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Should You Invest In An Altitude Tent?

  • By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Published Feb. 2, 2012

Live high without ever leaving the comfort of your own bed.

The 1968 Olympics were held in Mexico City, at an altitude of more than 7,000 feet. With less oxygen available to the athletes to breathe at such heights, most of the competitors in the distance running events ran much slower than they were accustomed to doing. Interestingly, though, some of the best performers were athletes who had been born and raised at high altitude, because although endurance performance is reduce in thin mountain air, living in such an environment stimulates changes in blood chemistry that improve general endurance performance capacity

Today many competitive endurance athletes practice a philosophy known as “Live High, Train Low” that was indirectly inspired by the Mexico City Games. They sleep and rest in an oxygen-poor environment to thicken their blood, but they work out at low altitude to maximize their training performance and the benefits they derive from it. Some do this the hard way, by making their homes in the mountains and going downhill for important workouts. Others take a technological shortcut by living and training close to sea level and sleeping in hypoxic tents that simulate high altitude by reducing the oxygen content of the air inside.

Colorado Altitude Training, Hypoxico, and Higher Peak are among a few companies that market hypoxic sleeping tents to endurance athletes. They aren’t cheap, ranging in price from $2,500 to more than $5,000. Other drawbacks include reduced sleep quality for some athletes and annoyed spouses who would rather not be forced to sleep inside a low-oxygen bubble with their performance-obsessed soul mate every night. Finally, the balance of research on the effects of altitude tents indicates that the user must spend at least 16 hours a day inside them to get a measurable performance benefit. Nevertheless, most athletes who make the investment consider thesmelves satisfied customers.

“It is proven that altitude training directly impacts an athlete’s performance level,” said Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar, whose athletes have used altitude-simulating units from Colorado Altitude Training. “And we felt the safety and convenience features were added benefits for Nike athletes.”

Related Article–The Air Up There: How To Train & Race Effectively At Altitude

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