Ultra X Mex­ico takes place in the beau­ti­ful Cop­per Canyons, home of the legendary Rara­muri people made fam­ous in Chris­toph­er McDougall’s book Born to Run, for our com­pet­it­ors this Novem­ber a ser­i­ous chal­lenge will be the alti­tude. The race starts at 2,345 meters above sea level and, whilst alti­tude sick­ness is unlikely at this level, trust us you will feel it in the lungs!

As such we are delighted to have teamed up with the Alti­tude Centre for this event and are offer­ing all of our com­pet­it­ors 20% off an ini­tial con­sulta­tion, as well as part­ner­ing with them for a one off- free event on the 18th Septem­ber in Lon­don. You can register your interest below.

If you can’t make the 18th, have a read of the below piece by the team at The Alti­tude Centre on how best to pre­pare to per­form when you are well above sea level.


How to Accli­mat­ize for Races at Alti­tude

Alti­tude presents one of the world’s most extreme envir­on­ments. The high moun­tains have enticed adven­tur­ists for many years and more recently ath­letes have begun to com­plete events in the ele­ments to push their lim­its and reach new heights. How­ever, the addi­tion­al physiolo­gic­al stress that comes with these events requires a new dimen­sion and depth of train­ing and pre­par­a­tion to meet the demands and ulti­mately remain safe.

Exped­i­tions to high alti­tude typ­ic­ally require extens­ive pre­par­a­tion, com­plet­ing numer­ous lower moun­tains to build a base of accli­mat­isa­tion as well as rota­tions to high­er ground to ‘shock’ the body. All of this is done before reach­ing for the sum­mit as a meas­ure to reduce the symp­toms of AMS and to increase the chance for a suc­cess­ful sum­mit.

The pre­cau­tions moun­tain­eers fol­low strictly, are gen­er­ally not adop­ted in race scen­ari­os where speed is the primary focus and accli­mat­isa­tion can often be for­got­ten. Not only do ath­letes risk ‘burn­ing-out’ due to the added stresses of the hyp­ox­ic envir­on­ment, but there is also a huge pos­sib­il­ity of suf­fer­ing acute moun­tain sick­ness (AMS) which can be at best debil­it­at­ing, caus­ing head­aches, naus­ea and vomit­ing, and at worst fatal if not treated. These symp­toms arise because at alti­tude blood oxy­gen­a­tion drops com­pared to when at sea level, and sub­sequently the brain receives less oxy­gen. Import­antly, train­ing the body to tol­er­ate hyp­ox­ic air pri­or to depar­ture can help pre­vent these symp­toms wip­ing out your race.

How can you Train for High Alti­tude Races

Tra­di­tion­ally we hear of ath­letes trav­el­ling to ‘real alti­tude’: so called sleep high, train low. Liv­ing and sleep­ing at alti­tude stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of red blood cells, while des­cend­ing into the val­ley for ses­sions ensures train­ing intens­ity is main­tained.

How­ever, most ath­letes, elite or self-fun­ded don’t have the resources, budget and time to spend months in high alti­tude train­ing camps in Kenya, Amer­ica and Spain. Thus, these ath­letes are forced to travel from sea level to alti­tude in a mat­ter of days and can expect the alti­tude to impair their endur­ance per­form­ance and will likely exper­i­ence the adverse symp­toms of AMS such as head­aches, dizzi­ness and vomit­ing… none of which lead to a quick race.

The good news is that train­ing the body to tol­er­ate hyp­ox­ic air can be achieved at sea level through the use of alti­tude sim­u­la­tion and a care­fully devised train­ing pro­gramme. At the Alti­tude Centre in Lon­don have trained a whole spec­trum of cli­ents train­ing for a mag­nitude of events from the World’s highest rugby match, the Everest mara­thon and 10* sum­mit­eers of Everest 2019. Des­pite all requir­ing indi­vidu­al­ized pro­grams the the­ory under­ly­ing each meth­od is largely sim­il­ar.

Meth­ods of Alti­tude Train­ing

Train­ing at ‘sim­u­lated alti­tude’

Exer­cise at a mod­er­ate alti­tude of 2,700m: Com­plet­ing high intens­ity inter­val train­ing (HIIT) at mod­er­ate alti­tude is an effect­ive way of stim­u­lat­ing mus­cu­lar adapt­a­tions asso­ci­ated with increased effi­ciency of oxy­gen util­iz­a­tion. The blood’s oxy­gen sat­ur­a­tion will fall far more at 2,700m than dur­ing the same ses­sion at sea level. This addi­tion­al stim­u­lus for the non-accli­mat­ized ath­lete res­ults in mus­cu­lar adapt­a­tions and enhanced aer­obic endur­ance through the abil­ity to pro­cess oxy­gen more effi­ciently. The Alti­tude Centre sim­u­lates 2,700m of alti­tude by redu­cing the con­cen­tra­tion of oxy­gen in the air you breath to 15%.

Pass­ive train­ing at high alti­tude of up to 6,000m: Sim­u­lated Alti­tude also has the capa­city to ini­ti­ate accli­mat­isa­tion. Inter­mit­tent Hyp­ox­ic Expos­ure (IHE) involves 60 minute ses­sions, altern­at­ing 5 minute inter­vals breath­ing hyp­ox­ia (4,000m — 6,050m) and nor­mox­ia. The fluc­tu­ations in blood oxy­gen cause the body to adapt at a cel­lu­lar level to bring about accli­mat­isa­tion. As the ath­lete accli­mat­ises the sim­u­lated alti­tude can be gradu­ally increased by fur­ther redu­cing the oxy­gen con­cen­tra­tion, and the pro­cess con­tin­ues. After a block of 2–3 ses­sions each week for 4–6 weeks as sug­ges­ted by The Alti­tude Centre you can expect to see to a high­er blood oxy­gen at any giv­en alti­tude so the ath­lete can exer­cise harder and present few­er symp­toms of alti­tude sick­ness.

Sleep­ing at ‘Sim­u­lated Alti­tude’

Sleep­ing at Sim­u­lated Alti­tude closely reflects the con­ven­tion­al meth­od of ‘real alti­tude’ train­ing. The ath­lete sleeps in a hyp­ox­ic tent in their own home and com­pletes their train­ing as stand­ard at sea level, allow­ing the intens­ity to remain high. The bene­fit of sleep­ing at alti­tude can be put down to the longer dur­a­tion of expos­ure to hyp­ox­ia increas­ing the pro­duc­tion of the nat­ur­al hor­mone eryth­ropoi­et­in that stim­u­lates red blood cell pro­duc­tion. Red blood cells carry oxy­gen in the blood, and by elev­at­ing red blood cell con­tent it is pos­sible to increase the quant­ity of oxy­gen the body is able to deliv­er to the muscles and the brain.

Tak­ing The Indi­vidu­al­ised Approach

For every ath­lete pre­par­ing for a high alti­tude race, the over­all goal of reg­u­lar alti­tude train­ing is ulti­mately to improve per­form­ance at alti­tude. The best approach will vary by ath­lete, depend­ing on the demands of the event and the pre­par­a­tion and train­ing time avail­able, and it’s import­ant to bear in mind there may not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. How­ever, by choos­ing the cor­rect pre-accli­mat­isa­tion strategy(s) for you, it is pos­sible to over­come the chal­lenge of high alti­tude and excel in your next race.

The Alti­tude Centre are the UK’s num­ber one pro­vider of alti­tude train­ing. Since its form­a­tion in 2003, The Alti­tude Centre have worked with ath­letes at all levels of per­form­ance to max­im­ise their per­form­ance poten­tial. We are pas­sion­ate about new tech­no­logy, and an innov­at­or in the world of sim­u­lated alti­tude train­ing for both accli­mat­isa­tion, per­form­ance and rehab pur­poses. Hear from Lead Per­form­ance Spe­cial­ist James on pre­par­ing for a race at alti­tude on the 18th Septem­ber by fol­low­ing the link below.



Join our glob­al com­munity for free