Too Long, Didn’t Read Version.
1. The science disproves it. Bollocks.
2. It is just about red blood cells. Bollocks.
3. The gains are very temporary. Bollocks.
4. It is unpleasant to train in simulated altitude. Relative bollocks.
5 .You will experience a detraining effect. Bollocks in our case.
6. It is only for elites. Total Bollocks
7. Some people are non-responders. Mostly Bollocks.
One of the challenges I have found with marketing our service here at Vertex is that a large proportion of population have little concept of what simulated altitude training is, and almost everyone else has an intrenched false understanding of what it is. This article skims over a few myths to help redress some misunderstandings.
1 The science disproves it.
I hear this one a lot, and the following thoughts come instantly to mind. ‘Sooo… have you performed an exhaustive study of every piece of research (a multi-factoral etiology), and the preponderance of the evidence is against Altitude Training? Or have you skim read the first page of your search engine results, and you looked for research that reassures you because, Altitude Training potentially threatens your job and/or ego?
The question is “What science are you referring to, and what specially do you mean by ‘It’?” There are many variations of Altitude Training, live high/train low, Live low/train high-low, hypobaric hypoxia or normobaric hypoxia, intermittent sprints or steady-state. Some altitude, or simulated altitude protocols elicit meaningful results, while others do not. The research that ‘disproves,’ actually just refines the methodologies by highlighting variables that don’t generate statistically significant improvements. Many of the best methods are less than 5 years old and many are only just being discovered. What we do at Vertex is ‘intermittent, targeted, hypoxic training,’ it works.
Finally, science is a form of testing and validation. What comes first? The science, or the anecdotes? Of course the anecdotes come first because that is what leads to theories and hypotheses to be tested. The best training programs are usually ahead of the science. We largely follow the science, as well as test new ground where we often find even better results.
2 It is Just about red blood cells.
With our method of intermittent, targeted hypoxic training we hope to elicit a host of muscular, vascular and cardiopulmonary adaptations, in line with the research. The least of these are blood adaptations. One study of Ethiopian and Kenyan runners who lived and trained at Altitude showed that their red blood cell counts were no higher than the general populous. Mind blown?
3 The gains are very temporary.
With a live high train low methodology this is true, and offers a small, temporary (and expensive) advantage. Our approach can elicit long lasting performance improvements. Some of our top athletes have made hyper leaps in performance that have continued long after the ceasation of their altitude training block.
4 It is unpleasant to train in simulated altitude.
When I launched our first spin class it was very hard to fill the class. By logic, if a spin class is hard, then a spin at Altitude would be pure evil. Much of our training is done at 2800m equivalent, (many ski fields are at this level,) and is challenging but enjoyable, and week after week the same people come back for more.
5 You will experience a detraining effect.
For an elite athlete, every session they do at Altitude is one they can’t do at sea level, so it has to be worthwhile. When an athlete is living and training at Altitude their output is limited in every session, causing a detraining effect. This is even worse if someone doesn’t adapt to the Altitude, this person will have a miserable and non productive training camp. Our training is just 30- 45 min, 2 or 3 times a week, the recovery is fast and we are very targeted in the modality we wish to develop. VO2 max, threshold pace, explosive power, Altitude adaptation, each has a different Altitude and protocol we train at.
6 It is only for elites.
One of our clients who was a nurse, who had no time for exercise complained to me that she had only made a small improvement in her test. She had gone from .88 Kw/kg to 1.22Kw/kg sustained power, I reassured her that she had improved 30% and that was outrageously good. Research shows Altitude training is great for diabetics, asthmatics, general fitness and injury rehabilitation.
7 Some people are non-responders.
This is true, yet false in the proposition is it meant to reinforce. Some people who train at Altitude produce no extra haemaglobin, and are called non responders. Nevertheless, everyone responds to less oxygen, because it is a form of resistance training, it makes whatever you are doing, harder. Whether it is a cognitive task, repeat sprint efforts or big strength movements as your body adapts to overcome the stressor of low oxygen you develop improvements, this is irrespective of your red blood cell count.