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5 Training Tips for High Altitude Trail Running

Altitude is the great equalizer.

By: Heather Balogh + Save to a List

You can be tall, short, athletic or overweight and still feel the crippling effects of the minimal oxygen. Fortunately, we have a few tips that will help during your high altitude trail runs.

Photo: @Twomillstones

1. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is a chronic problem at high altitudes. The increase in elevation means lower air pressure which automatically results in quicker evaporation of moisture from skin and lungs. To put this in perspective, you will lose twice as much moisture at 6,000 feet as you will while running at sea level.To combat this, runners need to drink more water while training at altitude. Additionally, be aware of dehydration signs in your body: nausea, headaches, and a lack of sweat are huge clues that it’s time for some more H20.

2. Run Conservatively

While running at higher elevations, it can often feel like you are missing a lung. It is much harder to breathe! Because of this, it is easy to fall into that anaerobic zone where you are gasping for air. Instead, start out running at significantly slower pace than usual. Once you have adjusted, you can gradually increase your speed.

Photo: Moe Lauchert

3. Get Some Sleep

We’ve all heard it before: sleep is what makes the human body function smoothly. This is even truer at high elevations. Running is exhausting at sea level, and that exhaustion is amplified when you’re exploring the trails at 8,000 feet. Moreover, people tend to have difficulty sleeping at altitude due to the increased breathing rate. Snag naps when you can and allot extra time to for sleep every night. Your body will thank you by recovering properly!

4. Control Your Breathing

We all know there is less oxygen at higher elevations. To compensate for this decrease in oxygen, runners should try to make every breath count by inhaling more deeply. This will allow more oxygen to enter the system with every gasp of air.

Additionally, some runners believe in a technique called “pressure breathing.” To do this, runners must purse their lips tightly while exhaling, forcing more carbon dioxide out of their lungs and thus, allowing more room for oxygen on the next inhale.

5. Manage Your Body

Above all, be aware of your body and its state at any given moment. Check in with your legs, your lungs and your head frequently. By evaluating your facilities early and often, you’ll be able to prevent any issues from rearing their ugly heads.

Photo: Matt Clark

Follow Heather on her site Just A Colorado Gal.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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