11 July 2012

Exercising at Higher Elevation


We are approaching a 2-week trip to the West Coast and Yellowstone National Park, and I'm looking forward to fresh wild Salmon from Pike Place Market in Seattle and trail hikes at YNP in Wyoming.  Fortunately, running and yoga are two activities that are easily portable, although we do need to compensate for higher elevation at Yellowstone.  

Cleveland has an average elevation of 700ft, Seattle ~ 500ft (unless you’re at the shore, sea level) and Yellowstone averages 5,000ft.  At higher altitudes, Oxygen is thinner and someone coming from lower altitudes will experience faster breathing and a faster heart rate when exercising to pump sufficient oxygen through the body.   

It takes a few days for blood volume to decrease and a body to acclimate, but even longer before performance levels will be regained.  After several weeks, heart rate and exertion level will be near normal but speed won’t have caught up yet.  That just takes time.

To avoid altitude illness, which can occur above 2500 ft. and is exasperated with exertion, a diet high in carbohydrates, low in salt and high in non-alcoholic fluids will aid in adapting.  It’s recommended to:
  • wait a couple of days upon arrival to let the body adjust before exercising (especially outdoors), 
  • take it slow when you start, 
  • know the signs of altitude illness (headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue) and 
  • bring a buddy in case you do have issues.