The Science of Running
By Alex Hutchinson The Future of Altitude Training; The Future of Gait Analysis; The Future of Running Psychology;
Heading to the mountains to train in the thin high-altitude air has become an essential ritual for many of the best endurance athletes in the world. It’s a major hassle, though, so coaches and scientists have long searched for simpler alternatives, like having athletes at sea level sleep in altitude – simulating tents, wearing oxygen – restricting masks during training, or even using heat chambers as an alternative stress instead of thin air. Now, a new study from the Australian Institute of Sport, published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, offers an even simpler possibility. The performance of 2 4 runners, who either trained entirely at sea level or spent three weeks training at an elevation of 1,600 to 1,800 metres was monitored for 11 weeks. The altitude trainers raced about 1.5 per cent faster after their mountain training, seemingly confirming the benefits of altitude. But an analysis of their training load, which combines how long they trained each day with a subjective measure of how hard it felt, suggests that the athletes were simply training harder at altitude, accumulating at least 30 per cent more training load than their sea level peers. The secret of mountain training camps, in other words, may be partly down to the lack of distractions and willingness to work harder than usual – a situation that, in theory at least, you can replicate at no cost down at sea level.