Anyone that has travelled to high altitude mountains or looked into it will know the challenge of high elevation. When I talk about high elevation, I’m referring to anything over 11,000 feet above sea level.

Like many people that desire to travel to these places, I live at sea level, which makes training even more challenging. People say that the air is thin up there and it really is. I remember the first time I went to Colorado and  got out of breath when jogging along a flat surface in Gunnison (which is around 7,500 feet above sea level). It’s crazy the effect it has on you and if you’re heading up there, you need to prepare well.

I’ve done a lot of travelling to some extreme and remote places and there is no where that I’ve been that requires the prep and training like high elevation. I don’t have a regimented training program for my preparation and am no PT, so this is just some of my thoughts on what’s important when you’re training for high elevation. Each person’s ability, fitness level and mental determination is different, but I hope that a few keys that I have in this blog will help someone on their way to prepping to get up those big hills! 🙂

Hydration

It might seem like a trivial and simple thing, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook it. Experts say we should be consuming around 2L of water per day in day to day life in a temperate climate (more in hot climates). Before a high elevation trip, I like to hydrate even more. I’ll be drinking between 3-4L of water a day.

I also take a supplement called Acli-mate. I’ve found this to be a really useful hydration tool. It renews electrolytes in your body. I take one sachet of Acli-mate per day for around 10 days before a trip.

Diet

We try and eat healthily anyway, eating a lot of fruit and veg, cooking all our meals from scratch and knowing where our food comes from. In the lead up to a big trip I’ll always ramp up my diet.

For the last 6 weeks of my prep for this trip, I was having a smoothie for breakfast (not just fruit, including some veggies so it wasn’t a sugar overload), salad for lunch and then a low carb, high protein cooked meal for dinner.

I was doing a lot of exercise as well, so it’s important to give your body good sustenance when you’re exerting yourself.

Exercise

My final key is exercise. I don’t think that there’s a perfect exercise regime and it’ll differ from person to person. What I’ve found though, is the fitter you are the more you’ll enjoy the trip. I also haven’t found fitness to affect how I cope with high elevation either. Fo rme personally, I find that hydration affects me more. That said, it’s very important to be as fit as you can be. The mountains are steep and the air is thin, the lower your heart rate and the slower your breathing, the better.

If you live at sea level, this is even more critical. I live at sea level in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When I have gone on these trips without being at the top of my fitness game, I’ve not enjoyed the trip as much.

Also, I train in the gear I’ll be wearing on the trip. I do a lot of hiking with the boots I’ll be wearing. I wear the backpack I’ll be using for the trip. This is very important. You need to know your gear and you need to make sure it works and that your body is used to it. So many people use different gear to train in compared to what they wear on the mountain and then when they get to the mountain, they have problems.