According to the Merriam Webster, altitude training is “athletic training that is done at high altitudes (over 5000 feet above sea level) or in an environment that simulates high altitudes in order to improve athletic performance.” However, I will be focusing more on the natural aspect of altitude training. There are three main ways to do this. The live low train high method, the live high train low method, and the live high train high method (altitude.org). When training in higher altitudes, athletes will draw in less oxygen per breath when compared to lower altitudes, which means that each breath will be delivering less oxygen to the muscles, depending on how high up the athlete chooses to go because the “effect (of altitude training) is most dramatic at altitudes greater than 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) above sea level.” (livescience.com).
Exercising at a high altitude, acclimatizes athletes towards high altitudes, and helps “improve the delivery of oxygen to the muscles” (altitude.com). According to runnersworld.com, when training at a high altitude, “Levels of EPO that stimulates the production of red blood cells spikes to a maximum within 24 to 48 hours of arriving at altitude, and studies with elite athletes have shown that levels of hemoglobin can increase by about one percent per week at altitude.”. But having a surplus or red blood cells makes blood thicker and can also make blood flow “sluggish” which leads to it being harder for the heart to pump blood through the body (altitude.com), furthermore, altitude training could lead to altitude sickness, which would negate any possible benefits if incurred.
There is much debate within the athletic and scientific community about whether there actually are benefits towards altitude training. In 2011, a team led by Carsten Lundby and the University of Zurich conducted experiments to see if the benefits to altitude training, more specifically the live high train low method, which is when athletes “live at high altitude and train at low altitude” to reap the benefits of both worlds, (i.e. high altitude acclimatization, while maintaining the intensity of low altitude training) (NSCA.com). They found that there were no benefits to this method, and that performance did not improve. They then tested out the live low train high method for sprinters and found that altitude training failed to improve athletes performance again, which casts a cloud of doubt over the effectiveness of altitude training.
Many people believe that this form of training should be banned, as it could (potentially) give athletes an artificial, unfair advantage over others. However, due to the fact that altitude training hasn’t shown to positively affect athletes performance, personally, I believe until there is concrete evidence that altitude training positively affects performance, altitude training shouldn’t be banned. Even if altitude training is found to positively affect player performance, I am still sceptical as to whether it should be banned, as it could be difficult to regulate, as there are no current methods to see whether someone has been to a high altitude or not, and may force athletes who live in high altitude areas to relocate, which could cost a lot of money and time at the expense of those athletes, who may not be able to relocate due to financial issues, or a whole host of other potential issues that restrict them from doing so.
Hutchinson, Alex. “Does ‘Live Low, Train High’ Work?” Runner’s World, Runner’s World, 25 May 2018, www.runnersworld.com/training/a20797359/does-live-low-train-high-work/.
Ness, Jamie. “Https://Www.nsca.com/UploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Education/Articles/Assoc_Publications_PDFs/live_high_train_low.Pdf.” NSCA.com, University Of Kentucky, 2010, www.nsca.com/uploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Education/Articles/Assoc_Publications_PDFs/live_high_train_low.pdf.
Simpson, Alistair. “Altitude Training.” Altitude.org | Haemoglobin Carries Oxygen in the Blood, Altitude.org, June 2007, www.altitude.org/altitude_training.php.
Peterson, Dan. “Why Do Athletes Train at High Altitudes?” LiveScience, Purch, 9 Aug. 2010, www.livescience.com/32750-why-do-athletes-train-at-high-altitudes.html.