Sport at 1,800 metres
The inspiration for Moving Mountains comes from the breath-taking natural scenery that surrounds our hotels. Whether as a source of divine inspiration, as a formidable physical challenge or as a refuge in times of strife; through the ages mountains have filled us with a sense of awe and wonder. But what effect do they have on our bodies? Altitude can be powerful and is not to be underestimated. We promote movement and play as two key pillars of the Moving Mountains program and we thought it would be interesting to look at bit more closely at this topic. What we have discovered is that if you are going to be active well above sea level, you should be thoroughly prepared…
It turns out that being prepared means that altitude can become your friend and training aid. Why?
When you’re hiking or ski touring at altitude, it’s not just the incline that’s making you puff. Other factors are working against you. The higher we go, the lower the air pressure. The knock-on effect of this is a decrease in oxygen in the blood. In turn that means less oxygen for the muscles, which is exactly why the body starts producing more red blood cells at altitude, making you quickly feel tired and weak. Doing sport at altitude thus takes more out of our bodies. We get out of breath sooner and our heart rate increases at a quicker rate.
If you otherwise have no problem jogging for an hour several times a week, this hour at altitude may well come to an end after just 15 minutes. At an altitude of around 1800 metres, it takes somewhere between 2 to 4 days for the body to acclimatise and produce sufficient red blood cells for enough oxygen to actually reach the muscles. In these first few days, you should take it easy because the body is acclimatising and getting used to the changes taking place. If you do sport during this stage, it’s critical you make sure you have plenty to drink and take regular breaks to let your heart rate rest. There is a rule of thumb that says for every 1000 metres of altitude you climb, you should drink an extra litre of water. Even if you feel great and are bursting with energy, you should not be doing really strenuous exercise for the first 48 hours as you need to give your body time to adjust to the new surroundings and conditions.
The advice is simple: go slow, don’t panic if you start to feel tried more quickly than normal, don’t take risks and push yourself too hard and ultimately treat altitude with respect. The mountains that surround us give strength and inspiration, providing we are well prepared.