Backstory: Altitude Training for Runners

April 21, 2016

by Peter Reese
Backstory: Altitude Training for Runners

Storied endurance brand Salomon now takes their running camp to a new level in Crested Butte, Colorado.  Active Junky connected with two of their elite staff, Stevie Kremer and Dr. Rhett Griggs, to get the lowdown on altitude training.  And what it means for aspiring runners looking to elevate their performance in race events.

1) How can the average runner benefit from going higher?

Greater endurance and more climbing power is one clear, documented benefit.

High altitude training stresses the body to increase red blood cells, which in turn carry more oxygen throughout the body. This works up to a point where blood can even become too thick and sluggish and serve as a negative for athletes. It takes about 2-3 weeks to acclimate and build up the red blood cell count. 

Altitude training increases VO2 max to improve performance gains more quickly and accelerate speed = more climbing power. The positive effect diminishes after 3-4 months of living or training at altitude.
In addition, athletes accrue the following benefits by living and training at higher altitude:

  • Increased small blood vessel formation
  • Increased ability to buffer acid
  • Muscular changes to twitch muscles

2) What about recovery, a crucial part of the equation?

Recovery needs to be considered when evaluating all that comes with altitude. Altitude can negatively effect recovery. The well-known motto is live high and train low to help recovery. This aids oxygen delivery to muscles which helps with recovery. As always, monitoring rest is key. 

In the end, living and training consistently at altitude with proper build-up in endurance, strength and recovery will increase climbing power and resilience – particularly at lower altitude. 

3) Is “sky running” a growing trend that will propel more aspiring runners to greater elevation and tougher challenges?

Yes, Sky Running is definitely a new "ish" trend that is becoming popular in over 20 countries worldwide. Runners are going higher, on more technical terrain to challenge themselves in more ways than simply covering longer distances.  Runners are moving across exposed topography, high up in mountains all over the world, where the general public has never been. 

We’re excited to get athletes out to Crested Butte to feel the benefits of running at altitude (although it may take a couple days).  Guest runners will experience our incredible terrain, stunning views and endless trails extending up and down mountains to pristine places. 

Go to the website to learn more about joining us in the mountains this year:

STEVIE KREMER, in addition to winning the 2012 Long Distance World Mountain Championships, was the 2013 and 2014 Skyrunner World Series Champion.  Her winter skill and endurance came to the fore as the recent International Ski Mountaineering Gold Medal Winner representing the United States.  Stevie’s energy is only matched by her patience:  She’s a 3rd grade teacher at Crested Butte Community School in Crested Butte, Colorado. 

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