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Conditioning at Altitude
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Tom Bender
(shovelman) - F

Locale: Out East, sort of
Conditioning at Altitude on 11/19/2009 17:21:33 MST Print View

Recently spent a week hiking at 9,000 to 10,000 feet in Yosemite. Even a few weeks later my endurance on the soccer field is amazing. Your results may vary. So now I'm looking to do it again, but a little higher. We like to camp near the car and day hike. Any suggestions for where?

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Onion Valley on 11/19/2009 18:05:07 MST Print View

Onion Valley trailhead west of Independence is at 9,200' and a quick climb of four miles gets you to Kearsarge Pass at 11,760'. There is a nice campground at the trailhead.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Conditioning at Altitude on 11/19/2009 18:21:20 MST Print View

"Any suggestions for where?"

Horseshoe Meadow, which provides access to Cottonwood Lakes/New Army Pass and Cottonwood Pass, is at 10,000' and has camping facilities. Also, there are several campgrounds due west of Bishop, farther north, that are located at elevations around 9000' and provide access to beautiful day hikes up the Paiute Pass Trail, Bishop Pass Trail, and the Lamarck Lakes trail. None of these are suitable this time of year, but from late June on they, plus Onion Valley, will provide you with many options, if you are a fan of the Eastern Sierra.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
conditioning for high altitude on 01/10/2010 10:48:35 MST Print View

Many years ago, I was a member of an expedition that climbed a peak that was about 80% the height of Everest. After we finished and came home, an account was posted on the web. Less than a year later, an Army Lt. Col. in Special Forces contacted me and started asking questions about the peak. He planned on taking his elite military team there in about three months, and he just had basic questions. When I asked, it turned out that they had Zero high altitude experience, despite the fact that they did most military things well. I told him that they needed to get out to somewhere such as Fort Carson, CO, and backpack up some 14,000-foot peak, sleep a night or two, and then come down and report back to me on what happened. He thought I was being silly. Later, the military team went to the peak, climbed most of the way, and failed. Next time, maybe they will listen.
In California, another good place to hang out at altitude is in the White Mountains east of Bishop.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Conditioning at Altitude on 01/10/2010 16:38:07 MST Print View

Effect are realized after 2 to 4 weeks of training,
provided you are "sleeping low" for muscle recovery,
and are a 1% to 3% gain for elite athletes.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: Conditioning at Altitude on 01/10/2010 17:09:04 MST Print View

since most of us do not fit the elite category,
would we experience more or less improvement than the elite guys.

my trail running definitely improves after spending time at altitude, especially the uphill parts, but I haven't attempted to quantify it.

Edited by asandh on 01/10/2010 17:10:38 MST.

Tom Bender
(shovelman) - F

Locale: Out East, sort of
Careful Research on 01/11/2010 10:51:16 MST Print View

Greg, I suspect the results you are quoting are something less rigorous than a SWAG. Since the effects of altitude vary widely from person to person, the effect of training high probably varies widely also. My results (not an elite athelete) were much better than 3% and lasted at least 3 months.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Careful Research on 01/11/2010 12:15:35 MST Print View


I am surprised that one venture up could benefit you for weeks afterward. Not that I know, but if it takes just a day or three for us to "acclimate up", then methinks it would be more or less the same duration to "acclimate down"?

Do you play soccer highly regularly? If, for example, it's just "on and off" prior to your climb -- but very regularly in the weeks after your climb -- then it would be difficult to separate out the positive effect of your climb vs. the positive effect of regular playing.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Careful Research on 01/11/2010 12:23:25 MST Print View

One other thing to consider -- FWIW:

On a recent trip to Tibet, I talked with a number of Chinese migrants who worked in Lhasa for months at a time. They say that the process of acclimating takes a toll on the body. Sure, they feel OK after a day or three -- but they also feel like they're aging faster -- skin aging, hair falling out faster, regular feelings of fatigue... that sort of thing. Tibetans, OTOH, don't feel the same because they've adapted biologically (e.g. higher red blood cell count, that sort of thing).

So, if true and if applicable, you may be putting stress on your body in exchange for temporarily better soccer endurance.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
A few days, I think. on 01/11/2010 12:44:57 MST Print View

I think that it only takes a couple or three days to "deacclimate" after being at high altitude. I have heard of Coloradoans who went to the lowlands for a few days then got AMS upon returning home (at least that's what Auerbach says in his book). But, maybe AMS is different than the exercise tolerance.

Tom- you are the SPITTING image of one of my old attendings. You aren't by any chance a Maine Yankee related to a guy named Preston Carter, are you?

Edited by acrosome on 01/11/2010 12:46:27 MST.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Hematocrit on 01/11/2010 13:41:42 MST Print View

It seems like it takes about 2 weeks for a lowlander to acclimate to Colorado's altitude. 10 years ago, just for grins, I talked a group of three in-shape male dental students from Chicago (elev. 300'), who would work at my clinic for 8 weeks, into getting their hematocrit taken every Monday morning. The hematocrit is a measure of the relative amount of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, and it increases when one goes to a significantly higher altitude. It turned out that they reached their maximum HCT after 3-4 weeks of living at Boulder's 5400', and it remained at those levels until they left CO. That's also about the time that they didn't feel too challenged when hiking at 10,000-14,000'. I asked them to also have their hematocrit checked when the got back to Chicago, but they blew it off (too bad--I wanted to know how soon it returned to normal). The elevated HCT will return to a lower level after a person acclimatizes to the new, lower elevation, but I don't know how long that takes. Likely about the same time as it took to elevate in the first place.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
altitude conditioning, or conditioning at altitude? on 01/11/2010 13:43:42 MST Print View

The conventional wisdom is that the human body will lose adaptation to altitude at about the same rate as it was gained. In other words, if it took you three days to feel "right" in high altitude, you will shed it in about three days at low altitude. Exactly how long it takes you, going up or going down, depends on many factors.

Note that olympic athletes often train at a moderately high altitude training camp, especially for endurance sports, and especially if the real competition will be at high altitude.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
hematocrit on 01/11/2010 13:48:39 MST Print View

Hematocrit lab numbers will vary if the subject is dehydrated, which happens a lot at high altitude.

A pulse oximeter is a little easier to get results from, but it is not perfectly consistent either.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Careful Research on 01/11/2010 16:53:53 MST Print View

Tom, you said
"Greg, I suspect the results you are quoting are something less rigorous than a SWAG."

The Journal of Applied Physiology is fairly well respected. It was the first reference I encountered when I was confirming my recollection on altitude training. There are others of equal stature.

Various studies have been ongoing for the past 10 to 15 years, especially relating to cycling and ultra-running, and the results have been consistent.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
altitude on 01/12/2010 08:08:27 MST Print View

I seem to remember that climbers use to use the axiom that for every two days down below, you lost one day of altitude with regards to acclimazation. Don't know how true that is, but that was what we used to be told.
I do know that when I run at altitude, and then run lower, there is a substantial increase in strength, or at least it feels like that! Could be as obvious as more oxygen being processed?
I also remember that at really high altitudes (above 15,000 ft), no matter how well conditioned I was, there was a point where if I exerted just a bit, I just bonked. But if I maintained a steady output, I was fine. Altitude is a finicky bedmate for sure.

Edited by idahosteve on 01/12/2010 08:11:41 MST.

Tom Bender
(shovelman) - F

Locale: Out East, sort of
Better Research Accepted on 01/13/2010 14:25:31 MST Print View

I defer to the quality of the research you quoted. There is so much "funded" research and unqualified stuff out there that I made an assumption. Sorry. However I do play every week and the difference was dramatic. Some benefit certainly came from the serious week of working out on the trails. And the vacation took me off the field for 3 weeks so some soccer muscles may have recovered and that may have helped. At 58 this can take a while. In any case I'll be doing more research and will post again.

Does it cause harm? Living very high is supposed to be bad, but visits are only supposed to be bad if they are bad. So I'm sticking to the refrain "what doesn't kill me..."

No, not a Maineac, though my dearest has roots there.

Happy Trails.