Does it help athletes to train in Flagstaff at a high-altitude? The answer to this question is yes, but only if the training is done correctly.
Athletic performance at low-altitudes can be greatly improved when one attains the physiological effects from adjusting to training at high-altitudes. One of these physiological effects includes increases in the red cell mass, which increases the bloods ability to carry oxygen. This results in an increase in exercise performance and aerobic power for that athlete at lower-altitudes. More physiological effects that can be attained from high-altitude training include an increase in capillary density and myoglobin concentration in the body’s tissues. This increase in capillary density and tissue myoglobin concentration results in an increase in the oxygen uptake of the exercising muscles, thus further helping athletic performance by supplying the muscles with more oxygen.
What athletes training at high-altitude need to consider is the fact that gaining these performance improvements ultimately depends on the ability of the athlete’s body to make such adjustments. Everyone’s bodies are different when adjusting to such changes. Improved performance also depends on the elevation trained at as well as the type of physical activity partaken at that elevation.
Athletes interested in training at high-altitudes to gain these performance improvements should also consider increasing their altitude training at a gradual pace. Rapid ascent and strenuous exertion upon that rapid ascent can bring athletes a risk of developing high-altitude illness. Many active athletes have been seen to have a proneness to developing high-altitude illness because of their tendency to physically exert themselves shortly after ascending to these higher altitudes. The higher the altitude and the more rapid the ascent, the more prevalent and severe the symptoms of high-altitude illness can be.
The symptoms of high-altitude illness are usually seen from 12-24 hours of ascent but can be seen as little as 2 hours after. The symptoms of high-altitude illness may include (but are not limited to) headache, nausea, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, memory impairment, and/or concentration difficulties. Its important for athletes to note that being physically fit does not eliminate the risk of developing high-altitude illness.
High-altitude illness can be treated with descent to a lower altitude. If this is not possible, limiting physical exertion as well as maximizing hydration can also help to treat high-altitude illness. If these precautions are taken and the symptoms of high-altitude illness remain, it is recommended to see a physician.
So, does it help athletes to train up in Flagstaff (where elevation soars over 6,900 feet)? The answer is yes, but only with a gradual, mediated increase in physical exercise at the higher-altitude. It would also take 7-10 days of training in Flagstaff in order for the body to benefit from the change in elevation. Afterward, however, athletic performance at lower altitudes could be greatly improved.
Disclaimer: Articles are based on real cases seen at Scottsdale Sports Medicine. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only. Please consult your medical professional for individualized healthcare.
Source: Okragly, Richard A., and Scott Fister Johnson. The 5-minute Sports Medicine Consult. By Mark D. Bracker. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011. N. pag. Print.