How to train for Altitude

Going to 7500 feet from sea level without acclimatization means that on average you will be losing around 15% off your normal aerobic power. So for a given RPE or HR, your power output will be about 15% lower. With full acclimatization, you’re typically only down 10% at that altitude instead of 15%.

7500 feet is low enough however that you’re unlikely to be at risk of developing any altitude sickness, so the role of acclimatization for that purpose is minimal. Conversely, this also means that it is less likely you will suffer some of the adverse effects of being at altitude for the first few days, that may impair performance (sleep impairment, etc.), so the harms of going up a few days ahead of time are also less than if you’re going up north of 10,000 feet.

The physiological adaptations that occur during acclimatization to hypobaric hypoxemia are not really replicable by doing other types of training. There is no getting around the fact that at 7500 feet, barometric pressure and the amount of oxygen available for you to breath in the air around you, is 25% lower than at sea level. And as a result, the amount of oxygen in your blood will be lower (typical SpO2 at 7500 feet would be around 88%, instead of ~100% at sea level).

Acetazolamide, while useful to help promote acclimitization and avoid altitude sickness, does not improve endurance performance at altitude in unacclimatized people.

Basically, if you can get up there like ~two weeks before hand and sleep at altitude, you’ll be down 10%. If you show up the day of, you’ll be down 15%. If you show up even a few days before hand, you may partially acclimate, and end up somewhere between 10-15% down. However, you may want to try sleeping at that altitude beforehand to make sure that you don’t have issues with sleep. If so, you may be best to either show up the day of, or well beforehand.

If you go up at least a few days before hand, avoid alcohol, drink enough water, eat lots of carbs, and avoid overly strenuous exercise - these will all help you acclimatize a bit faster.


Mountaineering groups do have the best resources on altitude, but 7500’ is under what’s considered “high” altitude. 8000’ or 2500 meters is typically where you are considered at risk of AMS.

I live at sea level as well but I trained last year for the Colorado Trail Race. But that is high elevation - it is 540 miles at average elevation of 10,000’, with a 13,000’ high point. I definitely did a 10 day acclimation for that, and then felt pretty good. I’m so glad I did that, because for that endeavor it would have been madness to just show up the afternoon before. I also did some elevation rides a couple months ahead of time in the Sierras for informational purposes.

Since 10 days acclimation is a huge expense and inconvenience for a 1 day race, what you can do is to plan a weekend trip a month or two out from the event where you do the afternoon before protocol. In the morning do a race-mimicking ride where you experiment with your pacing and gut feeling, etc. The goal of this isn’t physiological adaptation - it is more to understand your own body’s reaction to the elevation wrt to RPE, pacing and nutrition so that race day doesn’t take you by surprise.

Trainerroad and FastTalk podcasts on high altitude training
Linda Wallenfels CTR training plan

Check out the Leadville Trail 100 podcast (LT100) S5E02 from April 5, 2022. They talk about the latest science around acclimatization with Chad from TR. Really great information and goes into the latest on racing at elevation. I would summarize what was said but I don’t want to provide incorrect information. My takeaway for me was to get there 2 weeks before the event (if you have the time and resources to do this), which I’ll be doing for Leadville. Also, expect a performance decrease even after you’ve adapted (this is due to the lack of oxygen as another poster pointed out). I don’t recall the % of the decrease but it’s discussed in the podcast.


Definitely following this topic as I go from Texas to Leadville later this year. Planning on doing some rides in the Texas summer heat, but also planning to get there around 3-4 days before the race. I see that there’s mixed opinions on that timing, but to be quite honest, I’m just wanting to make sure I get past any altitude sickness. I’ve accepted that my performance will be lower regardless and I just want to get out there and have fun. But getting in 1-2 days early and then suffering from altitude sickness would mean throwing away a race that IS REALLY REALLY HARD TO GET INTO.

According to the science you don’t, Well you can, but it’s Live High, Train Low including 16 hours of time at altitude and the other eight going to training, training and returning from it.

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So what I’m taking away from all this is that i need to spend 2 weeks altitude, which is a great way for me to get fired and divorced :wink:

The even is slowly turning into a family vacation with a bike ride in the middle. My plan was to go up Thursday with mt family and hang out on Friday. Event is Saturday.

Sounds like from the info above that this might be OK, but that I should expect a performance decrease. I’m actually OK with this as most of the filed is coming up from lower elevations. I have no goals of winning, so I’m ok with going a bit slower.

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I think that’s a good plan. It would be “optimal” if you showed up on Friday, then raced on Saturday. That’s according to the article I posted earlier from Carmichael Training (They say ~18 hours prior to the event). If you were really shooting for the event you could do that and maybe swing Monday as the day off work to spend with the family post-event?

But, like you said, if you’re not shooting for maximum performance and just want to have fun and finish, Thursday is fine. Like it has already been said the big thing is knowing that your power numbers will be a bit lower for the same RPE.

Or, start a new secret higher altitude family. Find a reason to “travel for work”. And get those sweet sweet new family gains.

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You solved my mystery. I knew there was a semi-recent podcast where Chad went somewhat depth on this topic but I couldn’t find any mention of it in the TR feed. Now I know why.

It’s been mentioned elsewhere in this thread that the cause of poor performance for some in the initial few day period is caused by extra stress placed on your body during this initial phase. While it may exist, I’m not aware of the science on that. More to the opposite, Coach Chad cites several studies in the above mentioned LT100 podcast that suggest that red blood cell count starts to increase fairly early in the process. So physiologically being up just a few days early should be better than arriving day of.

Clearly there’s a mountain of anecdotal evidence from people for whom that strategy doesn’t work, but I think you’re right that the true cause of that is that people going straight from sea level to proper high altitude (~8000ft +) are more likely to suffer altitude sickness, dehydration, associated headaches, all contributing to poor sleep. A few days of bad sleep and you’re going to feel bad in your race.

The distinction probably isn’t that important if the end result is you still feel bad and perform worse, but I suspect the real cause is smaller things contributing to poor sleep rather than the idea that producing more red blood cells inherently makes your body tired or stressed.


There is some good evidence in the literature for preparing your respiratory system for the increased demands of racing at altitude. Specifically doing Respiratory Muscle endurance Training. The reduced level of oxygen at altitude can be simulated at sea level using a number of different techniques, with evidence pointing to the fact that 15-20 minutes per day of hypoxic exposure is enough to provide a stimulus for endogenous EPO production.

We have had success training athletes and stimulating natural EPO production through 3x5 minute exposures to hypoxia, which again has been proven in the literature to match the same stimulus of being at altitude for a whole day. This type of training requires close monitoring of pulse oximetry, but can be done safely, without the cost burden of an altitude training camp.

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What type of respiratory muscle training do you suggest? Device?

There are two devices on the market that allow for respiratory muscle endurance training.

Spiro Tiger from Idiag
BreatheWayBetter from Isocapnic Inc

Both of these devices allow you to train in a way that can produce hypoxia in a controlled and methodical way to stimulate adaptations that will help prepare for altitude.

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For a casual race for fun that goes no higher than 7500’, don’t stress about it. Your plans and expectations are in sync, have fun!

It would be different if you were from sea level racing at 8000’ and higher, where AMS, HAPE and HACE might be a concern. It was recommended to arrive as early as 10-14 days, but 3 is ok. For my event, I was able to work remotely (thank you, Covid) from an airbnb. Luckily, my SO was stoked to come along for a vacation. :slight_smile:

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I concede the possibility that there are some small number of IHT devices that are actually effective under certain protocols but I have a very negative perception of this category. It immediately brings to mind crossfit bros running in Vibram FiveFingers and cheap Amazon IHT masks circa 2012.

Additionally there seems to be very little evidence of top level athletes using this as a training tool or to prepare for high altitude events. That can be partially explained for top level athletes for whom more traditional altitude training is not prohibitive.

You clearly seem to have far more knowledge and experience on this topic than I do so perhaps there is more credible scientific basis than the number of studies that I found that concluded that it might be effective. I remain very skeptical.

Healthy skepticism is a good starting point. I’ll point out the Nino Schurter, Geoff Kabush and Ryder Hesjedal were all early adopters and successful users of the first Isocapnic training devices developed. But didn’t advertise their use of the device, because they felt it was an advantage they had over other athletes.

  1. Voluntary Isocapnic hyperpnea:

Isocapnic hyperpnea training improves performance in competitive male runners; Eur J Appl Physiol, 2007 Apr

  1. Respiratory muscle endurance after training in athletes and non-athletes: A systematic review and meta-analysis; Physical Therapy in Sport, Volume 17, Jan 2016

The big challenge when reveiwing the many articles on respiratory endurance training is separating the short duration “maximal effort” studies, from the true endurance studies. As the meta-analysis quoted above demonstrates, the longer the duration of the test, the more clear the benefits of the training. But those results only really apply to devices that give the ability to do respiratory endurance training, which eliminates PowerBreathe and the other resistive devices. As noted in the high performance runners, there is a CLEAR benefit to respiratory endurance training, including a 4% in 4mile run, which would be similar to seeing a 4% improvement in a 20 minute bike time trial. But, even more impressive was the 50% improvement in “time to fatigue” on a treadmill, and a nearly 200% improvement in respiratory endurance. These are the factors that have been shown to benefit from true respiratory ENDURANCE training, and can demonstrate benefit to athletes competing at altitude.

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