Before I moved to Salt Lake City, I had no idea that being in a place with high altitude could affect your workout performance. I mean, I kiiinda knew because I had heard that athletes often went to train in places of high altitude to make themselves perform better. I pretty much ignored thinking about why it would be harder (yet better for you) to train at higher altitude until I moved over to Salt Lake City, just last week. I know the altitude in Salt Lake City is not thaaat high, but it makes a difference, trust me. My experiences so far inspired me to write this post so that I could help anyone who is struggling with how to workout in high altitudes.
Why is it harder to train in higher altitudes?
The reason it is so much harder to exercise in higher altitude is because of the lack of oxygen; the higher the altitude, the less oxygen there is. And as we all know, if you are working out, you need to supply oxygen to your muscles. Therefore, when you are at a higher altitude, you need to breathe at a faster rate to get the correct amount of oxygen to your muscles and your heart also needs to beat faster “to move more oxygen-carrying blood cells past the muscle cells.” So that’s why I end up on the floor, a big red mess, wheezing for air so quickly!!!
How can you overcome the difficulties of training in higher altitudes?
Still trying to figure this one out and sadly, there does not seem to be a quick fix. You basically just have to keep training and eventually, you will acclimatize and your body will adapt to the change in altitude. This NY Times article states that acclimatization will bring about chemical processed which will enable your muscle cells to better handle the lower oxygen levels. Also, the number of capillaries you have will increase (that is so crazy)!
What am I doing?
Considering that I am a health and fitness blogger, this is a great (yet annoying challenge) for me. I have been doing the following things to help me still workout despite feeling like an absolute beginner:
- I have been going at a slower pace when doing circuit training and taking more breaks as needed
- I have been doing more LISS (low intensity steady state cardio) to build up my endurance
- I have been doing extra strength based moves (such as TRX push ups and ab exercises) to ensure that my body stays well conditioned while I build up my endurance to do more high intensity circuits
- Not beating myself up when I get tired – I felt really bad the first time I worked out because of how weak I felt, but I realize that it is a process and that I will get stronger and faster again
Does anyone have similar experiences?
I would love to hear from you if you also moved to or are currently living in a place with higher altitude. What did you do to keep yourself motivated and how did you build up your strength and endurance again? It is times like this I wish I had a personal trainer to force me to workout haha, but luckily I have social media networks, such as Instagram, to keep me motivated and disciplined.
Alice Salt Lake City health and fitness blogger