Elite runners will do blocks of training in high-altitude locations like Flagstaff, Arizona (2,106 m), Aspen, Colorado (2,438 m) or even all the way to the “Home of the Champions” in Iten, Kenya (2,400 m). Why go the distance to run at high elevations? To stimulate a process called erythropoiesis. Erythropoiesis is the process that produces red blood cells in the body, expanding oxygen carrying capacity and resulting in improved endurance, stamina and aerobic performance.

And the records show that altitude training does in fact work. According to Runner’s World, 95% of all medalists at the world championships and the Olympic Games since 1968 have either lived or trained at altitude.

Do you have to be an elite athlete to train at altitude? No! It’s a common misconception about altitude is that it’s only for elite athletes or people competing at altitude. But the benefits of altitude training can also be enjoyed and achieved by regular people and recreational runners looking to enhance oxygen transport/uptake for improved stamina and aerobic capacity.

THE PAIN POINTS

The struggle for us regular people (who live at sea-level and don’t have mountain just around the corner) isn’t whether or not altitude training can yield benefit. It is physically getting to altitude itself.

In most cases, these elite athletes have the time and support to head to elevation for a performance boost.  But when it comes to those of us who aren’t quite professionals – but still take our training very seriously – we often don’t have that luxury. Most of us can only get away for a week or two at a time – which isn’t even enough to fully reap the benefits of a high altitude training experience (research says it takes about a month for physiological changes to occur).

Indeed, there is a lot of time and money involved when it comes to high altitude training camps. Whether it be as part of a structured high altitude training camp for runners, an individual, self-guided trip, or a practice expedition to prepare for an upcoming climb.

Since altitude training can be so beneficial for athletes of all levels, and this is something very desirable amongst the running and endurance athlete community, we wanted to get an idea of how much this kind of trip would cost. Check out what we learnt:

THE BREAKDOWN

*Note prices may vary throughout the year, these are based on Late Summer-Early Fall

Flagstaff

Camp #1 – Running Holiday in Arizona

Location: Flagstaff, AZ

Elevation: 6614 feet

Duration: 7 days

Type of Training Camp: Trail Running Camp in Arizona

What you get:

  • 10 guided trail runs
  • 1 long run
  • 2 track workouts
  • Airport Transportation
  • Lunch daily
  • One-on-one coaching
  • 5 Classroom Sessions

Costs:

  • Training Camp Registration Cost: $602 CAD
  • Cost of Flights (Toronto to Flagstaff Round-trip): ~$654.86 CAD
  • Accommodation (Watson Lake Inn): $1400.82 CAD
  • Food/Extras: $500 CAD
  • Transportation to camp: Included

Total Cost: ~$3103 CAD

running in mountains

Trail Running in the Rockies

Camp #2 – Group Training in Colorado

Location: Durango, CO

Elevation: 6522 feet

Duration: 5 days

Type of Training Camp: Colorado Running Ranch

What you get:

  • Accommodation + amenities
  • Transportation to and from airport
  • Guided trail runs
  • Running Seminars
  • Trail Running Gear
  • Meals and other group activities

Costs:

  • Training Camp Registration Cost: $3019.83 CAD
  • Cost of Flights (Toronto to Durango, Colorado Round-trip): ~$671 CAD
  • Accommodation: Included
  • Food/Extras: $200 CAD
  • Transportation to camp: Included

Total Cost: ~$3890.83 CAD

Iten Kenya high altitude training camps cost for runners

Iten, Kenya – “The Spiritual Home of Running”

Camp #3 – Train with the Pros in Kenya

Location: Iten, Kenya

Elevation: 7874 m

Duration: 7 days

Type of Training Camp: High Altitude Training Centre

What you get:

  • Accommodation + amenities
  • Meals
  • Use of fitness centre
  • Use of 400 m track
  • Sauna and outdoor swimming pool
  • Instructor guidance

Costs:

  • Training Camp Registration Cost: CAD$80-110/night for a single and USD$50-70 a night if you’re sharing
  • Cost of Flights (Toronto to Nairobi, Kenya): ~$3000 CAD
  • Accommodation: Included
  • Food/Extras: $200 CAD
  • Transportation to camp: $300 CAD

Total Cost (assuming single room average price): $4165 CAD

These are all top notch camps with great amenities in stunning locations. And they are designed to help athletes of all levels experience the benefits of training in real high-altitude conditions. However, taking 7 days at any one of these camps is not cheap. Based on our research – the average cost (assuming you are leaving from Toronto) is around ~$3700 CAD – taking into account basic transport, lodging and meal requirements.

AN ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION

So, how can we trigger the benefits of altitude training closer to home? A good solution is simulated altitude training. Simulated altitude training involves exercising in or simply inhaling the oxygen-reduced air that you find at high altitudes. Simulated altitude is created by decreasing the percentage of oxygen in the air (normal atmospheric air consists of 20.9% oxygen).

There are different ways you can do it. For example, you can purchase a hypoxic training mask (NOT the altitude masks that just restrict air intake) for stationary exercise. You can place a hypoxic tent over your bed to get the benefits of longer term passive exposure. Or you can train mask-free in a simulated altitude gym – like what we offer here at Altitude Athletic Training. Read more about the science and benefits of the different types of altitude training and exposures here.

And if you’re wondering what to expect from a pricing perspective, in most cases you will most certainly be paying less for simulated altitude training at home than the altitude camp comparison. For instance, a three month membership at Altitude with personalized fitness programming, unlimited facility access and fitness testing will cost you $300 CAD per month, or $900 in total. Check out the membership details here. This would be a great (and more cost effective) alternative for those of us who don’t quite have the funds (or time) to jet off for a run in the mountains.

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