Going to the same HIIT/yoga/crossfit class every week can easily stump your motivation. You get into a routine and it gets boring and ends up not exciting you anymore.
Step in, London’s latest fitness craze – altitude training.
Altitude training is not just for the landscape lovers out there. In fact, altitude training can be done in several gyms popping up around the country.
So one WH staffer put altitude training to the test to see what it was really like.
ALTITUDE TRAINING: THE REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE
As Monday mornings go, this one’s pretty tough. I’m 2,700m above sea level, and I’m running. For context, that’s higher than Snowdon.
If I’m painting an idyllic picture of an alpine scene, the reality is rather different. I’m on a treadmill, and I haven’t left the capital’s zone one.
I’m at the Altitude Centre, slap bang in the middle of the City of London.
Once the preserve of professional athletes, altitude training in a pressurised hypoxic chamber is now available to the likes of you and me, as said chambers begin to crop up in gyms nationwide.
The promise of burning 30% more calories is enough to get me through the door; but the threat of quite literally gasping for air is almost enough to make me walk right out again.
WHAT IS ALTITUDE TRAINING?
“Think of altitude training and you’ll probably picture an elite athlete heading off to the mountains to make the marginal gains that spell the difference between first and second place,” Sam Rees, a trainer here at the Altitude Centre, tells me.
“But actually, the benefits for the rest of us are far greater because we have significantly more room for improvement. When you complete a session at altitude, you reduce the amount of oxygen available to your muscles.”
Obviously, limited oxygen is rarely a good thing, so where’s the benefit?
HOW ALTITUDE TRAINING WORKS
“[The reduced oxygen] forces your muscles to become more efficient with the oxygen that is available to them so, when you’re back at sea level, they’ll work more efficiently, thereby enhancing your performance.”
And it isn’t just about performance. Research shows it can also aid weight loss and fat burning and reduce blood pressure, too. With a decent fitness level and healthy HIIT habit, I’m curious.
Classes take place at a simulated altitude of 2,700m. In oxygen terms, that’s a thrifty 15% of the air in the room, as opposed to the treat-yourself 20.9% at sea level. But, really, what difference can a measly 5.9% make?
It isn’t until I’m a few seconds into my first exercise – a one-minute squat challenge – that I comprehend for the first time the divine deliciousness of oxygen. It’s true what they say: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
Returning three times a week, I’m amazed by how quickly my muscles fatigue after each interval. During one session, I beg (read: whine like a toddler) for a longer rest between reps. And yet, I can feel my body adapting.
My resting heart rate is lower, while my spO2 readings are higher – meaning my body is able to maintain higher levels of oxygen in the blood. But, oh, the DOMS.
As my final session – and squat challenge – approaches, I’m not expecting a miracle. It’s only been two weeks. Nobody is more surprised than me when I manage 65 in 60 seconds – 16% more than the first time.
Perhaps the change I’m most excited about is the fact that I feel more alert and more active. I’m not about to turn hiker and head for the Himalayas just yet, but altitude training has certainly piqued my interest.
Trying to mix up your exercise style? Do this arms and abs workout or the body coach HIIT workout for a real burn.