How to train for Altitude

I’m looking at doing a race at elevation, 7,500 feet in August. I live literally at sea level, the beach is a 10 minute ride away.

I don’t have the ability to go up to elevation to train, so how can I best prepare for the event? It’s not an ‘A’ race, but something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile. Have fun, but also not die.


I can’t track down a source right now, but one thing I have been told to do and tried to do to help is to show up as close to the event start as possible. This way you show up with all that sea level red blood & avoid any altitude sickness prior to the event.

I feel like I may have even heard it on the podcast before…? Maybe someone else has a better way to source this information or debunk it. On the flipside you’d try to show up a week or two before the event to let your body adjust.

Other than that, I’m not sure there’s a lot you can do at the beach to practice for riding in the mountains. Maybe try to adjust expectations for power output at the higher altitude with less oxygen.


That goes against everything I’ve learn about altitude in my 40 years of mountaineering.

Acclimatisation is all about increasing the red blood cell count by accumulating time at altitude before you go for your main objective. You don’t turn up at Everest and aim for the summit in 1, with all those “sea level” red blood cells.

I’ll leave this here for you to read. But the best thing you can do if possible is to arrive a few days before your event to allow your body to make adaptions to try and compensate for the altitude.

I know about acclimatizing. But in this case you aren’t acclimatizing. You’re showing up, racing & then leaving. Maybe only staying for 1 day at altitude (~12 hours).

Often we don’t have the ability to take the week or two prior to an event to stay at altitude and properly acclimatize. As far as I know 1-2 days before an event is not enough.

Editing this reply because I found the article: What Time-Crunched Athletes Need to Know About Altitude Training - CTS

Message #2: The best times for sea-level athletes to arrive at a high-altitude competition are either within 18 hours of competition or 7-10 days out from competition.
From a practical standpoint, arriving the afternoon or evening before a competition the following day is probably the best option for time-crunched athletes. If you have the time to get out to altitude a week before your event, that would be good too. In the latter case, the time at altitude will not give you enough time to acclimate, but it does give your body time adjust respiratory habits, reduces the stress of traveling immediately before racing, and gives you time away from normal life to focus on good habits, recovery, and thoughtful eating. The worst timeframe is arriving 2-4 days before your event, because you’re more likely to be feeling the impact of disturbed sleep, fatigue from travel, and dehydration in this timeframe.”


My understanding is the best thing you can do is arrive at least 3 full days and preferably more before the race so that you have time to acclimate. And the second best thing you can do is turn up just before the race. Reason being that during that acclimatisation period you’ll actually perform worse than when you’ve just shown up.

One possible caveat to this is that if you know from previous experience that you really struggle at altitude e.g. Bad sleep, dehydration, headaches, etc then even if you had the luxury of showing up a week early then might still be better to go with option 2 and spend as little time as possible up there.

Well you are, if you follow your advice. Really depends how much earlier they can arrive before the event. I’ve found even 24 hour acclimatisation, with at least one sleep, before climbing a peak over 13,124 feet (4,000m) makes a big difference to how it goes.

True but 7500ft is not Everest.

There’s been a ton of discussion on this topic over the years as you’d imagine including many podcasts. I swear Chad covered it in a more recent one but I’m not finding it, but here’s a semi-recent one: Racing at High Elevation, Learning to Suffer, Recovery and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 274 - YouTube

The summary is that actual acclimatization takes about 2 weeks. If you can’t show up that early, then showing up immediately before can help you avoid some of the initial poor feeling that people get in the first few days at altitude.

I live at 5500ft and semi-regularly do events at 10-14k. Sometimes I’ll do the day of approach, or others I show up the 2-3 days before that people tell you to generally avoid. I don’t worry about the latter because sometimes there’s nothing you can do, you need to show up in that window for packet pickup, course recon, or just because that makes the most sense for your travel schedule.

Despite what Keegan says, altitude has a very real impact but I think the biggest risk is mental. Everyone is impacted, even those with full acclimatization. They are just impacted a little less. My biggest advice is to not let altitude be your mental boogeyman. Everyone will suffer, but some will keep pushing (relative to RPE) and others will give up.

To perform the same as though you were at sea level. Doesn’t mean you cannot get more than half way between in much less. The increased blood volume and red blood cells happens much quicker than that. You need much less for 7,500 feet and you’ll perform better after 24 hours than just turning up an hour before the race etc.

You can’t trick your body into thinking you’ve got the same oxygen and partial pressures at altitude by just turn up and go.

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No one performs the same as sea level but moving past that the other major takeaway from the link I posted and the tons of other discussion on this topic is that different people respond differently.

Some people seem to feel acutely bad the first few days in and the show up same day technique works for them. Others feel better after just a few days. Neither is universally true.

In the more recent podcast episode that I can’t find the link on Chad (I think) gave a lot more credence to the “even a few days is better than nothing” argument. That is what I do 95% of the time and it seems to work well enough for me, but if someone doesn’t have firsthand experience with how they respond then your choice is either show up 2 weeks early or pick one of the alternate camps and see how it works for you.

I think you could do a 3-week heat block before visiting the altitude. One week of washing.
Indoor sessions or sustained exposure to heat, this will give you a certain increase in plasma volume and therefore a better tolerance to altitude.
B1 supplements in the training field itself, visiting the event site 5-7 days before would be basic.

Not sure if there’s science to back this up specifically, but VO2 Max Training has helped me feel pretty damn good with every trip I’ve done to elevation in the past. Generally being prepared with that as part of my training makes me feel like I’m not missing a beat and I’ve never had an issue with 7000-8000’ coming from Sea Level. It’s probably just pushing your aerobic capacity as high as possible to be honest.

With that said, the only time I’ve been to Leadville I felt fine the afternoon I arrived. Felt like crap 18 hours in. Pretty much back to normal ~3 days in, but not saying I would have been able to perform like sea level though.

Coming from sea level, this is your best option…the reality is that there is not much you can do. Heat adaptation training will boost blood plasma, which will help negate the effects of altitude a bit.

If you can’t get out there well ahead of time, your best option ( as noted) is show up as late as possible, ideally just the afternoon before your event.

I did the heat thing before SBT last year…dunno if it helped because I still had a crap day, but I have also never really done well at altitude, even when I lived in CO.


No one is saying that…but the science has shown that there is a degradation in performance if you arrive 36-48+ hours in advance vs. showing up with less than 24 hours.

Many people experience their worst day 48-72 hours in and then proceed to climb back up that low.

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This. Unless you can show up early and “acclimate,” which take more than a few days, get there the day before. If you get there a few days before your body has had time to be effected (broken down) by the high altitude but not long enough to become acclimated to it. This if from reading a bunch and experience. The Everest example someone mentioned is like comparing coming off the couch and running a 5k vs coming off the couch and running an ultra marathon. Not a good analogy.
And there is no good way to fake train altitude.

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Anybody who climbs high mountains will tell you that is the case based on knowledge built in mountaineering over the past 100 years. No one goes to peaks in the range 4000-5000m and waits two weeks for “stuff” to happen. Equally very few attempt to summit a peak over 4,000m straight from arriving in the valley.

Acclimatisation and altitude sickness is well understood in mountaineering, even if many ignore the guidance arising out of it.

7,500 feet is more moderate altitude rather than high. It’s certainly not high enough to break down your body. You need to be much higher for that.

I think this falls into an “apples vs oranges” comparison…very different aerobic demands.

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I’ve been living at 7k feet for the past year and a half or so and used to live at sea level. I regularly go up to 10-12k feet to ski/bike/run. Even if you can’t train at altitude, if you have time to take a trip up to see how your body reacts that’ll be useful information for you to use - see if you get headachey or feel super dehydrated or way less/more hungry than normal. I don’t think there’s really much you can do to prepare for it at sea level aside from whatever you’d do to prepare for the same type of event at sea level, honestly.

If your goal is really to “have fun, but also not die”, my number one piece of advice would be to really pay attention to your pacing and stay conservative and do not let your heart rate spike up during your event because it is so much harder to recover from that at altitude than at sea level. You will not be able to perform the same way you do at sea level. If it’s going to be hot, you really really really need to pay attention to your pacing and hydration and nutrition because that can really take you out quickly.



You’re right. I missed the 7,500 part. I’m thinking of the MTB race I did in Aspen coming from Texas. Shot up to 10k in the first 10 miles and my cookies were baked. I was just barely surviving the next 30 miles.