Secrets to Oympic Success: Training at Altitude
Long used by Navy SEALs and professional athletes to get a competitive advantage, high-altitude training is now available to regular guys—no mountain climb or plane ticket required.
If you wish to do altitude training sessions, Eckert advises working these in three to five days per week, in sessions ranging from 30 minutes to one hour. He explains that "the intensity and elevation of the workout is dictated by the SpO2 (Saturation percentage of O2) of the blood and this measurement is derived from a device called the pulse-oximeter” that you wear on your finger. It’s also best to start training at roughly 65% of your maximum sea level ability and work your way up to 100% over the course of a 10-day period.
“If done continuously – sleeping at altitude and having normal, sea level workouts – you can expect to begin seeing results in only two to three weeks and, after three months,” Eckerts says you should experience the full development of red blood cells in your body.
Why It Works
It may seem like a long way to go to shave a few seconds of personal best time—and it is. Five years ago, only professional athletes such as Olympians, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, UFC fighters, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes and mountaineers, were known to be using this type of equipment.
Before that, it was being used only by the military. “Navy SEAL teams have weight rooms that they can make equivalent to 10000+ feet by decreasing the oxygen levels/air pressure,” says former Navy SEAL, Stew Smith. “And now, military SPC OPS teams also use high-altitude training to prepare for deployments in the mountains of Afghanistan.”
But lately, more and more non-military and non-professional athletes—fitness buffs with a type-A personality, CEOs (and reportedly, even celebs like Usher)—have been sleeping and training in altitude chambers.