My legs and lungs burn when I'm pedaling. The cycle interval is only 10 seconds, but it feels like the clock is moving in slow motion. Coach Mauricio Andrade stands in front of me and offers support that is motivating but firm. There is no chance he will slow me or ease me.
When he finally calls the time and I leave my cadence, I look at the prospect of snow-capped peaks. This and the thin air have temporarily taken me to a location like Leadville, Colorado or Cusco, Peru, at a height of about 10,000 feet.
But once I am compassionate with my two laps of ten intense laps I will periodically step outside, breathe deeply and get back in my car to drive to my apartment on the north side of Chicago. This mountain view? It is a wall-sized decal.
I am working this morning in the high-altitude Well-Fit Performance room , a training center for many triathletes and other endurance athletes in the city, alongside endless pools, strength and function training equipment, and a full line of treadmills and bike trainers, Well-Fit has now installed one of the country's few altitude chambers and the first in the region.  The plant's expensive compressors basically suck in the oxygen from the air and simulate what I would experience if I wandered around Machu Picchu or with the Leadville 100-miler on the way, two other women near me, her do my own training on Woodway treadmills, and if I get enough air to talk to them afterwards, I'll learn them. I train for one Hike in Kathmandu.
When I visit the R Periodically – twice a week for two to four weeks – my racing times may go down and my fitness level can reach new heights, says Well-Fit owner and head coach Sharone Aharon. "Training at altitude and at high intensity has a huge advantage," he says. "When I say one sentence, you train less and you win more."
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Why Athletes Train at Height
For decades, elite long-distance athletes have gone to mountain for high-altitude training. Since there is less oxygen in the air at the beginning and the atmospheric pressure gets into the athletes' veins, the body reacts by increasing the formation of red blood cells. The effect is temporary, so you need to set it right in time. However, when moving back to sea level competition, these adjustments provide the hard-working muscles with increased oxygenation to drive any contraction.
The problem is that sweating in thinner air is not only difficult for mortals Marathon champions like Shalane Flanagan are also challenged. At higher altitudes you just can not kick or run so hard. Therefore, athletes need to find other ways to push their bodies to the limits, says Andrew Subudhi, professor and chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, who has studied the implications extensively.
That's why a protocol called "Live High, Train Low" was developed. Athletes often sleep in the mountains and then dismount to provide hard training. Or spaces like Well-Fit are sometimes used in reverse to simulate lower altitudes. This increases the oxygen in the air so that athletes can take advantage of the height of their blood and still move faster. In fact, this is the main purpose of a similar chamber in the US Olympic Training facility, also in Colorado Springs, says Subudhi.
Those of us who are close to sea level and have no budget for an altitude camp need to adopt a different approach, such as intermittent hypoxic training (also known as low-oxygen training). This means you do most of the workouts in normal air, but go "higher" for short, really hard efforts. And that's why rooms like the ones at Well-Fit are designed: "We have brought the everyday life up," says Aharon.
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What Science Tells
Scientific research has shown support for such training plans. In one study, runners who completed two difficult weekly sessions in a low-oxygen chamber for six weeks improved the time in which they could walk at a comfortable high speed by 35%, while those in normal air the same type of Speed work done, no result showed improvements. In another case, after four weeks of training in the air, cyclists were able to do several 100-meter jumps, which was an improved ability to do repeated work, which Aharon called "more matches to burn".
Interestingly, simulated altitude does not seem to work the same way as the real deal. Most low-oxygen chambers, including Well-Fit, dilute the air but do not change the air pressure. Athletes in these studies did not show any changes in the blood cell count of the red blood cells, which means that the training works in a different way that scientists are still trying to solve.
"Some speculation suggests that the efficiency of your training may change. The body uses oxygen, or maybe it just changes how the nervous system drives muscles, regardless of oxygen," says Subudhi. And then there is a perception that really affects your performance. In other words, if you think that walking or cycling is a bit faster or longer, this could easily be the case.
No matter what the mechanism, Aharon says he personally experienced the benefits. During a half Ironman – a triathlon with a 1.2-mile lap, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile track – his last 10 miles on the bike were the fastest. Overall, he was not as well-trained as he would have liked, he says, but he believes that his twice-weekly high-level sessions provided the extra boost: "I can see that I too can ride with my friends, and suddenly they leave I do not fall as usual. "
Many other well-fit athletes have noted similar improvements I've run personal bests and triathlons that have expired 45 minutes after the end of their time There are people traveling to higher levels Preparing for summits like these trekkers that I've met in. Capturing a fixed time on simulated versions of the target height can help shorten the acclimatization time when they arrive there.
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Scientists do not do this 100% agree on the benefits of these protocols, including training in the actual height, emphasizes Subudhi. The evidence for intermittent hypoxic training is interesting, but it can be clouded by the so-called publication bias – the fact that a study that did not work on these methods was unlikely to be published. This can distract a whole range of research results in the direction of the positive, even if a tool or a technique may not be suitable for everyone.
Apart from the cost ($ 230 per month, $ 250 for a 10-visit punch pass or $ 10), there is only a small downside of $ 30 for a well-fit day pass) Risk of feeling dizzy (in which case you should withdraw and get out). You can minimize those chances if you engage in training and stay at heights below 12,000 feet, says Subudhi.
For a recreational athlete with an ambitious goal – in my case another qualifying session for the Boston Marathon – in which you deregister some training sessions In faux height just might be worth a shot. "As you train and get better, you have to put different loads on your body," says Subudhi. "You can always do that the same thing always does the same thing. This is something new and different, and it's a bit stressier for your body, so it can help people get on harder.
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