“While flatlanders are waiting for absolute proof of the benefits of altitude, those who live and train at altitude will continue to win Olympic and World Championships” -Coach Joe Vigil
Since the 1960’s, many research groups sponsored by athletic federations, national Olympic committees, medical agencies and universities from around the world, have studied the adaptations and practical aspects of endurance training at altitude. Most groups agreed that majority of subjects responded best at altitudes around 2133 meters (7000 feet). Because Mammoth Lakes, California rests at this ideal altitude it’s easy to see the positive effects training has on athletes at this rarefied atmosphere. Most of the Olympic Gold medals from 1968 to the present, and world records from the 1500meters and above, have been earned by distance runners who live and train at altitude.
Today there exists a believe among coaches, athletes, field physiologists and administrators that, when an athlete implements altitude training, significant biological changes occur, which in turn boosts sea level performances. The majority of elite distance runners from countries all over the world today are taking advantage of this belief.
What’s happening up here?
The first variable change at altitude is the decrease in barometric pressure. This begins a chain reaction which leads to hypoxia or the body deprived of adequate oxygen supply. For a runner, this decrease of oxygen in our lungs and blood leads to adaptations in the lungs, heart, blood chemistry and musculo- skeletal system. The extent of these adaptations makes us more efficient at carrying oxygen to our working muscles. Most studies show that it takes 21 days for your body to adapt to the stresses of altitude and gain a training benefit. If you live and train at altitude year-round, you continue to build on the physiological changes therefore having a greater benefit. So, come to Mammoth and stay a while!
Training Guidelines for Altitude:
Vigil, Joe I. PhD (1995) Road to the Top Creative Designs, Inc. Albuquerque, NM.
“My coaches can talk at length about the many physiological benefits of training at altitude. For me, the benefit comes from living the simplicity of a runner’s lifestyle in the most scenic places on earth” -Deena Kastor
In the 17 years I have been living and training at altitude, I have believed in the training program my coaches have administered, and also understood the training effect at this elevation. The seem to “stress” the fact the altitude adds a training “stress”. I am grateful that my coaches have educated me in these practices, but I’m even more grateful for the mountain lifestyle in which I find myself thriving.
Because of running, I have traveled the world competing since the age of 14, and haven’t found a place I like better than home. In this space there are towering granite peaks, pine trees, aspen trees, abundant sage, mountain lions, black bears, mule deer, bald eagles, the Owen’s River and the many lakes for which the town is named. The Town of Mammoth Lakes has been home to me as I pursued my Olympic Bronze medal, 2 Major Marathon wins and the American records in 12 different distances. The altitude has surely had a positive effect on my training, but the benefits have also come on a psychological level as well. Being at altitude means simplicity, athleticism, focus, camaraderie and being lured down another trail I’ve never happened to see before. The grandness of the scenery has offered me the grand goals I keep chasing. No disruptions. No excuses. Surrounded by inspiration, support and the reassurance that my body continues to master this sport with the help of the stresses this elevation brings. I don’t feel the stress; I only feel the benefits it brings. –Deena Kastor