Altitude training


In endurance sports, altitude training has unreflectively established itself as a sensible training method for increasing performance. Endurance runners from the highlands of Kenya and Ethiopia are primarily responsible for combining altitude training with athletic performance. The altitude training is first differentiated into a competition preparation for competitions in higher altitudes or for competitions in higher areas.

To prepare for competitions at heights

In preparation for competitions in higher areas, altitude training is an essential element. The acclimatization periods last up to 3 weeks. Due to the negative conditions (low air pressure), the training conditions are much worse. The training intensity and duration are therefore lower. In the area of ​​short-term endurance (sprint), there are no performance-impairing factors at medium altitudes. Athletes can start without much preparation.

For preparation in competitions in the lowlands

The use of a Altitude training How to improve performance in competitions is always controversial in sports science. The successes of numerous endurance athletes from the highlands in recent years and decades suggest that there is actually a connection between staying at altitude and improved performance. There are studies in which it could be shown that high-altitude endurance athletes showed an increase in maximum oxygen uptake. The effects are presumably due to the increase in the myoglobin content of the blood and the increase in enzyme activity.

Other studies have not found any significant Performance improvements an altitude training result. These authors are of the opinion that despite the increased oxygen capacity of the blood, the performance-reducing effects of altitude training predominate. These negative effects are:

  • Increased minute ventilation
  • Reduced training intensity
  • Reduced buffer capacity of the blood
  • Reduced maximum cardiac output

A method of the living high, training low developed. Athletes live in special houses through which low-oxygen air flows. However, there is a significant problem with measuring the increase in performance in sport because it cannot be precisely determined whether the increase is due to altitude training or other factors.

Dangers of altitude training

At the Altitude training A number of dangers can arise, which are often neglected in training practice. On the one hand, there is a fundamental danger in the mountains. A distinction is made between objective and subjective Hazards. To the objective dangers count weather changes. The weather situation can change within a few minutes, cold spells, thunderstorms, hail, snowstorms etc. can suddenly occur. Furthermore, steep slopes and loose ground are among the objective dangers. The subjective dangers include incorrect equipment, insufficient mastery of alpine technology and performance drops. If symptoms of exhaustion occur, an immediate termination or return is necessary. Recent tragedies have shown just how dangerous endurance sport in the mountains really is.

Exposure to the sun

The radiation intensities of the sun are many times higher at altitude than in the lowlands. There are three types of damage caused by solar radiation:

  • Heat supply through infrared rays (heat stroke)
  • Increased UV radiation leads to skin damage
  • The risk of glare from solar radiation, crevasses, etc. can be overlooked.


At high altitudes, the risk of hypothermia is particularly high when the weather changes. Incoming winds additionally support this effect on wet skin.

Altitude sickness

As a result of too rapid ascent to greater heights, the organism cannot acclimate itself quickly enough. The cause is the lack of oxygen in the body tissues. Symptoms of altitude sickness include a headache and insomnia, up to nausea, vomiting, cerebral edema with loss of balance.


A good physical condition does not protect against altitude sickness.