How to: train for a high altitude trip

Training for a trek? Lachlan Gillespie, Director of Height of Fitness, talks to Katie Milton about the benefits of high-altitude training before you go.

How does training at high altitudes prepare the body for treks?

Training at altitude (a hypoxic environment) is scientifically proven to trigger a range of physiological responses not achievable in normal training as the body is forced to adapt to cope with the reduction of oxygen. Your body adapts to working with less oxygen so when you do trek you will be fitter, stronger and better equipped to deal with the rigours of activity at altitude.

Altitude training can help reduce or buffer against the symptoms of acute mountain sickness and reduce the time you need to spend acclimatising.

What is involved in a high altitude training session?

A typical altitude session is 45 minutes to an hour long and generally involves high-intensity interval training [in a room with an atmosphere designed to mimic high altitudes]. We offer cycle, circuit and virtual classes and personal training options. Our facility is fitted with the latest multi-discipline equipment including Keiser Bikes, treadmills, rowers, free weights, a cable weight machine, a Johnny G Krankcycle, TRX suspension training, functional training equipment and a floor area.

How do you track the body’s progress during the session?

During a training session, the key metric to monitor progress is through intermittently measuring the amount of oxygen in your body using a pulse

oximeter.  In order to stimulate the body to physiologically adapt and to reap the benefits of altitude training, your blood oxygen saturation levels need to be between 80 and 85 per cent (at sea level, oxygen saturation levels range from 96 to 100 per cent).

How long and often should people train in high altitude conditions before embarking on a trek?

Do at least two sessions a week for a minimum of six weeks to ensure physiological adaption to low oxygen conditions. I highly recommend 12 weeks – the more time you can spend adapting, the better.

Other tips for trekkers include:

•  Implement a combination of high-intensity interval training and functional or circuit training for your upper and lower body to ensure both mitochondrial and physical adaption

•  Increase your training intensity, number of sessions and length of sessions week by week, building your body’s anaerobic threshold. Not all sessions need to be long sessions

•  Trial various breathing techniques while using a pulse oximeter to understand how you can control and adapt your breathing to be more efficient at altitude.

•  Program at least one session a week where you replicate hiking at altitude – walk in hiking gear plus your pack on high incline on the treadmill for at least an hour.



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