Altitude Training For Triathletes

Some sea level athletes that train at altitude for more than six months have experienced their lungs emplode.

Altitude (Hypoxia) tents work by not having to train low then sleep high. The Hypoxia tents can mimic altitudes of up to 12,500ft. Training at altitude has the problem that you are unable to do fast quality sessions due to lack of full oxygen that is available at sea level. The higher the altitude the greater the response up to 2,750m/9000ft any higher most athletes report slower recovery rates due to lower oxygen and problems sleeping.

At extreme altitude there is not enough oxygen for your body so the body makes sure that the vital organs like the brain lungs and heart get priority. Everest base camp at 5,400m there is 50% less oxygen than at sea level. Above this height it is not uncommon to take one step the 15 breathes of air before taking another step. Probably this is why it has been knick named as the death zone!

ACCIDENTS – more mistakes happen towards the end of climbing Mount Everest partly from mental fatigue and physical exhaustion but more from being relaxed after having climbed to the top of the world.

ADAPT – It takes two weeks to walk to Everest base camp. This allows your body to slightly adapt. If you were able to be air lifted to the top of Everest you would suffocate in minutes because your body has not had time to adapt.

ALTITUDE SICKNESS symptoms include loss of appetite. BLOOD colour should be red at sea level but can be blue at very high altitude.

BREATHS PER MINUTE – On Mount Everest due to the air being so thin we need 80 breathes per minute compared to only 10 at sea level.

CELLS in your body slowly die at high altitude due to low levels of oxygen and brain damage can be permanent.

DIET – Iron rich foods help to increase the haemoglobin and increase your ability to carry more oxygen around the body. Animal foods that contain iron include beef, black pudding, cockles, eggs, heart, kidney, liver, mussels, sardines and tuna. Vegetable foods rich in iron include almonds, baked beans, Brazil nuts, butter beans, cashews, chick peas, chocolate, curry powder, dried fruit, iron-fortified cereals, lentils, peas, watercress, spinach and walnuts. Vitamin C is needed to absorb the iron.

GENETIC – some people are better adapted to cope with low levels of oxygen.

GUT – Digestive system has been known to die if oxygen levels have dropped too low. Either at Altitude in the operating theatre, or during long distance endurance events such as the Ironman triathlon.

H.A.C.E is high altitude cerebral eodema brain swelling.

HEMATOCRIT – the level changes to adapt to high or low levels of oxygen. Red blood count takes weeks to change while plasma volume will change in a few hours.

HYPOXIA is being low in oxygen.

SEA LEVEL – once back to sea level the athlete’s starts to lose the extra red blood count at different rates.

SLEEP – To improve your chances of benefiting from altitude training the aim is to sleep higher than you train. At sea level your hematocrit level will drop but your higher number of red blood cells stays elevated.

VITAL ORGANS that need oxygen at altitude include the Brain, heart and lungs