Altitude Training Tips
1. Don’t be afraid to run slow.
When above 5,000 feet, you should (and may be forced to) slow your easy running pace. Don’t try to fight it or force your normal running pace. You may not feel the difference when you first start your run or when running on flat road, but it will catch up with you and make for an unpleasant second half of the run and defeat the purpose of running easy.
You’ll often find that when running at altitude even the smallest hill will send you gasping for breath. Don’t be concerned, this is a common experience. Take any hills very slow and don’t be afraid to walk at the top to catch your breath so your breathing and heart rate can return to normal.
2. Change your training
A. Take more rest between intervals.
When training at altitude, try and increase exercise-recovery ratios as much as possible. Recent research indicates that a 1:2 recovery ratio is optimal. For example, if you run hard for 3 minutes, take 6 minutes recovery. At sea level, you can usually get away with a 1:1 ratio, or even a 2:1 ratio.
B. Slow your tempo runs down.
Similar to running easy, running at threshold pace at altitude is extremely difficult and you will have to slow your pace considerably. Unfortunately, coaches and exercises scientists don’t have an exact ratio for how much your run will need to slow down to be effective. Each athlete responds to altitude differently and your exact elevation will impact your pace. Use your breathing or a heart-rate monitor to measure effort level and don’t be concerned about specific times.
3. Get more sleep.
Recovering and sleeping at altitude are made more difficult by free radical damage and the thin air. Sleep specialists have found athletes who train at altitude imperceptibly wake almost five times as often as they do at sea level during the first three weeks. This prevents the body from getting into a deep sleep, which hampers recovery. So, give yourself some extra shut eye.
4. Drink extra fluids
Fluid intake is vital when training at altitude. The thin air makes your breathing more shallow and frequent, which creates greater fluid loss through the respiratory system. In addition, altitude locations are very dry with low humidity. Not only does this prevent absorption of fluid through breathing, but is also makes you feel like you’re not sweating heavily because the sweat is evaporating so quickly. Carry water with you at all times and aim to drink about twice as much as you normally do at sea level.
While you may not be an Olympic athlete who intends to utilize altitude training as part of a strict performance enhancing protocol, you can make good use of your time at altitude – planned or not.