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conditioning/altitude

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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conditioning/altitude

Postby jhaas » Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:44 pm

After reading posts re:conditioning for climbing 14teeners, and my own flatland experiance I believe that acclimation to altitude is more important than conditioning for a succesful climb(I'm elimimating weather, judgement, the harder 14teeners from this discussion) Conditioning is important, the right kind especially. a few years ago I ran, lifted weights,rode a bike etc and considered myself very fit.the 14teeners I climbed were hard.last year I started crossFit (USAKeller knows all about that) and considered myself extremely fit. I was except for the demands that trekking puts on you. Climbing Huron, a supposedly easy,short 14teener kicked my a**.I believe that someone who is used to the altitude though not considered very "fit"(whatever that means, will have less diffulcuty climbing a 14teener than someone from a flat place who would be considered in "flatland shape" All you other flatlanders,what do you think? I can run all the stairs in the world but when i get to 10,11 k I'm huffing and puffing.

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Re: conditioning/altitude

Postby USAKeller » Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:58 pm

jhaas wrote:All you other flatlanders, what do you think? I can run all the stairs in the world but when i get to 10,11 k I'm huffing and puffing.

jhaas,
Although I'm not a flatlander, I can help you answer this question. It has to do with not living at a higher elevation to begin with. People who live at higher elevations synthesize more red blood cells. Without getting too physiological, more red blood cells just means that they can carry more oxygen to the working tissue. By living at a lower level, you don't have as much red blood cell production and therefore less oxygen being carried to the working muscles. This is why they always say "acclimatization" is important. I hope this makes sense.
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Postby jhaas » Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:11 pm

Yep it makes a lot of sense, lets take it step further, I understand that for world class atheletes that they want to train at the altitude at which they'll be competing. If high altitude atheletes have a greater percentage of red bleed cells, why are not all high endurance athletes from Tibet or other high altitude countries?( I'm being facetious about Tibet but you get the point) Second point, how long does it take for a flatlanders body to realize somethig is different when all of a sudden you're not at sealevel but at 9k ft, and start manufacturing increased red blood cells? A week?, a month?

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Postby acwilson » Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:24 pm

jhaas,
It takes your body 4-6 months to make enough red blood cells to where you won't be out of breath, that much.
Coming from TX myself, the best thing you can do is take it slow. Or move to Colorado. Or Tibet if you really want to show the natives up in Colorado :wink:
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I'll let you know soon enough

Postby shotgung » Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:34 pm

Being from Nebraska (flatlander) in an area that is around 3900', when I visit my brother in Parker, which is at 5900', I feel little difference. I'm looking at climbing Yale on the 28th and I see the trailhead is at 9900'. I'm planning on camping at that elevation for 1 night to get acclimated. If you are traveling from an altitude near sea level give yourself at least 24 hours to acclimate to an elevation of 5000 feet or more. I'll let you know if this flatlander developed any symptoms. Here's a link to check out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altitude_sickness
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Postby USAKeller » Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:34 pm

jhaas wrote:Yep it makes a lot of sense, lets take it step further.

Perfect- high altitude training is my favorite topic!

jhaas wrote:If high altitude atheletes have a greater percentage of red blood cells, why are not all high endurance athletes from Tibet or other high altitude countries?

Generally what happens here is that these athletes will come to a higher elevation to train for several months before a race to increase the amount of red blood cells and then travel to where the race is (usually lower elevation). I don't really know why though.

jhaas wrote:Second point, how long does it take for a flatlanders body to realize somethig is different when all of a sudden you're not at sealevel but at 9k ft, and start manufacturing increased red blood cells? A week?, a month?

Well, as soon as you change elevation, your body will immediately realize it and it will start erythropoiesis (red blood cell production). But I think what you're trying to ask how long it will take to get used to it, right? As a general rule of thumb, this acclimatization takes about 3 months minimum to develop sufficient blood cells at a given elevation. Now, if you go back to lower elevations (the flatlands), it takes about 3 days for you to lose these precious red blood cells! It sucks on that end of the deal! So that's why, for instance, I see tons of Japanese runners training all over Boulder for several months- probably because they're going to run a race a few days after they leave Boulder.

How's all that info?!
Last edited by USAKeller on Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby StevieTwoShoes » Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:35 pm

A number of endurance athletes are from relatively high altitude locations (Kenyans tend to dominate distance running), but that is not the only contributing factor as genetics have a lot to do with it, as well. The more slow twitch muscle fibers you have, the better your legs will be able to endure sustained physical activity. Some people are born with a lot and some with a little.

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Postby jhaas » Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:41 pm

I'm not talking about altitude sickness, I'm talking about being able to function at high altitude in the same manner as in flatland. I know all about hydration, taking it slow(which is what I have to do whether I want to or not) staying at a high elevation for a few days prior to exertion etc. I guess what it really has to do with is your Vo2 max at high elevation compared to at sea level. USAKeller this is right up your alley, what do you think? How does VO2 max vary at different elevations?

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Hopeful answer

Postby shotgung » Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:57 pm

This should answer your question. Below is taken from the link at the end.

"One's aerobic performance can best be measured in terms of his or her VO2 max--the maximum amount of oxygen that one's body can consume. The amount of oxygen consumed by your body is directly proportional to the amount of work or exercise your body is performing. For example, walking up a mountain at a certain speed requires a certain amount of oxygen. Increasing the speed of walking requires even more oxygen. When you are walking or running as fast and as hard as you can, you are likely consuming the maximum amount of oxygen that is possible for your body, i.e., your VO2 max. The higher a person's VO2 max, the harder or more intense they can work. Conversely, altitude lowers a person's VO2 max which then lowers work capacity.

The problem of oxygen consumption is compounded at altitude because of the reduced pressure of oxygen. Walking up main dome on a 30 degree slope at 3 mi/hr with a 40 pound pack is easier than walking up to the summit of Mount Rainier on a 30 degree slope at 3 mi/hr with a 40 pound pack. You are doing the same amount of work, but since your body's ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles at altitude is lower than at sea level, you are working closer to your maximum capacity."

http://www.altrec.com/published/climb/howtos/lowaltitudetrainingforhighaltitudeclimbing/
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Postby jeffro » Wed Apr 18, 2007 10:04 pm

I used to be a road bicycle racer at the national level and throughout my career employed many scientific training methods as well as consulted with many exercise physiologists. This was many, many years ago.

I do recall that when I was enjoying a much higher level of aerobic fitness that I was actually more inclined to suffer at altitude. I believe that this was because I was more inclined (and able) to gain elevation more quickly on foot. Now that I’ve settled into middle age and have climbed to over 14,000 feet more that 100 times in the last 10 years, I rarely suffer. Thus I will also state that in my case anyways, there seem to be long term cumulative benefits of climbing high.

I still did have a bout last year on El Diente however when I was trying to keep up with my wife who was having an exceptional day and just “tearing it up”. I believe this speaks further to the advantages of a gaining altitude at a steady, but not necessarily slow pace.

Not to jump in on the advice of the experts...just my anecdotal 2 cents.

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Postby USAKeller » Wed Apr 18, 2007 10:09 pm

jhaas wrote:I guess what it really has to do with is your Vo2 max at high elevation compared to at sea level. USAKeller this is right up your alley, what do you think? How does VO2max vary at different elevations?

Yes, this does have a lot to do with VO2max. However, this number doesn't change at varying elevations; rather, it's mostly genetically predetermined and thus doesn't really change much with training. The fitter someone is to start off with, the less likely the potential is for an increase and elite athletes pretty much hit this peak earlier on in their career. If and when these increases might occur, they would occur as a result of the person training at a higher percentage of their VO2max consistently. So, to answer your question, VO2max doesn't vary at different elevations (mostly due to the genetic factor), but the amount of oxygen being transported to the engaged muscles is what makes you 'huff and puff.'
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Postby ajkagy » Wed Apr 18, 2007 10:46 pm

USAKeller wrote:Now, if you go back to lower elevations (the flatlands), it takes about 3 days for you to lose these precious red blood cells! It sucks on that end of the deal!


maybe you are mistaken but actually if you go to sea level your hemoglobin levels will stay about the same for 3 weeks then drop off from there. :)

3 days would suck!

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