Question: My gym has a “hypoxic” enclosure outfitted with a stationary bike and treadmill. Would training in the simulated high altitude two or three days a week improve my fitness? — Joe S.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Not long ago, the thinking on altitude training was “sleep high, train low.”
The theory: Training at low altitude allows you to work at maximum effort because there’s lots of oxygen. Sleeping at high altitude makes your body expand its oxygen-carrying capacity.
Therefore, training at altitude actually makes you slower because you can’t do quality speedwork. Your gym’s enclosure might be useful, however, if you live at sea level and want to acclimate for a high-altitude tour or other event.
Todd Wells, a mountain bike racer who returned to the sport after a layoff, reportedly got back into shape quickly by training at 2,500 feet in Tucson and then driving up Mt. Lemmon to sleep at around 9,000 feet.
Other pro cyclists have followed similar training regimens: training at sea level most of the time but sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber that simulates high elevation. If there’s an edge to be found, you can bet the pros are willing to try it.