14th May 2010

Altitude Camp Blog

14 May 2010

By Dr Barry Fudge – EIS Senior Physiologist working with UK Athletics.

For the past few weeksI have been in Font-Romeu at an altitude training camp with 25 UKA endurance athletes. The 4 week camp which is based at 1850m above sea level in the French-Pyranees forms a major part of UKA’s endurance strategy and involves World Class Performance Programme, UKA ‘Futures’ funded athletes and coaches, as well as non-funded athletes who are aiming to break through the ranks.

My role at the camp is varied but it is essentially focussed on helping athletes get the best possible training adaptation from the 4 week camp which is ideally placed to prime the athletes for an intense block of training on their return to the UK prior to some key track meets during the upcoming summer track season.

Prior to the camp all athletes attended lab testing at the English Institute of Sport Performance Centre at Loughborough University, home also of UKA’s endurance squad and one of two UKA National Performance Centres. The testing gathered data on key physiological parameters such as their VO2 Max, running economy and lactate thresholds. From this information they were set training zones to ensure they are training at the optimal intensity in order to gain maximum benefit.

Whilst at the camp my day usually begins at around 8am with testing athlete’s urine for markers of dehydration followed by testing athlete’s blood for acid-base chemistry levels. If training at the lake or on the surrounding trails athletes set off at 8.30am or if training at the nearby track athletes set off at 9.30am for a 10am start. When at the session I monitor key physiological variables such as heart rate and blood lactate in a number of priority athletes to ensure they are training optimally.

After lunch I usually spend a few hours catching up with individual athletes in order to monitor how things are progressing at the camp, discuss strategies to optimise their altitude adaptation on their return to the UK and also to help plan their next phase of training.

At around 4.30pm athletes set off for their second session of the day which depending on the training plan can be a run on the local trails or on the track.

On their return to the UK and following a block of training at sea level athletes will attend a second lab test at the EIS in Loughborough that will monitor progression in key physiological variables and set new training zones for their next training phase.

The UKA endurance strategy of strategically placing altitude camps throughout the training year is a major part of a dynamic and precise model for optimal endurance performance which has been made possible with additional funding from the London Marathon.

The positive energy and determination from all the athletes and coaches at the present camp to succeed now and in the future is outstanding. They are no doubt laying the foundations for the weeks, months and years to come that will pave the way to big success for British endurance running once again.