determined, but yes, it can be manipulated. The body can start producing more red blood cells when exposed to low-oxygen (or hypoxic) conditions. Here is how it works:

Does erythropoietin (or EPO) sound familiar to you? Think of Lance Armstrong confessing to Oprah about illegally using extra doses of it, nearly 10 years ago.

We don’t have to be doping to use EPO: we each have a natural source of this good stuff inside of us. When little oxygen is available in our surroundings, the kidneys secrete EPO, which binds to cells in the bone marrow that produce more red blood cells.

In short: Exposure to a low-oxygen environment can increase red blood cell count, and increasing red blood cell count can improve aerobic performance.

Runner exercising outside with a mountain view

How to increase my own red blood cell count:

It is common practice to train at altitudes of 6,000 to 10,000 feet, in order to increase red blood cell count. Individuals can see an initial spike in red blood cell count as early as 24 to 48 hours after the first training bout at altitude, and tend to see a real change after three weeks to a month of low-oxygen training. That is why it is common to hear of athletes training at altitude for a month, before coming down to race. Read more about the science behind altitude training here.

How do I know if my red blood cell count is increasing?

A simple blood test can reveal your hematocrit, which is the ratio of your volume of red blood cells to the total volume of your blood. This value can reflect changes in your red blood cell count. We recommend that you regularly monitor your blood profile when training in a low-oxygen environment, so that you can understand how you are responding to the training.

Keep in mind: Before you experiment for yourself, know that changes in red blood cell count might vary with the elevation at which you choose to train, the fitness and training background of athletes, and the person to person variability of EPO production.

The bottom line: If you fancy getting faster, training up high and tapping into your very own natural source of red blood cells (I said natural, Lance) is absolutely worth a try.

What it’s like to cycle through the Pyrenees

The Pyrenees, a spectacular mountain range, beckons cyclists from all over the world with its challenging climbs and breathtaking scenery. One of our clients is an avid cyclist and recently tackled a cycling trip through the Pyrenees in June. He shared his experience and trip itinerary with us to shed some light on what it’s like to cycle through the Pyrenees.

 The Goal

We set off on an epic cycling adventure through The Pyrenees mountain range of France (and Spain) organized by Magic Places. The goal: “…have some fun with friends, see some great sights, and get into better shape.”

The trip started in Toulouse, but the actual riding would start in the seaside town of Biarritz and finish in Carcassone, with difficult climbs and spells of inclement weather to tackle in between. There were 10 rides in total, very few rest days, and a different place to stay every night. The elevation gain was significant, but so was the perseverance. At the end of the trip, the key discoveries were: “…dealing with the weather, encountering lots of livestock, keeping hydrated due to the elevation (5 large bottles of water per day), dealing with some difficult grades, eating some great food, and of course, taking care of each other.”

Check out the full itinerary and trip photos below…

 The Route

A 16-day trip through France (and Spain), showcasing some of the most pristine landscape in southwest Europe. The total distance travelled on the bike was 934.3 km and total elevation gain was 18,463 m. In total, it was 51 h 11 min of riding.

The Challenge

The Pyrenees – stunning and rural, and a thrilling challenge for cyclists. “We faced a lot of bumps between here and there…”

The Journey: Framed by a Stunning Backdrop

Whether your quads were burning from a seemingly never-ending climb or you were shedding layers from rapid changes in temperature – the scenery never failed to disappoint. Take this 102 km ride from Isaba to Pau for example…

Gorgeous ride: 1513 m of climbing, a 26 km climb to start the day, green mountains, snow at the summit, road followed the river, goats, cows and horses on road.(from Strava)

Col d’Aspin

“Beautiful day, more climbing…”

When cycling uphill, your rate of deceleration actually increases due to the impact of gravity on momentum. So you have to push your pedals at a constant effort throughout the climb to avoid a dramatic reduction in speed. Altitude is also a factor. You’ll find it harder to breathe because oxygen is no longer as easily available to your body. This can be particularly noticeable for those who have limited experience cycling at altitude, and those of us living at sea level. Indeed the guys on the trip who were from Calgary seemed to have a bit of an advantage when it came to the big climbing days (Calgary is at 1045 m).


“Lunchtime, bikes parked…”

Re-fuelling is extremely important during a trip like this. Fortunately, the food in France is delicious. Midday stops in rural French towns allow for lengthy lunch breaks and great meals. Those calories are certainly going to good use!

Col du Tourmalet

“The big climb…”

We’ve reached the highest point of our ride. This is the most utilized of any peak in the Tour de France. Le Geant de Tourmalet is one of two statues found on the summit. This ride was actually delayed by a day due to the rain and fog which would have made it almost impossible to see the peak.

An Epic ride: Strava stats from the big climb

Distance: 128.31 km

Moving Time: 7:12:16

Elevation: 3,685 m

Gorgeous sunny day for popular Tour de France climbs Col d’Aspine, Col du Tourmalet and Col de Peyresourdes. 3085 m of climbing. (Strava)

Challenge Conquered

There is always more to altitude to gain…”

It’s always a great feeling seeing the route you conquered and looking through the Strava stats that show your hard work. There’s always more mountains to climb and landscapes to explore.

For those looking to elevate their cycling skills and undergo intensive cycling training, the Pyrenees offer a formidable challenge. Cyclists on a Pyrenees cycling tour will encounter steep gradients, hairpin turns, and heart-pounding climbs that test endurance and willpower. Climbs like the Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aubisque are iconic among those seeking cycling training, and conquering these passes is a badge of honor for many. The intense climbs in the Pyrenees are perfect for cyclists seeking to push their limits and improve their performance.

If you’ve got a cycling trip coming up, we can help you prepare. Book a complimentary consult with one of our coaches to learn more: BOOK COACH CONSULT.