Altitude

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|   Altitude Adaptation   

Paul’s altitude preparation for Everest 2015 involved sleeping in an Altitude Tent for 3 months to accumulate 500 hours in high altitude conditions at an average of 8 hours a night up to altitudes of 6000m. Paul self-monitored progress daily using a pulse oximeter to ensure SaO2 & Heart Rates were acceptable, and adjusted the altitude profile depending on his evaluation of training performance and general wellbeing throughout the 3-month period from Jan-March 2015.

Paul’s altitude preparation for Everest 2014 included spending 2000 hours in simulated altitude at the National Altitude Training Centre from July 2013 to March 2014 under the specialist eye of Rachel Turner. The University of Limerick based facility is the only residential altitude training centre in Ireland and UK, providing elite sports people simulated altitude conditions while also availing of the world-class sports facilities on campus at UL. Paul spent an average of 14-16 hours per day living in simulated altitude created by the filtering of air entering the house and the dumping overboard of most of the oxygen until the mix of oxygen-nitrogen is equivalent to the desired altitude.

Altitude Training was introduced in Jan 2014 at the ‘Delta Sports Dome’ Altitude Gym in Limerick. Paul trained at altitude twice-weekly using a customised program developed and overseen by Rachel Turner, involving cardio sessions with and without the backpack, usually interval-structured to heighten heart rate and test his capabilities in sustaining blood oxygen levels while undergoing high physical demand at altitudes up to 4000m. 

|   Testing / Assessment   

For Everest 2014, Paul undertook a number of scientific tests under the direction of Rachel Turner, and in association with the Physical Education and Sports Science (PESS) Department at University of Limerick. This helped to validate his physical preparation for Everest. A team of experts at UL headed by Rachel helped Paul to best understand how data derived from a range of tests can help to inform and validate his training including the following tests:

  1. Daily SaO2, Hydration and Heart Rate monitoring
  2. DXA Body Composition Scans every 3 months 
  3. Blood Tests every 6 weeks
  4. VO2max ‘Bruce Protocol’ Testing
|   Altitude and Everest   

The summit of Everest at 29,035ft / 8848m sits within the jet stream in a zone of significantly thin air. When your body is exposed to thin air, it compensates for reduced oxygen levels by increasing the bloods oxygen-carrying capacity, as well as its ability to use that oxygen. By living in the Altitude House and training at an Altitude Gym, Paul was forced to adapt his body to the thin air environment as follows…

  • Increasing natural hormone erythropoietin production, which in turn increases red blood cell mass for delivering oxygen to muscle cells and converting it into energy, thus boosting total blood volume to move oxygen more efficiently through my bloodstream.
  • An increase in V02 max (the maximum amount of oxygen the body can convert to work) giving me more stamina for the long haul.
  • Cranking-up hematocrit levels to provide a greater percentage of cells carrying oxygen.
  • Elevating capillary volume, creating more blood pathways to muscle cells for improved muscle oxygenation.
  • Increasing the volume of mitochondria – the powerhouses in cells that help the body turn oxygen into energy.
  • Increasing the lungs’ ability to exchange gases efficiently – so that for every breath taken, more oxygen gets into the bloodstream.

These changes result in greater aerobic capacity (VO2 max), greater anaerobic capacity (the body’s ability for explosive performance) and improved endurance – meaning faster speeds at a given exertion level. The aim of living and training in simulated altitude conditions was to improve adaptation to all of the above.

|   Altitude Training Images   
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