Conquering Aconcagua: 4 Tips for Optimal Training and Altitude Preparation

Embarking on an Aconcagua trek or expedition is a thrilling prospect, but scaling South America’s highest peak demands meticulous preparation. In this blog post, we’ll delve into four crucial tips for effective Aconcagua training, with a particular focus on the benefits of altitude training in a simulated gym environment if accessible to you. Let’s explore how tailored preparation, physical conditioning, and simulated altitude training can elevate your readiness for the Aconcagua expedition.

1. Tailored Aconcagua Training Plans

To conquer the towering heights of Aconcagua, a customized training plan is essential. Tailor your workouts to include endurance training, cardiovascular exercises, and strength conditioning. Focus on leg strength to navigate challenging terrains and high-altitude cardiovascular workouts to acclimate to reduced oxygen levels.

2. Altitude Training for Aconcagua: The Simulated Advantage

If accessible, consider incorporating altitude training into your regimen, specifically designed for Aconcagua expedition preparation. Simulated altitude gyms replicate the reduced oxygen conditions of high altitudes, facilitating acclimatization. This targeted training enhances your body’s ability to cope with the challenges posed by Aconcagua’s elevations.

Altitude training for Aconcagua provides numerous benefits:

  • Increased Oxygen Efficiency: Simulated altitude sessions improve your body’s ability to utilize oxygen efficiently, crucial for endurance at high elevations.
  • Enhanced Acclimatization: Regular exposure to reduced oxygen levels in a controlled environment helps your body acclimate more effectively, minimizing the risk of altitude-related issues during the Aconcagua trek.
  • Improved Cardiovascular Fitness: Altitude training stimulates cardiovascular adaptation, boosting your heart and lung efficiency to meet the demands of high altitudes.
  • Mental Resilience: Training in a simulated altitude gym builds mental resilience, preparing you for the psychological challenges of the Aconcagua expedition.
Aconcagua expedition training

3. Elevation Gain Simulation

Incorporate elevation gain simulation into your training hikes. While nothing fully replicates the conditions of Aconcagua, mimicking steep ascents in your local terrain helps build strength and endurance specific to the challenges you’ll face on the actual trek.

4. Comprehensive Gear Familiarity

Become intimately familiar with your Aconcagua gear during your training sessions. This includes testing your clothing, boots, and equipment to ensure comfort, functionality, and suitability for high-altitude conditions. Familiarity with your gear minimizes surprises and discomfort during the actual expedition.

Preparing for the Aconcagua trek requires meticulous training and strategic altitude preparation. Altitude training for Aconcagua in a simulated gym provides a unique advantage, enhancing acclimatization, cardiovascular fitness, and mental resilience. By tailoring your workouts, incorporating elevation gain simulation, and thoroughly familiarizing yourself with your gear, you’ll be better equipped to tackle the challenges of South America’s highest peak. Elevate your Aconcagua expedition readiness with targeted training and embrace the journey towards conquering this awe-inspiring summit.

Our coaches at Altitude Athletic Training have worked with many climbers on specific training plans for Aconcagua. Schedule a time to meet with one of them to discuss your trip preparation:



5 Insane Outdoor Adventure Races

Outdoor adventure races are the ultimate test of your physical and mental limits. These races take you to breathtaking, remote locations where you’ll push yourself to the max. In this post, we’ll explore five insane outdoor adventure races around the world that will put your skills and endurance to the test.

1. The Barkley Marathons – Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee, USA

The Barkley Marathons is known as one of the toughest ultramarathon races on the planet. The race unfolds over 100 miles through the rugged wilderness of Frozen Head State Park, featuring a brutal vertical gain of over 59,000 feet. This event is not for the faint of heart, requiring extensive trail running and endurance preparation. High altitude training can also be beneficial to build the stamina necessary for this grueling race.

    2. The Jungle Ultra – Peru

    If you’re looking for a race that combines trail running and a truly unique setting, the Jungle Ultra in Peru is a fantastic choice. This multistage race takes participants through the Amazon rainforest. Endurance is key as you cover over 140 miles through the challenging terrain and humidity. Additionally, integrating strength training into your preparation is essential to withstand the physical demands of this race. Building strength in your core, legs, and upper body will not only help you tackle steep inclines and uneven terrains but also improve your overall performance, making you more resilient in the challenging conditions of the Jungle Ultra.

    trail running

    3. The Coastal Challenge – Costa Rica

    For those who thrive in tropical conditions, The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica is the adventure race of your dreams. This 236-kilometer race guides runners along the country’s coastline, through dense jungles, and across pristine beaches. Trail running expertise is vital, as is preparation for the intense heat and humidity.

    4. The Dragon’s Back Race – Wales, UK

    The Dragon’s Back Race is an iconic adventure racing event that traverses the rugged terrain of the Welsh mountains. This five-day stage race covers 315 kilometers, with steep ascents and descents. High-altitude preparation can help participants adapt to the challenging elevation changes, and ultramarathon training is a must to tackle this demanding race.

    5. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) – France, Italy, and Switzerland

    The UTMB is the holy grail of ultramarathon races. This 171-kilometer race circumnavigates Mont Blanc, taking participants through high mountain passes and steep trails. Altitude preparation is crucial due to the race’s high-altitude sections. The UTMB is a test of endurance and trail running skills like no other.

    insane outdoor adventure races


    How To Train for Outdoor Adventure Races

    If you’re based in Toronto and are looking to prepare for these epic adventures, consider specialized training at Altitude Athletic Training. Altitude offers personalized programs that can help you improve your endurance, trail running abilities, and high-altitude adaptation.

    Here’s how Altitude can benefit you:

    • Personalized Training: Work with a coach on a program tailored to your specific adventure race goals. Whether it’s ultramarathon training, high altitude preparation, or trail running, we’ve got you covered.

    • Specialized Training Environment: Altitude Athletic Training recreates high-altitude conditions, allowing you to adapt to lower oxygen levels and replicate the demands of your expedition, which is essential for races like the UTMB and Barkley Marathons. This helps boost your endurance and performance at both sea-level and high-altitude settings.

    These five insane outdoor adventure races around the world offer a unique opportunity to challenge your physical and mental limits. With proper ultramarathon training, high altitude preparation, and strong guidance, you can embark on these incredible journeys. So, lace up your trail running shoes and start your adventure racing journey today!

    3 Tips to Train for the Everest Basecamp Trek

    The Everest Basecamp Trek is a dream adventure for many, but it demands more than just enthusiasm. To reduce your risk of altitude sickness, improve your cardio endurance, and develop the strength required for this epic journey, you need a well-rounded training regimen.

    In today’s post, we’ll explore three essential tips to prepare for the Everest Basecamp Trek.

    Tips to Prepare for the trek to Everest Basecamp

    Tip 1: Understand Ways to Reduce Altitude Sickness

    Altitude sickness is a major concern when trekking to high-altitude destinations like Everest Basecamp. It can cause nausea, dizziness, and even become life-threatening if not managed properly.

    Know the Basics

    There are several basic things you can do to mitigate your chances of getting altitude sickness. For example, when you arrive at higher elevations, take your time to acclimate. Ascend slowly and make sure to rest and hydrate adequately. Also, ensure that you drink plenty of water throughout the trek to stay well-hydrated. 

    Simulated Altitude Training

    Aside from basic strategies, one of the most effective ways to prepare for high-altitude conditions is through simulated altitude training. This is also known as hypoxic training.

    Simulated altitude training is a concept that has gained popularity among athletes and adventurers preparing for high-altitude challenges. It involves exposing your body to reduced oxygen levels similar to those experienced at high altitudes. This innovative approach can help reduce the risk of altitude sickness and improve your overall performance when trekking to destinations like Everest Basecamp.

    Facilities like Altitude Athletic Training in Downtown Toronto offer an innovative approach to help reduce the risk of altitude sickness and improve your overall performance when trekking to destinations like Everest Basecamp.


    Tip 2: Improve Cardio Endurance for High Altitudes

    One of the keys to a successful Everest Basecamp Trek is excellent cardio endurance. Hiking at high altitudes requires more effort due to lower oxygen levels, making it essential to have a strong cardiovascular system. To improve your endurance, focus on activities such as running, cycling, and stair climbing.

    Interval Training

    Incorporate interval training into your routine. This involves alternating between short bursts of high-intensity exercise and periods of low-intensity recovery. Interval training is excellent for building both aerobic and anaerobic endurance.

    Long-Distance Training:

    Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your cardio workouts. Focus on longer, sustained efforts to mimic the demands of the trek. Consider progressively extending your running or cycling sessions to build stamina.

    Altitude Training

    Consider training at facilities like Altitude Athletic Training to simulate the reduced oxygen conditions you’ll encounter at higher altitudes. This type of training pushes your cardiovascular system to adapt to lower oxygen levels, making you better prepared for the challenges of the trek.

    Everest Basecamp Trek

    Tip 3: Don’t Neglect Strength 

    Trekking to Everest Basecamp involves carrying a backpack loaded with essentials. To ensure you have the strength to endure the long and challenging trails, incorporate strength training into your regimen. Include exercises that target your legs, core, and upper body. Aim to handle the weight of your pack and maintain stability on uneven terrains.

    Train with Your Weight Pack

    Carrying a backpack while hiking or incline treadmill walking is an effective way to mimic the conditions of the Everest Basecamp Trek and improve your physical preparedness. Start with a light load in your backpack and gradually add more weight as your strength and endurance increase. This mimics the progression of packing for a multi-day trek and allows your body to adapt to the additional load.


    Build Muscular Endurance (ideally at high-altitude)

    If possible, take your strength training up to higher altitudes (simulated or terrestrial). Doing so will challenge your muscles to work harder and in conditions similar to those you’ll experience on the Everest Basecamp Trek.


    Work With An Expert

    Don’t go into your Everest Basecamp preparation without a good plan or support system in place. Find an experienced coach who can build you a tailored program that includes strength training exercises specific to trekking. Facilities like Altitude Athletic Training can help you with a tailored program that includes strength training exercises specific to trekking. To speak with a coach and learn more about strength training plans for the Everest Basecamp Trek, book a complimentary coach consultation here.


    Preparation is the key to a successful Everest Basecamp Trek. To reduce the risk of altitude sickness, improve your cardio endurance, and enhance your muscular endurance, it’s essential to invest time in the right training methods. Simulated altitude training can be a valuable addition to your training regimen, helping your body acclimate to lower oxygen levels and develop the strength required for the journey. When you arrive at high altitudes, the proper acclimatization, hydration, and attention to your body’s signals are critical to avoiding altitude sickness. By following these tips and adhering to a well-rounded training plan, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle the heights and embrace the breathtaking landscapes of the Everest Basecamp Trek.

    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.

    Going Higher: What is altitude training?

    In today’s highly-developed world, gaining a competitive edge is more difficult than ever. Speed suits for swimmers, carbon fibre soles in running shoes, and aerodynamic helmets and bikes have become more and more available to recreational athletes looking to up their game. However, as fun and cool as these tech trends are, they don’t actually change the most important thing – your own personal human engine.

    Within the millions of blood vessels in your body travel red blood cells, called erythrocytes. The role of these erythrocytes is to transport highly-coveted oxygen to tissues in order to power your body. If you decide to train for a marathon and get going on a training program, the body begins to produce more and more red blood cells over the weeks. It does so to deliver more oxygen to starving muscles that are working harder and longer than in previous weeks.

    This is a normal response to training and one of the reasons why a long run weekly is very important! The quality of the red blood cells also begins to improve as each blood cell becomes larger and able to carry more oxygen molecules. You can notice these changes during a training program as distances that once would make you feel tired and out of breath become easier and less effortful.

    The body is very smart and very insightful. In circumstances where oxygen is harder to come by, it will quickly realize that this special and limited resource needs to be used as effectively and as efficiently as possible. Studies have shown that at altitudes of 2100m and up, the number of blood cells in the bloodstream is higher, and size of red blood cells are bigger. In most basic terms – you can go harder and longer with the same amount of effort.

    Now, because the body is so smart (and also lazy), the timing and consistency of training at altitude becomes important. Effects on blood cells can begin as early as 2 hours of exposure, and get better and better with time. If you’ve got a race coming up in a few months, you’ll want to spend about 24 hours total at altitude prior to in order to begin to see tangible changes. If you’ve really got your eye on the prize, the more hours that you can train, the better! Studies have shown that red blood cells increase in size after every 100 hours of altitude training.

    Trail Running Fitness Toronto

    Who can benefit from training high in the sky? Well, if you’ve picked a race that is taking place above sea-level, you are absolutely going to want to prep for it by getting yourself acclimatized. Even the most well-rounded training program done at sea level will lend itself to a sub-par race at altitude as the body will be starved for oxygen that isn’t available. Not to mention, it’ll feel fairly awful. Second, even if you don’t have anything high in the sky coming up, you’ll be able to truly maximize your training and body adaptations by getting into the chamber even once per week. More blood cells = more oxygen = more work with less effort. Hello PB!

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    How to handle altitude sickness

    Imagine your worst hangover. Dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, the deep desire to just lay down, wherever you are, and sleep. Now, imagine that instead of waking up in your bed after a night out, you’re three quarters of the way up a 12,000 ft. mountain, pushing yourself harder than you ever have in your life. You are experiencing the early symptoms of acute mountain sickness, (or AMS), commonly known as altitude sickness.

    Altitude sickness is an illness that develops when the body doesn’t have time to adapt to the decreased air pressure and oxygen levels of high altitude—defined as any area 8,000 ft. above sea level. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite—wickedly similar to a brutal hangover.

    In its most extreme cases, altitude sickness can develop into high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE), swelling of the brain due to a lack of oxygen. Jon Krakauer provides a chilling description of Ngawang Topche, a Sherpa on the 1996 Everest expedition, experiencing HAPE in John Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air. “Ngawang was delirious, stumbling like a drunk, and coughing up pink, blood-laced froth.”

    Don’t let this scare you off your planned trip to Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp, though. HAPE and HACE are extremely rare. They typically occur when people ignore the symptoms of altitude sickness and continue to physically exert themselves. Just be wary that if you let altitude sickness progress to this level of severity, it can prove fatal.

    To ensure this doesn’t happen, follow these tips on how to handle altitude sickness.

    Travel Slowly

    We get it. You want to be the first one to the top of the mountain. But it’s not worth it if your group has to drag you back down. Don’t turn your ascent into a competition. By not giving your body enough time to adjust to the lack of oxygen you’re much more likely to experience altitude sickness.

    According to contemporary research, age, sex and physical fitness have no bearing on a person’s likelihood to be afflicted by the illness. This means that even if you’re one of the fittest people on the planet you can still be affected, especially if you’re racing to the summit.

    Before even starting your climb, it’s a good idea to take two to three days to acclimatize to higher altitude. Avoid flying directly into high altitude areas, though. Travel to the destination progressively, acclimatizing as you go.

    During the climb, take it slow. Enjoy the view. If you’re hiking with porters or Sherpas, follow their lead. They know the mountain well and will know when it’s best to take a rest. If you’re climbing alone, don’t ascend more than 500 metres a day. After every 900 metres, or three or four days of climbing, take a rest day to avoid overexertion.

    Remember, it’s not a race.

    Stay hydrated and fed

    Dehydration is a major cause of altitude sickness. In part, because high altitude has a diuretic effect on the body, causing you to pee…a lot. And with all the hiking you’ll be doing, you’re going to sweat out liquids fast. Take some hydration salts with you and toss a hydration pack in your bag that you can sip on during the hike. It’s better to carry too much water than not enough.

    And just to clarify, no, beer doesn’t count as a liquid. Alcohol dehydrates you and can accelerate the altitude sickness. Save the liquor for the bar. Instead, bring water or sports drinks like Gatorade.

    Altitude also tends to rob you of your appetite, slowing down your digestion. To have enough energy to hike each day, eat more than you feel is necessary. Oatmeal is a good idea in terms of meals, especially if you add some nuts and berries. And bring snacks for the climb. Munching on a chocolate bar along the way may give you the energy you need to make it to the summit.

    Treat Symptoms immediately

    As mentioned earlier, if not treated, altitude sickness can evolve into worse illnesses like HAPE and HACE. If you are feeling the onset of symptoms, stop and rest. Wait a day or two until the symptoms have completely receded before continuing to climb.

    Proactively, you can take Diamox one to two days before starting your climb. The medication reduces symptoms and eases your adjustment to altitude. If you’re still feeling the effects while climbing, try combatting headaches with ibuprofen and Tylenol. And promethazine can work wonders when feeling sick.

    If you’re still exhibiting symptoms after 24 hours, turn around and start to descend. Once down at the base, the symptoms should dispel after two to three days. Don’t try ascending to high altitude again until the symptoms are completely gone.

    Train at Altitude

    Before leaving for an expedition, mountaineers can pre-acclimate and prepare for high altitudes by sleeping and exercising at simulated altitude. This is a great option if you live at sea-level and can’t easily access the mountains.

    Simulated altitude training is exercising in or breathing air with less oxygen to replicate the thinner air you find up in the mountains. Simulated altitude is created by decreasing the percentage of oxygen in the air below 20.9% oxygen (the amount of oxygen in the air at sea-level). There are two strategies for altitude training: Live High, Train Low and Intermittent Hypoxic Training. Both methods have been shown to improve performance in recreational and professional athletes, and those travelling to high altitudes.

    Live High, Train Low

    Doing sedentary tasks at altitude for longer durations, i.e “Living High”, while training at a lower level, can stimulate erythropoiesis (the process that produces red blood cells).

    Sleep tents and larger altitude tents can be set up at home, so you can get 6+ hours of high-altitude exposure and then be back down to sea-level in seconds. Simulated altitude training can lower the age of red blood cells and increase hemoglobin mass (hemoglobin is an oxygen-carrying protein). These changes in the blood can help reduce and prevent symptoms of altitude sickness.

    Intermittent Hypoxic Training

    Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT) is living at sea-level and exercising at altitude. If you’ve got a stationary bike or treadmill at home, you can use a simulated altitude training mask to breath hypoxic air while you’re training. Otherwise, there are special gyms that can actually simulate altitude with no masks needed.

    Finally, if you’re experiencing symptoms –  tell someone. Your travel companions are there to help and will have clearer heads to assess the situation.

    While it is a hindrance, if you monitor and treat the symptoms appropriately, altitude sickness should not be the reason you miss making it to the summit.