For sea level based endurance athletes who compete at low and moderate altitudes, adequate time for acclimatization to altitude can mitigate performance declines. We asked whether it is better for the acclimatizing athlete to live at the specific altitude of competition or at a higher altitude, perhaps for an increased rate of physiological adaptation. After 4wks of supervised sea level training and testing, 48 collegiate distance runners (32M, 16W) were randomly assigned to one of four living altitudes (1780m, 2085m, 2454m, or 2800m) where they resided for 4wks. Daily training for all subjects was completed at a common altitude from 1250m-3000m. Subjects completed 3000m performance trials on the track at sea level, 28 and 6 days prior to departure, and at 1780m on days 5, 12, 19, and 26 of the altitude camp. Groups living at 2454m and 2800m had a significantly larger slowing of performance vs. the 1780m group on day 5 at altitude. The 1780m group showed no significant change in performance across the 26 days at altitude, while the groups living at 2085m, 2454m, and 2800m showed improvements in performance from day 5 to day 19 at altitude, but no further improvement at day 26. The data suggest that an endurance athlete competing acutely at 1780m should live at the altitude of the competition, and not higher. Living ~300-1000m higher than the competition altitude, acute altitude performance may be significantly worse and may require up to 19 days of acclimatization to minimize performance decrements.
- altitude training
- Live High - Train Low
- Copyright © 2015, Journal of Applied Physiology