Training in Low Altitude for High Altitude Running

altitude runningIf you’re liv­ing at sea lev­el but enjoy the chal­lenge of races held in more moun­tain­ous regions, you might be find­ing it hard­er to com­pete when you trav­el to those areas of high­er ele­va­tion. Upping your game to con­tend in the moun­tains is all about forc­ing your body to adapt. You won’t be able to repli­cate the inten­si­ty of high alti­tude train­ing, but you can cer­tain­ly make advances in your endurance and speed.

Train by Effort
Switch­ing from low to high alti­tude rac­ing can be an unwel­come shock for your body, but you can ease the tran­si­tion by trans­form­ing the way you train before­hand. Many run­ners like to train by pace, by keep­ing time with a watch or a set goal on how long they want to be able to tack­le a cer­tain dis­tance. This can actu­al­ly be coun­ter­in­tu­itive in high alti­tudes because they require more effort from your body than sea lev­el races.

Instead, focus on reign­ing in your inten­si­ty and learn how to run by effort. Erase the thought of time from your mind and learn to pace your­self with your breath and the demands of your body. High­er alti­tude races are gen­er­al­ly slow­er in nature and you want to be able to increase and decrease your inten­si­ty as you go, rather than keep a steady and fast speed.

Sim­u­late the Ter­rain
While you might not have any moun­tains near­by to train on, there are few places that are lack­ing entire­ly when it comes to hills. You can work on “train­ing by effort” by run­ning on small­er hills rather than flat ter­rain. It won’t mim­ic high alti­tude run­ning exact­ly, but it’ll help you under­stand how your body works on vary­ing land­scapes a lit­tle bet­ter and allow you to prac­tice com­pen­sat­ing for the changes.

This will help you per­fect your form when it’s time to start head­ing up and down­hill. If you don’t have hills avail­able then con­sid­er using a tread­mill instead. Find out the incline of the trail you’ll be rac­ing on and set the tread­mill at the same angle. This way you can prac­tice your form.

Sleep in High Alti­tude
Sleep­ing in a high alti­tude tent seems a lit­tle like tak­ing a short­cut. How­ev­er, if you real­ly want to boost your per­for­mance it’s def­i­nite­ly an option. It’s cost­ly and should only be done with the guid­ance of an expe­ri­enced train­er, but sleep­ing in a high alti­tude tent can sim­u­late the envi­ron­ment of your next race and force your body to adapt to the lack of oxy­gen with­out hav­ing to actu­al­ly run or live in it.

Accli­mate Ear­ly
If all else fails, arrive at your des­ti­na­tion a week ear­ly to pre­pare if you’re going to be run­ning a race. This will give your body time to adapt to the lack of oxy­gen and help you get famil­iar with the ter­rain. Even if you don’t plan on rac­ing and just want the ben­e­fits of high alti­tude train­ing to up your game, you can still vis­it moun­tain regions on a reg­u­lar basis to vary your train­ing.