Fudge, B. W., Spilsbury, K., Ingham, S. A., Pringle, S. A., Pringle, J. S., & Jones, A. M. (2011). Altitude training may improve subsequent endurance performance in elite runners. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43(5). Supplement abstract 787.

red line

This study evaluated if a three-week training period at moderate altitude improves the frequency and margin of personal best performances over an entire track and field season (typically May-September) in elite endurance runners (M = 8; F = 6). Ss trained for four weeks at altitude period prior to the 2010 track season. Athletes slept at 1851 m and trained for the majority of their sessions at 1800-2000 m, except for two sessions per week at a lower altitude (1537 m). A retrospective analysis was undertaken of race performances for the track and field seasons 2008-2010. The numbers of personal best performances for each season were collated.

In 2010, 24 personal best performances were recorded compared to 15 for 2008 and 16 for 20019. The overall improvements in performance were 0.8%, 0.9% and 1.4% in 2008, 2009, and 2010, respectively.

Implication. "Four weeks living and training at moderate altitude prior to the track and field season resulted in more personal best performances compared to the previous two years in a group of 14 elite endurance runners (equating to an improvement in performance of 1.4%). A limitation of the present investigation was that training load was not controlled, but given that the present athletes were highly trained, it may be expected that the rate of progression would be similar or gradually smaller for each subsequent year. This study therefore suggests that a tour week training period at altitude may be beneficial for subsequent endurance running performance."

This study does not have a control group and therefore is pre-experimental. Although assumed, it is too much of an imaginative stretch to assume conditions that affect performances were the same across the three competitive seasons. However, the greatest furphy in the authors' argument is that effects from a three-week pre-season exposure persist across a season of competitive running. Too many studies show that adaptation effects from altitude exposure are lost mostly within the first seven days of return to sea-level and certainly by 21 days.

This report is presented as an example of misleading interpretations that sometimes sneak into scientific settings and the literature.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.

red line