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Learn to Run in Higher Altitudes

Running is one of my personal methods to reducing everyday stress in my life, also some necessary extra calories.  So when Genki Husband announced (after we discussed it for a while) he was going to in fact accept a new position out here in California, USA, I had instant imagines of myself running daily and instantly getting toned.  Reality hit my first step out into the sunshine, Saucony running shoes laced up and the cutest running gear I had brought along for the drive over to this coast.  Bouncing along the first few steps, delightedly thinking of how this was my first California run outside and the first few steps into my perfectly fit body.  Then it hit me like a ton of rocks, the pressure on my lungs, gasping for air and my body hitting the dreaded wall as if I were running the 20th mile in a marathon.

So how did I go from logging miles upon miles in Indiana to feeling as though I were having a heart-attack in California?  Altitude!  Who would have thought it would have changed my entire lung capacity?!  Our previous city of South Bend, Indiana sits at an elevation of 692’ while our extended stay condo was positioned in the Tehachapi Mountains at 4,000’.  A difference of 3,308’ really did make a difference in my performance and my everyday body functioning.  Some people greatly suffer in higher altitudes due to what is called Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).  There are also more major illnesses called HAPE and HACE, you can read about it here.  Even the most fit professional athletes can have severe issues with drastic altitude changes, it depends on your body.

There are some specific signs you might be suffering from AMS such as:

  1. Nausea
  2. Constant Headaches
  3. Troubled Breathing
  4. Dizziness
  5. Lack of ability to sleep

In my case, we moved our entire family up into the extended stay condo and then traveled down the mountains to look for houses every weekend.  Genki Husband did not have such an issue since he was going to work daily (down the mountain) during the week.  He ran two times in the last two months but due to the lack of extra oxygen, he even found it hard to run longer miles.  Running in the mountains was terribly hard when suffering from all of the above in the list.  Near the end I was able to run up to about 2 miles at a time.

Here’s a few tricks to acclimating to higher altitudes:

  1. It takes close at least 1-2 months to train your body to a new altitude for running.  It took me about 2 weeks to walk the pup a mile, normally we walked 3 a day.
  2. Reduce the duration and intensity, gradually increase as the body acclimates. (The body creates more blood cells, thus your body will be working harder.)
  3. Switch between running and walking during an outing.  This helps build your lungs but still keeps you active.
  4. Switch to walking in the beginning completely, again to build up resistance to the altitude difference.
  5. Drink lots of water.  This helps with the nausea and dizziness.
  6. Sleep on a schedule, getting the amble amount of sleep is essential to keeping your body healthy.
  7. Eat healthy foods, helps to reduce any other hinderances from preventing your body to be trained to work efficiently.

Now we have moved into our house in the high desert so the altitude is lower 2,359′, still a big difference from Indiana but workable.  Yesterday Genki Husband and I went out and did a 2 mile run among the Joshua trees and Jackrabbits.  It’s a whole new world and I hope to bring you long.