If you spend a lot of time training at high altitude in a mountainous region, would your performance be better racing at sea level? How do you train to race at high altitude? These questions and more will be answered as we explore the performance differences between training at high altitude vs sea level.
How does altitude training work?
Altitude training works because the air is thinner. As the air is thinner at high altitude, with every breath you take you are delivering less than usual amounts of oxygen to your muscles. Your muscles need oxygen to work optimally, so less oxygen means your body needs to work harder to get the same results. There have been many studies done to try to determine if altitude training works, and if so, how high an athlete would need to train, but research is ongoing.
So what is considered 'high altitude'? There are many differing opinions, but the most common is that any altitude above sea level beyond 3000m (9840 feet) is considered “high” altitude, with 500-2000m being “low” altitude and 2000-3000m being “moderate” altitude. Anything above 5500m (think Mount Kilimanjaro) is considered “extreme” altitude!
There are cities in South America, like La Paz in Bolivia, which are situated at this 'extreme altitude' where the air is much thinner than at sea level and the locals have adapted to the conditions. So, if an athlete were to train consistently in a city like La Paz, would they be faster when racing at sea level because of their better conditioned lungs and muscles? Well, in order to imitate the conditions found in such extreme altitudes, many athletes train with altitude masks. So, do they work?
Do high altitude training masks work?
Altitude training masks work by reducing the airflow to the lungs. In reality, they don't actually simulate high altitude because they do not reduce the atmospheric pressure, and instead simply reduce the oxygen intake in the same way running with a straw in your mouth would (definitely don't do this!)
It would take months or even years of training in a high altitude city like La Paz to notice the benefits of high altitude training. Unfortunately, training in a high altitude mask would not have these effects. There actually isn't any evidence whatsoever that training in an altitude mask benefits your athletic performance. However, actually training at high altitude can.
How long do the effects of high altitude training last?
Experts have agreed that training at 2200m for 4 weeks is optimal altitude training. Once you finish your training, the effects of the reduced oxygen on your blood and muscular endurance can last up to 2 weeks. So, is it worth it? Well, if you're a serious athlete looking to push your own boundaries and are looking for any way to improve your training, finding a training camp in the Alps or other mountainous regions could be beneficial, but the effects will wear off eventually.
Being active doesn't have to be a chore and it doesn't have to mean slogging it out at the gym every night. With the right mindset, clothing, and imagination, being active can happen all day long at any opportunity.
1. Find transitional clothing to be all day active
A pair of jeans or set of high heels will prevent you from being active throughout the day. Finding activewear that is smart and stylish enough to be worn in the office that still functions during your workout can be tough, but Sundried’s Ortler trousers tick all the boxes. Inspired by cycling and working in the city, the Ortler trouser fuses tailoring with function. Smart enough to wear in the office but functional enough to remain all day active. Find clothes that offer a flexible fit to allow exercise to flow seamlessly into your daily routine.
2. Maximise your lunch breakInstead of working through lunch or sitting in the break room, take this opportunity to have a brisk walk. You get a 60-minute break per day, which means you could even squeeze in a 5k run with enough time to change and eat your lunch before returning to work. With the right smart activewear, you won't need to worry about getting sweaty, and if you take your trainers to work with you, it'll be seamless! Sundried's Dom Polo is super smart and wouldn't look out of place in the workplace. The breathable, sweat-wicking materials mean you'll stay cool and comfortable all day, even if you're getting active.
3. Be all day active at home
After a long day at the office, it can be challenging to find the motivation to stay active at home, but it's easier than you think! Make small changes like getting up earlier to squeeze in a quick run or cycle or get up and do quick exercises during the ad break while you're watching TV. If you don't work in an office or you work from home, try incorporating your daily tasks into your workout routine.
4. Be all day active in the office
- Always take the stairs, you know lift phobias exist because people are afraid of being lazy taking the lift right? Seriously.
- Don't phone/email colleagues in the same office, get up and go and speak to them.
- Go for a walk at lunch time, the fresh air will do you good. Ask a colleague to join you and enjoy the break.
- Cancel your sandwich delivery and walk to the local shop instead.
- Always take phone calls standing, it generates more energy in your body and voice, making a more successful call as well as keeping you active.
- Organise the layout of your office space in such a way that you have to stand up to reach oft-used files, the telephone, or your printer, rather than having everything within easy reach.
If you’re a keen Instagrammer you may well see all number of crazy fitness terms thrown about, especially in lists of endless hashtags. You may also be trying to find articles of weight loss or muscle building and struggle to understand half of what is being said! That’s why we're here to explain a few of the more common fitness terms which you may not have come across before, and which may help you to reach your fitness and nutrition goals once you understand what they mean!
Endomorph refers to a specific body type. There are three basic body types: endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph. These three terms describe different body types and their distinguishing features. Someone who is an endomorph will generally store more body fat and will have a thick or stocky build. Endomorphs have a low tolerance to carbohydrates and will easily gain weight and muscle but struggle to lose body fat. Other characteristics include wide joints and hips as well as shorter limbs. Endomorphs make great bodybuilders or powerlifters due to their short levers and blocky stature.
An ectomorph is the opposite of an endomorph. People with this body type are characterised by a smaller frame and physique and a lower body fat percentage. These people will struggle to gain muscle mass or even fat and will have a higher metabolism. Characteristics include narrow hips, small joints, and long limbs. These people are well suited to endurance sports such as marathon running due to their long legs and light body weight.
A mesomorph is essentially a balance between an ectomorph and an endomorph. People with this body type will have a typical ‘hour glass’ figure and will find it easy to both gain and lose weight. You can also be a combination of mesomorph and one of the other body types, as many people do not fit into one single category. Your training should be based upon what works best for you and your body type as you cannot change your genetics! For most people, it is clear which body type they fit into just by looking at them.
This is a very common term in the fitness industry. It is short for macronutrients, which are simply the building blocks of our diet. There are three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and these are the only sources of calories for humans (although alcohol is sometimes considered ‘the fourth macro’). Fat is the most calorie-dense macro, providing 9 calories per gram, with carbs and protein both providing 4 calories per gram. This means that a 500 calorie meal made of fatty foods will be smaller than a 500 calorie meal made of carbs and protein. However, each of the three macros are just as important as the next and none of them should ever be cut out of your diet completely. You can adjust the ratio of macros that you consume according to your training and physique goals.
This term stands for If It Fits Your Macros which is a trend in the fitness industry claiming that so long as you stick to your calorie and macro goals, you can eat whatever you want and still see results. However, this is something that is subject to a lot of criticism and certainly would not work for everyone. People who glorify this lifestyle may find that their micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals) may suffer and other factors such as fibre, sodium, and sugar are not taken into account either.
BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acid and these are the building blocks of protein. There are 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and as a result must come from food. Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body and so it is not as important to consume them in your diet. Eggs are considered the ‘perfect’ protein source as they contain all 20 amino acids and are high in protein and fat which allows your body to absorb them well. Other sources of all essential amino acids are whole foods such as quinoa and hummus. You will often hear about people taking BCAAs as a dietary supplement, which just means they are increasing their intake of essential amino acids to better aid muscle repair and growth as well as promoting healthy circulation and blood pressure.
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a very popular form of training at the moment. It consists of short bursts of intense activity such as sprints, burpees, or mountain climbers. It promises to burn fat more effectively than low intensity exercise and to increase your metabolism in such a way that you will continue to burn fat long after you’ve stopped exercising. It is popularly used by people who want to burn fat fast and improve their cardiovascular fitness and explosive power.
LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State and is essentially the opposite of HIIT training. This type of training consists of longer duration workouts at a much lower intensity, such as uphill walking. This type of training is sometimes favoured by bodybuilders as it is less likely to tap into the body’s muscle stores. It is also good for endurance athletes such as those who compete in half marathons and marathons.
Fasted cardio is simply a cardiovascular workout such as running which is completed on an empty stomach. It is usually done in the morning before breakfast and promises to burn fat more effectively than if you train after a day of eating. However, it has never been scientifically proven that fasted cardio is more beneficial than non-fasted cardio, and different people will see different results. It does work for some people, but is not as effective for others.
So you’ve got your rope, now what? You used to skip as a child so how hard can it be? It may be surprising but there is far more to skipping than initially meets the eye. When I started skipping as an adult I was surprised at how different it was to what I remembered from being a child. So let’s learn how to skip in the best way possible!
Is Skipping A Good Form Of Exercise?
Skipping is a fantastic workout and can burn up to 10 calories per minute if done at a high intensity! In order to get skilled at jumping rope, it's important to practice and to break it down into sections.
Let’s start with the jumping. When most people start skipping for the first time they jump too high, just going for it and doing what feels natural without any knowledge on proper technique. But skipping too high is not efficient for a workout and will leave you unable to skip for longer than a few seconds.
When skipping, the key is to not actually jump. Wait, what? That’s right! If you change your mindset about what your feet are doing, it becomes a lot easier. Instead of jumping, think about doing a calf raise. Practice doing it without the rope to start: raise your heels so that you are on the balls of your feet, and then lower yourself back down using your calf muscles. You’ll soon realise there’s a reason why boxers have such defined calves! You may need to increase the strength and stamina in these muscles before skipping feels easy. Take your time and enjoy the process.
Once you’ve practised a few times without the rope, try applying this technique with the rope. You should only come a few centimetres off the floor on each bounce. Keep your ankles loose and feel the balls of your feet flex. See if you can keep it up for 30 seconds without stopping.
After your feet, what you do with your arms is the most important part of skipping. Hold the handles near the rope-end as this is the most efficient and will allow the rope to swing better. Keep your wrists loose, and your elbows close to your hips. It is a very subtle movement; you do not want to be swinging your whole arm, just a slight movement of the wrist. It will be tempting to tense your arms and lock them by your sides, so try to relax from the shoulder.
This moves us onto your posture. Make sure you are standing tall, with your shoulders pulled back and down, and your core and glutes tight. The key to skipping is to relax! If you are skipping for the first time in a gym or a public place, it may be a little daunting, and you may worry about tripping in front of everyone. Let go and have fun and try not to take it too seriously, at least while you are starting out. The looser and more relaxed you are, the less likely you are to trip over and you are less likely to incur an injury.
Is Skipping A Good Cardio Workout?
Skipping is a surprisingly demanding cardio workout! If you are skipping for the first time as an adult, you will be shocked by how out of breath you get on your first try! Don’t let this deter you, take your time. If you are new to fitness altogether, then you may wish to just skip in 20-30 second bursts. If you are a seasoned gym-goer, then skipping for intervals of 60 seconds may be more for you. Try our skipping workout plan and see what works for you! Or create your own jump rope routine. Supplement your skipping with leg exercises and mobility drills so that you do not get injured, especially if you are not used to exercising. Skipping has the fantastic benefit of being great for weight loss and by adding skipping into your existing gym routine you can expect to burn up to 10 calories a minute.
Where To Jump Rope
Where you choose to do your skipping is important too. If you are skipping outdoors, try to avoid jumping on concrete as this can be harsh on the joints. Skipping on softer tarmac or grass will be better. If you are indoors, avoid carpet as this can make the rope more likely to bounce which can cause you to twist your ankle. Hardwood floors are the perfect surface on which to jump rope.
How Long Should You Jump Rope For A Beginner?
When I first got back into skipping as an adult, I was really put-off by the fact that I couldn’t do it well. I saw lots of people in the gym skipping with ease and doing neat tricks so it deflated me somewhat that I was finding it so hard. But don’t let this be the case! After only a few sessions my technique improved hugely and skipping started to feel a lot more natural. Take your time, enjoy it, and maybe even let us know how you get on by leaving a review of the Sundried skipping rope on our website!
Beginner Skipping Workout
Skip for as long as you can, rest for 60 seconds, repeat for 5 minutes.
Skip for as long as you can, rest for 45 seconds, repeat for 7 minutes.
Skip for 20 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat for 5 minutes.
Gym cross-training - leg, ab, and back exercises
Skip for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat for 5 minutes
Skip for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, repeat for 10 minutes.
Rachel is a prolific triathlete who has achieved incredible accomplishments, racking up thousands of miles over the last few years. She shares some insights into her training and tips to stay motivated.
Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.
I ran numerous half marathons in my 20s and have taken part in many marathon-distance charity walking events in my 30s. I decided I wanted a new challenge and went on to cycle Lands End to John ‘o' Groats for my 40th. I cycled London to Paris the year after, and have completed numerous cycle events on the back of that. My biggest challenge was The Wall: a 69-mile run to be completed within 24 hours! My first marathon was Chester marathon.
I’ve completed a long course weekend (2.5m swim, 112m cycle, 26.2m run over 3 days) for 3 years in a row. I’ve completed triathlons of various distances: sprint, standard, middle, and 70.3. I will be doing Ironman Mallorca 70.3 in May 2017.
Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?
Diet and exercise have always been an important part of my life. After having children, I used exercise to get back into shape.Over the last 20 years I have also enjoyed teaching various forms of exercise and, more recently, Pilates.Sharing my passion and inspiring others brings me huge satisfaction.
What are your training goals now?
To increase my speed, push harder through interval training, and diarise weight training sessions. I want to maintain my body fat percentage now I have got into the teens! I’d also like to increase my flexibility.
My biggest goal is to complete 3300 miles, running swimming cycling.
Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:
In the last 5 years I have covered over 11,500 miles which would have taken me to New Zealand!
What would future you, tell yourself when you were starting out?
Don’t substitute food for sugar-based snacks!
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. I’m a big believer in keeping a food journal; planning ahead helps curb any food cravings.
What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?
I write personalised workout plans for my clients, including a varied challenging movement to create body awareness. A little time spent daily is better than none, never put off training for another day!
Talk us through your training regime.
I keep a training journal, which always includes at least one rest day.
An average week for me consists of:
3 weight sessions
How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?
I attend courses to complete further training, constantly keeping up-to-date with new research which allows me to learn more about the biomechanics of the body.
What are your top 3 trainer tips?
1. Use your full range of motion
2. You can’t outrun a bad diet
3. Your body needs sleep for recovery
If you could only do one workout for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Pilates Superman - this movement has many variations that will work every muscle group.
What are your training goals?
To accomplish a headstand
Why work with Sundried?
As they offer premium ethical activewear created responsibly with a low carbon footprint, trialed and tested by leading athletes around the world.
Favorite fitness quote:
“Physical fitness can neither be achieved by wishful thinking nor outright purchase”