Why train at altitude?

Julien Chorier, multiple winner of ultra trails and trail ambassador of Val Thorens, gave us several tips to optimize your sporting stay at altitude. First of all, you need to know that there is an optimum altitude for sleeping and training. Then, the benefits are not the same depending on the specialty of the athlete and the planning of the course, we must also take into account the acclimatization time, the frequency of training... we explain everything to you in this article !

At what altitude should I train?

To choose the location of your training course, the altitude level must be taken into account. In theory, the higher you go above sea level, the more the effect is amplified, but be careful not to go higher than 3 meters, because beyond this altitude, fatigue will become too much. big ! In reality, altitude only becomes profitable from around 000 meters and for a trail runner, the optimal zone is around 1-700 meters for sleeping and training in order to feel the physiological benefits. . 2 meters… It is for this reason that Julien Chorier chose Val Thorens for his internships!

Obviously, the longer you stay, the more benefits you feel.

Julien Chorier

This altitude is especially beneficial for the trail runner since he never runs at the same pace, whereas a sprinter, for example, will quickly be limited because he will not be able to run at his specific pace, but at a lower speed. He can even lose his usual running pace, because by repeating the same strides but at a lower speed, he will keep this habit and this speed when he returns to the plain!

On the other hand, it is interesting for the sprinter to sleep at altitude in order to increase his rate of red blood cell production but to go back down to the plain (in Moûtiers for the example of Val Thorens) to work on your strides. »

Change altitude to optimize your sports preparation

Julien's second tip to optimize your preparation is to change altitude during your stay, that is to say, sleep at 2m but go up to train at 300m. “Be careful, however, that you are already well acclimatized to the altitude, this change happens gradually because acclimatization can be slow for some people and any effort then becomes complicated. The best strategy is to start your preparation slowly with a little jogging, for example to the Bruyères lake (in Les Menuires) when you are at Val Thorens, then gradually increase in altitude in order to acclimatize gently.

You can also alternate hiking and running, the little extra: hiking is an activity that you can share with your family! People who are not used to running for a long time or often must be even more vigilant about acclimatization; It would be a shame to want to increase your usual training frequency too quickly and to be so tired after 4 days that you can no longer train..."

What is the optimal length of stay at altitude?

For high-level athletes, athletes who are accustomed to or who respond well to altitude: the stay starts to become interesting after two weeks, or sometimes even a week. For a week, allow 2 or 3 days of acclimatization during which you must be patient and not try to optimize your time, otherwise you will create more fatigue than benefits, then 4 to 5 days of training. It is therefore more interesting to stay longer in order to train more and have more lasting benefits after the course. In fact, for a one-week course, you will only feel really fit during the week following your stay at altitude.

For a beginner athlete or one unaccustomed to altitude, We recommend a minimum of 2 weeks on site and ideally 3 weeks: a week of gradual acclimatization, a week of work and a week of recovery on site to optimize the stay.

Namely for a stay preceding an important race, the beneficial effects of a major training course are felt:

  • 2 to 3 days after return,
  • between 10 to 15 days after the end of the internship.

Between these two periods, the body endures the fatigue of the training and must rest.

Julien, for example, tries to come regularly for booster shots at Val Thorens by training for one week each school term and two to three weeks at the beginning of August to be in shape for the UTMB!

Don't forget to tell us if you felt any improvement after your stay in the mountains!


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