Elevation Runs & Races

What’s Included?

  • Benefits of Altitude Running
  • Challenges of Altitude Running
  • Tips for Altitude Running

BENEFITS

High altitude & elevation can be TOUGH for runners, but it can come with numerous benefits as well including:

  • An increase in lactate threshold (your body has to work HARDER, which improves your threshold for work)
  • High red blood cell volume to carry more oxygen more efficiently
  • Improved heart function
  • Enhanced muscle performance
  • Running feels “easier” when you get back to normal altitude due to the challenge level & demands placed on your body during altitude running (causing it to adapt)

Because of all of these benefits to one’s ability, many runners opt to train at high altitude or complete training races/practice races at higher altitude while training for their goal races. But while there are many benefits to training and running at high altitude in general, there are also some challenges as well. Let’s take a look…


CHALLENGES

  • Faster breathing in order to increase oxygen levels & feels “harder” to breathe
  • Decrease in the amount of oxygen getting to the muscles – which can cause them to fatigue faster
  • Higher heart rate and blood pressure
  • Higher & faster rate of dehydration
  • Sleep challenges – causing you to feel more tired during your runs & potentially sluggish
  • Nausea due to the increase in effort required during runs

While it’s important to be aware of the challenges that come with altitude running and racing, there are MANY tips to help ensure that you’re controlling everything you can & have the best experience possible!


TIPS

STAY HYDRATED!

Seriously, you need to be drinking even MORE water than normal in order to avoid dehydration. Also, keep close tabs on the color of your urine so you can ensure you’re staying properly hydrated (should be a pale yellow color)

TIME IT RIGHT:

Altitude sickness typically sets in a day or two after arriving at altitude. If you’re getting in right before the race or several days ahead of time (3 or more days) you may be at an advantage vs. arriving with a day or two between. However, for most of us, this isn’t an option & we have to arrive a day or so before our weekend races. In this case, just ensure that you’re following as many of the tips in this list as possible & control the pieces that you can.

PRACTICE IN HEAT:

If you have access to a sauna, hot yoga, or can practice running in heat during your training – you could be at an advantage.

AVOID OR LIMIT ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE:

These contribute to dehydration & could worsen the effects of altitude as well as impact your sleep negatively (leading to even more sluggish and tiredness).

GIVE YOURSELF GRACE:

Remember, elevation running and racing is HARDER for many of us – and that’s okay. Set your expectations with this in mind & give yourself some grace. It doesn’t have to be a PR – but guess what? Challenging yourself in this way could lead to your next PR! Try to keep the race in perspective and remember that you can USE this challenge to keep pushing you & help you unlock new levels of potential!

GET LOTS OF IRON RICH FOODS & CARBS:

Red meats, fish, green leafy veggies, and nuts are all great options for iron. In addition, your body will want to use carbs as fuel because they require less oxygen to convert to energy vs. using fat. So make sure your carb levels are completely topped off & FULL!

CHECK THE COURSE:

Make sure you have a good idea of the course, the trails (if any), and the expected conditions on race day. In necessary, you can call or email the race to ensure that you know what type of gear would be best & how challenging the course is. Any intel you can get will help you prepare! You could ask whether the race has fuel stops, water stops, whether it’s an uneven terrain or not, etc. This will help you to prepare ahead of time for how you’re going to fuel, stay hydrated, and stay safe with your clothing and shoe choices!

Amy Haas
Run with Aim, LLC
UESCA Certified Running Coach
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Certified Nutrition Coach

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