More Science is Needed - Altitude Training and Running Performance
Two new articles just published on altitude training and running or exercise performance. The first, entitled "The role of haemoglobin mass on VO2max following normobaric ‘live high–train low’ in endurance-trained athletes" looked at two possible mechanisms that the live high-train low method may have on boosting running performance. The first theory is that living high and training low will help improve maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and that this improvement is related to hypoxia-induced increases in total haemoglobin mass. The other contending theory is that living high and training low improves maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and that this improvement is related to improved maximal oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle. Surprisingly the authors found that after a 4 week period of living high and training low, athletes showed no improvement in VO2max (they did use elite cyclists rather then elite runners, but one would assume that would not make a difference)! This is also interesting in light of other research that seems to indicate that speed training does boost VO2max. So, why not altitude? Perhaps it is because the subjects/athletes in this study did not perform rigorous training exercises? The jury seems to be still out on this contentious subject.
This is reflected in the second study published recently: "Does ‘altitude training’ increase exercise performance in elite athletes?" Although a review article, it makes a good point in that we really have not investigated altitude training in any comprehensive, scientific way. For example, the scientific gold-standard design of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial has never been conducted on altitude training! So, although people swear by it (including me, although like I've said previously, I do more live high-train high), the scientific research on altitude training is too nascent to come to any positive conclusions. Hopefully this subject will be taken up with more vigor in the coming years.
As for me and my running, I got a new PR on my ~15K loop today with 1:11:40, dropping two minutes off my previous PR. I guess that means its time to add on some new miles to the loop as I would prefer my fast run to take about 1:30.