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Why the Pros Train at Altitude

If you follow professional runners on Instagram (yep, that’s us), you might notice a strange migratory effect occurring at various points throughout the year. Photos feature mountain vistas, and, for athletes who train in the United State, places like Colorado Springs, Flagstaff, and Albuquerque. What these cities have in common is that they are all over 5,000 ft. above sea level. At a very basic level, as you go higher and higher above sea level, the less available oxygen there is in the air. So when you’re breathing hard while running, there’s less oxygen getting to your muscles at high altitude than there is at sea level.

In order to make up for that lack, your body creates more red blood cells in order to beef up the system that delivers the oxygen to your cells. This natural process to increase in red blood cell production is what banned substances such as EPO try to recreate.