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High Living Low Altitude Training

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Athletes in preparation for a major competition prepare and practice to make their performance near perfect if not perfect. Indeed, there are various approaches that athletes have developed over the years in preparation for major competitions. Often, high altitude training is adopted. It involves taking practice, exercises and preparations for the main event to highly elevated areas such as mountains (Geiser, Vogt, Billeter, Zuleger, Belforti & Hoppeler, 2011). Biology and physics disciplines explain the rationale. The argument is that, at elevated areas such as mountains and other such high altitudes, there is a thin column of oxygen gas. At the low lands such as at sea level, there is a large column of air, oxygen, for an athlete to breathe.

Consider two glasses, one tall and the other short filled with sweet lemonade. Which one would you choose? Similarly, at the sea level, there is a ‘tall’ column of oxygen air as compared to the ‘short’ air column at the mountain. As a result, every breath at high altitude results to less delivery of performance by the human muscles. One of the hormones in the human body called erythropoietin responds by stimulating production of voluminous red blood cells to help in the delivery of oxygen to the muscles (Rusko, Leppävuori, Mäkelä, & Leppäluoto, 2010). Therefore, an athlete training at the sea level has easy breathing as compared to training at the top of the mountain.

Athletes, therefore, adopt high altitude training aiming at their bodies adapting to production of additional red blood cells. Later, they take on their competition at lower elevations thereby taking advantage of the bountiful red blood cells to compete effectively. The changed body physiology lasts between 10 and 20 days hence an improved performance in an athlete (Stray-Gundersen, Chapman & Levine, 2012). Specifics of high altitude training beget elusive practical results despite the excessively demonstrated benefits.

High altitude training critics argue that it athletes’ performance decreases because there is little oxygen to breathe. As a result, muscles do not get enough oxygen to deliver advanced performance. Consequently, the training approach is hazardous albeit the endurance and improved performance objectives that an athlete seeks to accomplish. As a result, living in high altitude and training in the low altitude concept was developed.

The rationale works similarly as high altitude training but involves the athlete sleeping and resting at high altitude while doing the practice, exercises and training at low altitude (Wilber, 2013). While resting or sleeping at the high altitude, the athlete has little oxygen to breathe. Consequently, the body responds by authorizing the erythropoietin hormone to trigger the production of addition red blood cells. The increased volume of red blood cells will help transport increased amount of oxygen and deliver to the muscles. Since the athlete is not training, but merely resting, risks of detraining and underperformance are eliminated altogether.

To undertake the training, exercises and practice, the athlete goes to the lower altitudes where there is a large column of oxygen. In addition, the body physiology has changed because the athlete has the voluminous number of red blood cells. As a result, the athlete enjoys large intake of oxygen that is delivered promptly and easily to the muscles. In turn, the muscles respond by increasing the performance of the athlete (Tiollier, Schmitt, Burnat, Fouillot, Robach, Filaire, et al., 2005). Therefore, high altitude living and low altitude training ensures an effortless, seamless and simplified training. The athlete increases performance with the additional red blood cell volume and a large stream of oxygen.


Geiser, J., Vogt, M., Billeter, R., Zuleger, C., Belforti, F., & Hoppeler, H. (2001). Training High – Living Low: Changes of Aerobic Performance and Muscle Structure with Training at Simulated Altitude. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 22(8), 579-585.

Rusko, H. K., Leppävuori, A., Mäkelä, P., & Leppäluoto, J. (2010). Living High, Training Low; A New Approach To Altitude Training At Sea Level In Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 27(Supplement), S6.

Stray-Gundersen, J., Chapman, R. F., & Levine, B. D. (2012). “Living High – Training Low” Altitude Training Improves Sea Level Performance In Male And Female Elite Runners. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 12(1), 60-61.

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