New Study – Marathon Altitude Training Is Worthless

Is Marathon Altitude Training Worthless?

A new study made by Swiss research team has found no evidence that marathon altitude training gives any advantage to marathon runners compared to marathoners who did not train at high altitudes.

Many Olympic teams and professional marathoners have been training at high altitudes to increase their red blood cells. Marathon training at high altitudes was once believed to give a physical edge to runners, and many have planned long training programs up in Kenya, Ethiopia or Mexico.

The Washington Post Sports have has more:

Swiss study, researchers set out to explain why it does. Instead, they found no evidence that it did.

“I was really surprised and frustrated,” said lead author Carsten Lundby of the University of Zurich.

Some scientists say any benefit is probably a placebo effect and say athletes are probably better off sticking to their regular regime before the London Games. Still, many top coaches are believers and have no plans to change their pre-Olympic training plans.

Ian Stewart, head of endurance running for the British team, said his country’s best runners spend up to six months a year at a high altitude. “We think it’s very valuable,” Stewart said. He cited the world championship victories of distance runner Mo Farah and world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe — both of whom regularly do altitude training — as evidence. Read source..

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US National Library of Medicine has an abstract of a research showing that altitude training for marathoners is effective.

For nearly 40 years, scientists and elite endurance athletes have been investigating the use of altitude in an effort to enhance exercise performance. While the results of many early studies on the use of altitude training for sea level performance enhancement have produced equivocal results, newer studies using the ‘live high, train low’ altitude training model have demonstrated significant improvements in red cell mass, maximal oxygen uptake, oxygen uptake at ventilatory threshold, and 3000m and 5000m race time.

For the marathoner looking to add altitude training to their peak performance plans, residence at an altitude of 2000-2500m, a minimum of 20 hours per day, for 4 weeks, appears to hold the greatest potential for performance enhancement. Based on published mathematical models of marathon performance, a marathoner with a typical or average running economy who performed ‘live high, train low’ altitude training could experience an improvement of nearly 8.5 minutes (or approximately 5%) over the 26.2-mile race distance. See source..

What did the Swiss scientists miss?

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