Altitude Running, Bicycling or other aerobic exercise increases number of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and "inspires" Mitochondria production and size increase. Acclimatization aids racing performance at altitude, but in the elite, it may not give significant gains for sea level racing.

Swimmers gain altitude adaptation too. All people doing athletic training at altitude have the potential to make gains. Running, bicycling and swimming, plus other endurance based sports get an endurance boost.

The lower you endurance base when you arrive at altitude, the greater your altitude adaptation will be.


Mitochondria and Red Blood Cell (RBCs) stimulation through Long runs
Running book writer David Holt's Homepage
Summary: Altitude training may produce more training affects because you are training at a slower pace for many of your miles, than because you are at altitude. Reaction to altitude, dehydration to thicken the blood, can be debilitating. The deeper breathing does help, red blood cell production does increase, but don't be concerned if you can't spend time at altitude. The benefits are not measurable.

The surroundings, contentment, may be a factor in your perceived improved running fitness.

Altitude Training, Running & Racing: Red Blood Cell production and Mitochondria enhancement

TO LIVE OR TRAIN AT ALTITUDE?

You canít train hard while living at altitude--Your legs just canít
train because they outrun the lungs. Oxygen saturation is lower at
altitude, about 94 percent at 6,000 feet, compared to 98 percent at
sea level.
	In 1990 three groups of 10 athletes either lived in Deer Valley
at 8,200 feet and trained at altitude; lived there but trained in Salt
Lake City; or lived and trained in Salt Lake. 
A lived at 8,200 ft and trained there (high-high)
B   "        "             "     trained at 4,200 ft (high-low)
C   "      4,200 and trained there (low-low)

	Group B were able to train harder. They had all the
advantages of living at altitude, but when they trained, they also had
the higher oxygen availability from being closer to sea level.
Perhaps because of the pace at which they trained, training and
living at altitude appeared to be detrimental to performance.
	A second factor effecting performance is nutritional status. In
1991, we had more women in our sample and the results were
inconclusive. We believe the problem was an iron shortage. The
women tend to be slightly anemic on arrival at altitude. The iron
deficiency at the start results in them not reacting to altitude very
well. They just canít produce the extra red blood cells because they
lack the raw material (iron) to make them. Low Ferritin measures,
below about 25 are suggestive of low iron stores. Even with good
iron stores, it takes 6-12 months to see a meaningful increase in the
number of RBCs. Living at altitude gives you some benefit racing
against sea level runners. When you compete at sea level however,
youíll have only a small edge: Mostly psychological.
	Many people decrease food consumption due to suppression of
appetite, and nausea.
The appetite change means lower glycogen stores.
	Your VO2 max also falls. An 8 minute mile which was at 70
percent of max at sea level will be at 90 percent at 2,000 meters
altitude, (6,300 ish feet). The result, of course, is you burn more
glycogen; endurance is lowered because the low glycogen stores
are depleted more rapidly.
	Lactate levels at a set speed will of course be higher. Your
threshold pace and VO2 max pace will be slower. Your heart and
lungs get a full workout at these slower speeds, but your leg
muscles produce less force, they de-train. 
	There is a hormonal response to correct the glycogen situation,
Catecholamines, epinephrine especially, is secreted. This gives you
a somewhat different high to sea level training, or perhaps itís just
the scenery.
	Out of necessity, your body will use fatty acids better, and blood
glucose...thus sparing some glycogen.
	Probably the main benefit is you can get a good cardiovascular
workout at lower speeds...injury risk is lowered during your typical
altitude visit--while you do higher than usual mileage.
	Decrease the de-training aspect with a few quality sessions. 

RACING AT ALTITUDE

Thinking of arriving in Boulder for two days of relaxation before
the race? Think again. Most athletes compete at their worst 24 to
48 hours after arriving at altitude. If you canít train at altitude for at
least two and preferably four to five weeks, your next best choice
appears to be to compete immediately.
	The evidence is subjective, but most athletes tell us they feel
worst 24-48 hours after reaching altitude. Professional teams such
as the Giants and Raiders reduce this low physical capacity by
arriving as close to kick off as their governing body allows.
Runners donít have footballsí constraints--they can arrive as close
to race time as flight time-tables allow. 
	The key reason to compete immediately is the instant reflex of
the body to breath deeper and faster, resulting in more air passing
into the lungs. All other body reflexes result in a temporary
decrease in physical capability.
	Red blood cell production does increase, but it takes about a
week before the extra cells begin reaching the bloodstream. 
	However, within 12-24 hours, to create an immediate, artificially
increased RBC concentration, there is a shift in plasma volume;
plasma (the blood fluid) leaves the blood vessels, pushing the RBCs
from their normal 45 % at sea level closer to 50 %. As a result,
hemoglobin might rise from 16 to 17-18. 
	But this increase doesnít help the athlete.  The blood volume is
thicker. The body is dehydrated, resulting in reduced cardiac
output--a key ingredient in the oxygen carrying equation. 
	There is an acid base change in the blood. You pee out
bicarbonate, which is a buffer for lactate--you therefore fatigue
earlier.

The OXYGEN that hemoglobin can carry =
cardiac output x hemoglobin x oxygen saturation x a constant 
The body attempts to compensate for the decreased oxygen
saturation by increasing the other two factors. But the body is
stupid initially. Concentrating the blood to raise hemoglobin
decreases cardiac output, AND creates heat dissipation problems
and loss of muscle function  (discussed at length elsewhere in the
book). 

Extracted from Running Dialogue. Copyright David Holt, 1997. You have my permission to use as you deem fit.

This essay owes its origins to discussions with Dr. Benjamin Levine
of the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.
(about his work with colleague Jim Stray-Gundursin of the Nordic
Ski Team);  John T. Reaves, an Exercise Physiologist in Denver; 
Andrew Young, Ph.D. studying Environmental Medicine with the
Army Research Institute; George Brooks, Professor and Director of
Exercise Physiology Dept. at U.C. Berkley


My first running book's homepage
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10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing">10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing: The Running Pyramid, at Barnesandnoble.com
Red Blood Cell and mitochondria stimulation with long runs
Nutrition and Diet, You need Iron stores and Iron intake for Altitude training to help--no raw materials for red blood cells, and you may as well go home.
Stretching
5k training and racing...the first of five pages for the 5k runner
5 mile and 10 k training (intervals)
10k training...mileage and strength and access to four other parts of 10k training
Marathon training
Recreational running: 5k racing on low mileage, 15-25 week preparation for race, or public safety fitness test
10 mile distance running world record essay
Injury prevention
Links to more Distance Running, Training and Racing advice

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Running Dialogue">Running Dialogue at barnesandnoble.com

Or send $17.95 per book to David Holt at PO Box 543, Goleta, CA 93116. (includes shipping and tax)


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Buy 10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing Today! ">10K & 5K Running, Training & Racing, 180 pages, $17.95, by David Holt (plus 3,000 meters, 8K, 12K and 10 mile training advice and schedules for 20-100 miles per week) at Amazon.com
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Copyright David Holt 2,000 Any part, or all of this training material may be quoted or reviewed...provided you acknowledge the source...Running Dialogue and other books by David Holt, this web page or www.runningbook.com, and contact me at holtrun@sprynet.com to let me know the material is being used or reviewed.
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