Altitude Training for Athletic Success: Part II

If living at altitude or simulating altitude is not a reality for you, can gains be made by taking shorter trips to high altitude?

Unfortunately, for the average cyclist who just wants to get faster, studies on short-term altitude exposure are inconclusive. Some studies suggest that performance increases after a period of high-altitude training, while others indicate that simply training at sea level will yield faster race times.

Utilizing Altitude Training for a Sea-level Race

  • Train at moderately high altitudes for three to four weeks to get the full benefits.
  • While at altitude, maintain sea-level pace and power output by doing shorter work intervals, driving to lower altitudes, or utilizing supplemental oxygen during workouts and perhaps for some portion of recovery periods as well.
  • Be certain to drink enough fluids at altitude to keep your urine a light straw color to avoid dehydration.

Utilizing Altitude Training for Racing at Altitude Between 5,000 and 8,500 Feet

  • Live and train at race altitude for three to four weeks.
  • Maintain high power output by doing shorter work intervals, drive to lower altitudes for key workouts or utilize supplemental oxygen during workouts.
  • If you already live at this altitude, consider short trips to higher altitudes for some training sessions.

Utilizing Altitude Training for Racing at Altitudes Above 8,500 Feet

  • Live at an altitude between 5,000 and 8,500 feet for three to four weeks.
  • Drive to higher altitudes for some training days and consider occasional overnight stays prior to training days. Keep recovery periods at lower altitudes.
  • Keep power output high by doing high-intensity work intervals at 5,000 to 8,500 feet or lower. Or, consider using supplemental oxygen during workouts.

Limited Time and Cash

If you are a lowlander planning to race at altitude but do not have the resources to relocate to a higher elevation for an extended period of time before the event, consider arriving two or three days prior to the race start. More information on adapting to high elevations before a race can be found here.


Portions of the text reprinted from Training Plans for Cyclists by Gale Bernhardt, due for publication from VeloPress early 2009.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

Related Links:

      • Altitude Training for Athletic Success: Part I

      • Acclimating to Altitude Before a Race: Part I, Part II

      • If Doping is Banned, Should Altitude Tents be Allowed for Endurance Athletes?

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