View Full Version : High Altitude Training

September 1st, 2008, 02:39 PM
I started swimming again in June after a...um...20-year layoff. I realize that I should expect a pretty big difference between workout times long ago and now, but wondered if I can attribute any of this differenct to the fact that I'm training at 5800 feet. In my USA swimming days, I was at sea level. Does anyone know how to calculate this effect or am I just grasping at straws?

September 2nd, 2008, 01:12 AM
Probably more to do with the . . . um . . . 20 year layoff. Just establish new baselines for now and go from there.

September 2nd, 2008, 09:30 AM
Thats real plus that you get to train at altitude. Most of us don't have that luxury or access. I've been to altitude 3 times (Colorado Springs and SLC twice) to train in high school. Everytime I came back down I did personal bests by quite a bit. These were 2 week training sessions. I think you'll see a nice improvement when you come down.

You can't really calculate anything now as you have to many variables to make comparison. You'll need to train, do a meet at altitude (or establish some base times) then do a meet at sea level. What I'm getting at is you need to establish "new" baselines", not use now against what you "used" to do.

September 2nd, 2008, 11:04 AM

I live in Denver. After moving here in 2001, I was informed that it would get easier after 3-4 months of workouts. This is crap. It took 8 months just to get to the point where I was not hanging on the walls gasping for air inbetween sets. It took 2 years before I could comfortably get through a workout and not notice the altitude as much.

In my opinion..... there are 3 types of people that struggle with altitude.

1. Old people (i.e. late 30s and over) that grew up at sea level and move to altitude (they have the worst time adusting)

2. Younger people that move to atltitude (teens and twenties) from sea level.

3. Natives to altitude.

Altitude has its advantages and disadvantages. Training at it for for a few weeks and returning to sea level is a more noticeable affect. Constantly living at altitude robs your ability to train closer to race pace.

Your 20 year break is obviously a factor. However, if you have not been working out regularly in the pool at altitude, and you are old you will pay for it another 6 months or so.

September 2nd, 2008, 11:17 AM
I thought that the NCAA would adjust times swam at altitude.

For example, a swimmers time wasn't fast enought to qualify for nationals, yet since it was swam it at altitude, the cut was made.

Of course, this could be urban myth.

September 2nd, 2008, 11:36 AM
GoodSmith ~ what kind of shape were you in when you moved to Denver? Were you swimming? The reason I ask is that I've been here for 10 years and, although I didn't swim, I've kept very aerobically fit by running, biking and hiking. As you said, I'm gasping pretty hard between sets. Do you think there is a unique acclimitization associated with swimming?

September 2nd, 2008, 11:48 AM
I do believe that swimming is a unique aerobic sport in some sense. It is a controlled breathing (i.e. face down for freestlye) sport. In that sense, it is different than other sports.

I was in the same shape as I have been when I moved to Denver from Atlanta..... 3-4 one-hour workouts a week (2,500-3,000yds) and weights.

You will pay in the pool for over a half a year or more at altitude if you are older and trying to get back into it. It will not get easier in a few weeks. Let's face it, even if you were at sea level and starting back after 2 decades, you'd need at the very least 3-4 months to get to the point where you could do a main set (1,000 or 1,500yds) at a constant clip and not fall apart. Altitude will set you back twice as long in terms of workout comfort level.

John Smith

September 2nd, 2008, 11:55 AM
Does anyone have any recommendations on training strategies for incorporating high altitude into training? I train in the Phoenix area, but always hear about international swimmers spending time in Flagstaff (7K feet) before important events. I seem to recall that Kate Zeigler had done some serious high altitude training immediately before smashing the 1500m record.

What I'm particularly looking for is if there is a good rule of thumb for incorporating high altitude training in advance of a taper competition? For example, train two weeks at high altitude and then head down for the competition on the third week?

September 2nd, 2008, 01:11 PM

Don't come down too early from altitude prior to you major meet. Personally, I find I lose the noticeable effects after about 3-4 days at sea level. The last day of the meet is never as beneficial as the first day coming down. I would think you would want to come down no more than a couple of days before the meet.

But..... I have to be honest about altitude training. It's helps your underwater push offs and pull outs a bit during the race, but it has no bearing on speed and turnover.

John Smith

September 2nd, 2008, 05:53 PM
I can tell the difference with my swimming in Denver and at sea level. I moved from Atlanta to Denver 2 years ago and it did take a long time to get use to competing here.I still have trouble swimming in Summit County (9200 ft) and overheated pools. My times are much better at sea level, but I am able to do similar workouts with 5 sec more rest per 50 in Denver vs Atlanta. I am over 60. I did climb a bunch of 14 neers about 2 1/2 weeks before LC Nationals. 200 fly is much easier than the last 500 ft elevation climb on Quandary. I like to try to find a meet at sea level that does not interfere with skiing!