High Altitude Living Low Altitude Training

Altitude training describes training practice by athlete’s training in oxygen deprived conditions for several weeks to increase their performance endurance. Often, there are altitudes training camps strategically designed for this objective (Geiser, Vogt, Billeter, Zuleger, Belforti & Hoppeler, 2001). Altitude training further entails simulated or natural altitude conditions in the training course often as a precursor to a major competition event. The conditions are maintained while the training athlete is in the training process, during exercises and while at rest. Despite this, altitude training strategy exposes the athlete to hypoxia, low oxygen pressure, thereby resulting to hypoxemia, tissue oxygenation and lower blood.

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The history of living high altitude and training low altitude traces to 2400m altitude Mexico’s 1968 Olympic Games. During the event, enduring athletes such as in the 10,000 and 3,000 m marathons could not set new records and their performance declined whiles the sprinter athletes succeeded (Rusko, Leppävuori, Mäkelä, & Leppäluoto, 2010). Altitude hypoxia condition explained this. It was known to decimate human being’s aerobic performance.

Consequently, coaches, athletes and sports consultants adopted altitude training camps to acclimatize competition. Implementing altitude training was observed also to … altitudes. Experts argued that, in endurance performance, the volume of total red blood cells was paramount. This was confirmed by experimental tests involving manipulation of human blood (Stray-Gundersen, Chapman, & Levine, 2012). Therefore, the higher the volume of an athlete’s red blood cells, the faster the performance of an athlete probably is during the triathlon. However, it is commonly observed that altitude training has improved the performance and endurance of multiple athletes but still others do not. So, how comes altitude training does not induce the consistency in positive results?

Scientific empirical evidences suggest astronomical variant individual adaptive responses to this training concept. In addition, altitude tolerance exposure determinants are also poorly understood (Tiollier, Schmitt, Burnat, Fouillot, Robach, Filaire, et al., 2005). Moreover, hypoxia condition training at a practical level as the training intensity management is a principal problem. Under such conditions, maximal exercise capacity of an athlete reduces drastically. High living and low training concept arose to improve on the defects of altitude training. It involves sleeping or living at high altitude thereby stimulating increase in volume of red blood cells while training at sea level to conserve an athlete’s training intensity. This helps to overcome multiple training related problems while posting consistent adaptations.

Besides, living high and training low at low altitude triggered renal hormone erythropoietin (EPO) secretion (Wilber, 2013). In turn, the hormone stimulates the synthesis of red blood cells provided there is sufficient ‘altitude dose.’ Therefore, the high altitude living low altitude training rationale in sporting events was founded on a combination of altitude and rigorous practice to boost the volume of red blood cells. In so doing, there was a boost in an athlete’s endurance performance. Based on this finding, several hypoxic facilities across the worldwide have been established by various sports federations over the years.

In addition, numerous amateur, elite and professional athletes across the world training in low altitudes prior to major events have been observed to set new fetes (Wilber, 2013). This confirms the high altitude living and low altitude training hypothesis. Despite this, numerous accurately controlled scientific researches do not exhibit systematic assertive results of the hypothesis on athlete’s endurance performance.

Despite the anecdotes, altitude training results over the years produced majority positive performance results among athletes. Assertive endurance results by elite athletes who posted world-class records over the years present a strong case to adapt classical altitude training.


Geiser, J., Vogt, M., Billeter, R., Zuleger, C., Belforti, F., & Hoppeler, H. (2001). Training High – Living Low: Changes of Aerobic Performance and Muscle Structure with Training at Simulated Altitude. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 22(8), 579-585.

Rusko, H. K., Leppävuori, A., Mäkelä, P., & Leppäluoto, J. (2010). Living High, Training Low; A New Approach To Altitude Training At Sea Level In Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 27(Supplement), S6.

Stray-Gundersen, J., Chapman, R. F., & Levine, B. D. (2012). “Living High – Training Low” Altitude Training Improves Sea Level Performance In Male And Female Elite Runners. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 12(1), 60-61.

Tiollier, E., Schmitt, L., Burnat, P., Fouillot, J., Robach, P., Filaire, E., et al. (2005). Living high–training low altitude training: effects on mucosal immunity. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 94(3), 298-304.

Wilber, R. L. (2013). Pro: Live High+Train Low Does Improve Sea Level Performance Beyond that Achieved with the Equivalent Living and Training at Sea Level. High Altitude Medicine & Biology, 14(4), 325-327.

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