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Benefits of running at altitude

March 26, 2022


Training at altitude, that is, between 6,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level, is like legal doping, thanks to its ability to stimulate oxygen-carrying red blood cells. 


Consequently, it is a common practice among elite athletes. However, high-altitude running isn't just for the pros. Runners of all abilities can benefit from spending some time above sea level.


When, after training at altitude, we return to running at sea level, notable improvements are perceived. In general, the body performs better with less effort. Also, the fatigue tolerance index and the aerobic and anaerobic threshold recovery capacity are improved. In a normal person, red blood cells occupy 40% of the blood, in rough calculations. The higher there is, the less oxygen we have. The lungs open more and the ability to transport blood is increased. This results in an increased flow of red blood cells. Training at altitude increases the ability to generate red blood cells between 10 and 20%.


Risks of running at altitude


Obviously, there are risks when running at altitude, especially if very sudden changes occur. As we have pointed out before, the higher the altitude, the more red blood cells increase, so the blood can thicken and generate cardiovascular problems.


On the other hand, running at altitude could lead to hypoxia: lack of oxygen to the nervous system. This situation could cause serious consequences in the brain. The symptoms of hypoxia do not appear suddenly but are gradual. First, a kind of euphoric sensation arises, we believe that we can handle everything, that there is no danger. Then the muscles and some organs go numb, a strange, heavy tiredness appears. And in the end we can even lose consciousness.


Tips for running at altitude


The best to benefit from this type of training without suffering negative consequences is to consider the following tips:


  • Take your time. Allow yourself to get used to your new training conditions. Give yourself enough time (about two weeks) to adjust to the new altitude. Consider starting with long walks and work your way up to running when you're first at altitude to avoid overexertion.


  • Slow down. Watch your rhythm and listen to your body. Start running slower than you normally would at lower altitudes until you get a feel of the impact high altitude training has on your body.


  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to fuel your body as it adjusts to a new height. This will help you adapt faster and recover better. As always, combine your hydration with nutritious meals to provide your body with everything it needs to function at its best.


  • Dress in layers. It gets really cool up there in the mountains, but that can change quickly. Layers are your friend as you start warming up.




There is no doubt that the benefits of running at altitude are numerous. Mainly, it will allow us to improve our performance when we return to the usual sessions at sea level. Despite its advantages, it can also cause some inconveniences, therefore, we must be very careful and gradually introduce these workouts so that our body gets used to it.


For more information, talk to one of our Fitness Experts and get customized advice by submitting a request in our Mavyn app or Mavyn Fitness page.