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An endurance athlete’s experience: Altitude

“On Saturday I competed in the Australian Alpine Ascent in the Snowy Mountains. The race started at Lake Jindabyne for a 3km lake swim, 124km bike and 28km run to the top of Australia’s highest Peak; Mt Kosciusko. To help me prepare for racing at altitude- I slept in a Hypoxic Altitude Training System that simulates oxygen-reduced air of a higher elevation, for 5 weeks pre race.

The tent goes underneath the mattress and around the bed, with zips on either side of the tent to get in and out of. The hose from the oxygen generator constantly pumps oxygen-reduced air into the tent.

Sports Doctor Andrew Vogler advised that 2500-3000m was the sweet spot. It does reduce your sleep quality so pushing the altitude higher than 3000m doesn’t provide any extra benefit for my race where the highest elevation was the top of Mount Kosciusko at 2280m. He suggested to start at a lower elevation and build 200m per night for the first few nights to allow my body to adjust, which worked really well. The goal was to be in the tent for ~ 10 hours a day. To achieve the ~10 hours of exposure per day I would sleep in the tent at night, then work, sends email and recover in the tent during the day.

The verdict.. I felt using the tent was a huge advantage- when I was racing at altitude I didn’t feel the lack of oxygen.

My tips for anyone going to use an altitude tent:

Get your iron levels checked pre altitude exposure to ensure they are satisfactory. If they are not ideal then check with your medical specialist regarding protocol for iron supplementation specific for you during this time. To reap the benefits of altitude training adequate levels of iron stores are required.
Set up the tent in an air-conditioned room as they get hot quickly
Keep a bottle of water inside the tent to stay on top of your hydration levels
Increase your food and water intake, see a qualified sports dietitian for further support in this area to dial into your specific nutrition needs
Set up the oxygen generator outside your bedroom as it is quite loud
Be really nice to your partner as they also have to sleep in the tent


Thank you to Nutrition Strategies for supporting me with the altitude tent!

Stephanie Gaskell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, an Accredited Sports Dietitian, and a competitive Ultra Trail Marathon Runner. She is available for Phone and Skype Consultations, and has published the FODMAP™ & Gluten Status Sports Supplement Guide.

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