Stray-Gundersen, J., Chapman, R. F., & Levine, B. D. (2001). "Living high-training low" altitude training improves sea level performance in male and female elite runners. Journal of Applied Physiology, 91, 1113-1120.

Elite runners (M = 14; F = 8) lived at 2,500 m and trained at 1,250 m for 27 days.

Sea level 3,000 m time improved by 1.1%, with one-third of Ss achieving personal best times after the "live high-train low" experience. VO2max improved by 3%. Erythropoietin (EPO) levels doubled within 20 hours of ascent. Hemoglobin increased over the course of the camp.

[It should be noted that there is no control group in this study. The "special" camp itself could have provided greater opportunities to recover and train harder, which easily could have stimulated improved performances. Because of the lack of control of confounding factors that could have affected performance in a positive manner, it is not reasonable to assert the "live high-train low" experience was the cause, no matter how seductive that thought might be.

If EPO was the cause of performance increase and since it adjusted almost immediately, there would be no need for a camp. A one-day exposure to 2,500 m living is all that would be needed to cause performance increases.

If a 3% increase in VO2max was the cause of performance increase, that would be contrary to previously published works that have shown increases in VO2max are and are not associated with performance improvement, particularly in elite athletes.

The times for comparison were a time trial one day before the camp in normobaric conditons. The camp was three weeks after the NCAA championship performances and one week after the USA Track and Field Championships. The second assessment was at the same location three days after the camp. It is possible most Ss were in "let-down" phases after the significant competitions before the start of the camp, and that the camp produced a return to higher quality and more concentrated work, a situation that should cause performance improvements.

Performance improvements are most likely to occur when there is at least one training effect. It is possible that the altitude camp conditions provided greater amounts of rest, which improved the benefits from training. It is possible the individualized training programs determined by the coach and experimenters produced a better quality of training that was responsible for the observed improvements. Other uncontrolled factors might be; improved or changed diets, a reduction in normal low-altitude life stresses, and a social atmosphere (social facilitation) that was better than normal. These are a few of the uncontrolled factors that are more directly associated with improved performances but were not controlled in this, and like studies.]

Implication. A special "live high-train low" camp experience was associated with improved performances in elite runners. However, to attribute performance changes to the altitude aspects of the camp, without considering other possible factors that could just have easily produced performance changes, is dangerous.

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