Altitude runs

Meh. Tonight was a failed run. I hit that wall hard and there was no bouncing back from it. But it happens… and I’d much rather it happen on an insignificant run like tonight, or even just on a training run – as long as it’s not during a race!

But, instead of complaining about my yuck run, I thought I’d come home and blog about running instead. This is something that’s been sitting in my drafts for a while now and I’ve never quite got round to writing and publishing it… so it’s perfect for tonight to kinda make me feel a bit better about my running.

I do not have much experience running at altitude. I began running when I moved to Dubai so my running has grown solely at sea level.

But, since I come from Johannesburg, South Africa, which is around 1500m above sea level, I have tried to add a run or two into my visits home over the last year or so.

When I went home in February, I was at the peak of my training and had just finished an easy 12km run two days before heading out to SA. Once I got there I thought I’d head out for a little run – I had in mind a 5km – but not even 2km’s along the road I was finished. That’s right. 2 km’s!!!!!

At that stage I didn’t know much about altitude runs because I’d never done any research into it, and my running history has been just me doing my thing – I’ve never had anyone telling me what to do, how to do it, or when to do it.

So when I was home in September I knew what I was in for when heading out on a short run. I had put in my head that I’d once again go for a 5km run. I wasn’t at the same peak of fitness as I was back in February, but I thought I’d try it anyway.

This time, however, I knew that I needed to take it slower from the beginning in order to breathe better… and I so I slowed right down. But still only managed 3 km’s on the first run.

IMG_2395     IMG_2396

A few days later I thought I’d try it again… and this time managed to get a little over 3.5 km’s… an improvement 🙂


And on the last run that I did I got to over 4km’s!! With each runs’ pace getting slightly better.



I still don’t have much experience at altitude training, nor will I have for some time to come… but I do know that training at altitude has great benefits for many runners, and I plan on getting as many as I can under my belt whenever I can!

I have been doing a lot of research on running at altitude, and while I’m not able to offer much advice on what I’ve done on these runs, other than “take it slow”, I have put together some tips for running at altitude that I have found on my searches across the interweb.

My personal piece of advice:

  • Slow it down; take it easy – as I’ve learned the hard way on these runs, altitude is difficult. Breathing is harder, your muscles work harder, you’re not going to be able to run as fast as you can at sea level

Here’s what’s the experts have to say:

  • Hydration – Because evaporation occurs more quickly at higher altitudes, you may find it more challenging to determine the amount of fluid released from your body. Your sweat will evaporate more quickly, so you may not notice the amount of fluid leaving your body. When running or doing any form of exercise at a high altitude, drink plenty of fluids.
  • Carbohydrates – Eat more carbohydrates when you run or exercise at high altitudes. Carbohydrates need less oxygen than protein to metabolize in your system. This provides the ongoing nutrients and fuel necessary at high altitudes. The rate of your metabolism increases the first few days you live at a higher altitude. Because of this, your diet should also include more fat until your body acclimates to the change in elevation. Before travelling to or exercising at higher altitudes, consult a nutritionist or speak with your physician.
  • Deep breathing – One way to compensate for a decreased intake of oxygen at high altitudes is to slow down your breathing rate, but increase the depth of your breaths. Instead of breathing quick, shallow and only in your lungs, breathe slow, deep and inhale until your stomach expands. As your activity increases and your breathing rate speeds, increase the frequency of your breaths, but keep the inhales deep and concentrated.

And another from me:

  • Listen to your body – this is said over and over again in almost everything that I read… and when I listen to it, it works. There’s nothing wrong with taking a short walk break to bring your heart rate down a bit and then picking it up again.

Most of all – enjoy it! Personally I’m pushing my body into a zone that it’s not familiar with, doing something that it is familiar with, and combining those 2 is difficult, but extremely satisfying at the end of the day run 🙂

(courtesy of Google)

(courtesy of Google)



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