Is there actually something to this elevation thing when it comes to running/cycling/etc.?

I sort of thought that the whole ‘train at a higher elevation and get PR’s at a lower’ thing was a bit exaggerated, or at least didn’t last more then a few days. I live in Calgary, Alberta (1,100 meters / 3,600 feet) and have been in Hawaii for the last three weeks. I am training for a half marathon, so am running here (at slightly above sea level), and even ran the local Jingle Bell 5K race just before Christmas. My pace at home was, at best, 6:20 or so per km. When I did the 5K race, my pace was 5:27/km! I’m consistently getting new PR’s, even during my long runs and in the heat (for me, it’s pretty hot for running). It’s awesome!

Will I maintain this speed at home or am I going to be horribly disappointed? Is it truly a difference in elevation that’s making me so speedy (for me)?

Maybe I should only do races in Hawaii, eh? :wink:

Altitude training does work for some, not for others.
3600 ft isn’t really that high, most try to get over 7-8,000.

Now here’s the thing:current thought is you live high, train low. You make fitness gains when you recover rather than during the workout itself.

Trying to run hard at high altitude will result in a slower pace and your legs don’t adapt to that pace.(Really more of a factor at high levels of competition)

So you live high and force your body to adapt to the lower oxygen pressures but you go to sea level to train.
Imagine a world class miler running intervals at 8,000 ft. Even though the effort is equal to 56 sec./400m pace, he is actually running 58-59 sec/400m. And yes, it makes a difference.

Just the excitement of racing or training in a new place will result in a faster pace. Do you monitor your heartrate?

Interesting, thanks for the info!

I haven’t been monitoring my HR on my runs, but did today on my long ride and the other day on my hill ride. My average HR was a bit lower at the same perceived effort (about 157 avg. where I would normally be closer to 163 - 165 or so).

One thought: If you’re now on vacation, or otherwise more chillaxed than your typical working life, could that also be having an effect?

Years ago I lived in New Mexico at about 4500 feet above sea level. When I went to visit my parents in the Midwest at about 600 feet, I was certainly faster on my bicycle.

Then I moved from NM to the St. Louis area. Riding at about 450 feet I was faster - for a while. After a few months I started to lose my advantage. I did a 25 mile time trial once a month and something was making me slower.

You won’t really notice any elevation effects for endurance training below 5-6000’, a bit higher the better. Going from 3600’ tp sea level you’d get some *slight * boost but certainly not enough to explain the 5K time difference. That’s most likely due to being in freakin’ Hawaii! You also may simply be a better hot weather runner.

But training at altitude has clear and measurable physiological evidence, mainly due to increased red blood cell production. I’ve experienced it many times travelling to/from high elevations.