Hypoxic (low oxygen) training has been utilized in swimming workouts for years. Those of you familiar with swimming know that sets of controlled breathing by 25 yards are very common. An example of such a set is breathing every 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th stroke. By the time the swimmer is on the last 25, oxygen is definitely at a premium and the swimmer must focus on high stroke economy, while relaxing in order to make the breathing pattern.
A second common hypoxic set in swimming is repeat sets of 25 (or more) yards of underwater swimming. Swimmers develop the ability to swim longer and longer distances underwater, dealing with oxygen deprivation for extended periods of time.
A third example of hypoxic training for swimming is utilizing a snorkel. The snorkels used in swimming are designed to sit in front of the face and come with reducer valves to further restrict the oxygen flow.
These workouts and tools are designed for swimmers to teach their bodies to deal with oxygen deprivation. Oxygen deprivation is exactly what occurs at altitude. There have been recent studies on the effects of hypoxic breathing to simulate altitude training for swimmers. The results of the studies have been quite revealing. More on those results in the next blog.
Researchers at Abarr Institute have taken the hypoxic format of training from swimming and are applying it to cycling, with very interesting results. Dr. Resignis and Dr. Sille are the lead researchers.
Instead of using the snorkel designed for swimming workouts, researchers are using the snorkels designed for scuba diving because they do not obstruct front vision. Snorkels have a helmet attachment to keep them upright. Cyclists use a nose plug to eliminate any nose-breathing.
The experiment has cyclists doing two workouts per week with the snorkel. The entire workout is done wearing the snorkel, which appears to yield faster results than found with the swimming experiments where swimmers wear the snorkel for only a small portion of a workout.
Workout number one was a steady 20 minutes at lactate threshold power and this workout remained constant throughout the 12-week experiment. Cyclists were allowed unrestricted snorkel breathing, or no reducer valves. Workout number two was a series of hill repeats, on a hill taking three minutes to climb. Week one began with 21 minutes of accumulated hill work.
Two changes were made for the second workout during the experiment. Each week, one more hill repeat was added to total 57 minutes of high intensity work by the end of week 12. Additionally, athletic tape was utilized to restrict breathing flow during this second workout. For the first week, the snorkel diameter was reduced only slightly. As each week progressed, the diameter was reduced more, to further restrict oxygen. Diameter reduction was calibrated to simulate altitude increases. By the end of the 12 weeks, cyclists were breathing air through the snorkel equivalent to working out at 12,000 feet.
Dr. Resignis plans to release the data in the near future, but commented that the snorkel and calibrated reducer could give cyclists an affordable alternative to the very expensive altitude tents now being sold.
Dr. Sille is working on an adaptor to make the snorkel more comfortable for running. The running experiment is in progress now, so results of that experiment are not available.
Both researchers commented that the results of this test will completely revolutionize altitude training, giving endurance athletes a safer way to boost red blood cell count without taking dangerous drugs, sleeping in expensive altitude tents or relocating to high altitude cities.