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5 benefits of altitude for training and health

August 27, 2021 in ATHLETES, General, HEALTH, P:REHAB

Altitude exposure and physical activity became a popular concept with the believe that exercising at such environment helps to increase performance. Let’s breakdown the benefits to use altitude for training, increase performance and the last but not least health.

1. Gas exchange efficiency

The true quiz of the whole question lies in the air we breath. The truth is that at altitude there is no less O2. Air distribution is almost the same in the atmosphere about  78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. What does really happen is that the barometric pressure decreases as we stand on higher ground. Despite having the same gas distribution barometric pressure decreases with altitude and so does oxygen (O2) partial pressure.
What our body reads and adapts to is that the gas exchange function is challenged because of decreased barometric pressure and decreased O2 partial pressure.

Chart. PpO2 percentage decrease by altitude

All the physiologic processes and pathways inolved with gas exchange and its distribution that take place in the lungs. Those try to perform at its maximal capabilities using all posible resources but are unable to provide their complete function due to external factors.
This environment implies a cascade of physiological reactions and adaptations in order to maintain normal function and demands. These responses can induce specific adaptations that will allow to increase gas exchange dynamics and function overcoming the stress even under a challenging environment as is hypoxia.

2. Cardiac and ventilatory output

Turns out that this O2 deficit, detected by specific sensors on the circulatory system, implies a physiological challenge to wich respiratoy and cardiovascular systems reacts with different actue adaptations. Both, above all, will try to supply the demand (lack of O2 due to beforementioned gas exchange) induced by altitude and exacerbated by exercise.
Those acute effects will involve increased ventilation and breathing rate, increased heart rate and therefore increased blood flow. The reaction is simple, the system tries to provide supply faster, something that will work under normoxic enivoments and normal conditions, although gas exchange is not at its full potential. Long story short, increased cardiac load without increased efficiency. This scenarios applies indistincly to altitude exposure or exercising under such environment, until certain physiological adaptations are met.

3. Intensity thresholds

Due to altitude gas exchange environment conditions and our physiological acute adaptations to altitude a metabolic energy shift will take place.
Hypoxic environments will involve a metabolic shift and increaseing systemic intensity to a relative load compared to normoxia. Upon such environment intensity thresholds will move down in our metabolic profiles allowing us to push and stimulate certain higher pathways and biological process in a more accessible way allowing to push our bodies to maximized stress.
As higher you go and with more intensity you exercise closer you get to your physiological limits, intrinescally this translates to maximal aerobic potential and dynamism but higer grade of anaerobic participation as soon as aerobic pathways can not provide maximal efficency which they will not.

4. Altitude adaptations

Altitude offers a wide range of adaptations based on exposure and well to exercise at this environements:
+ It improves aerobic metabolism by enhancing energy efficiency and dynamism.
+ It improves the cardiovascular system mechanics.
+ It improves blood profiles.
+ It improves anaerobic metabolism.
+ It improves hormonal response and sensivity.
+ It improves function and physiologic performance.

5. Progression

Altitude is a resoursful tool to develop adaptations and biological profiles for athletic or health goals alike.
Altitude exposure can be natural or artificial. Artificial altitude or hypoxia is through hypobaric chambers, expensive and complex equipment. Altitude training devices that change air distribution simulating hypoxic environments reducing the overall percentage of O2 do not change gas partial pressure. Therefore altitude simulation per se its not the same althoguh some advantages can be driven from their use.

Different strategies to benefit from altitude are used (Train low-live high, Train high – live low,…) however the most important principle towards altiude adaptation is acclimatization wich involves temporary exposure to altitude and return to the previous altitude point within a time window matching hormonal and biological timings and behaviors.

About the author:
Albert Piñol – MSc in Physical Activity and Sports Science, MSc in Exercise Physiology, MAT Certified, DHE Snowboard Coach, DE Mountain Guide and Mountain Bike Coach. Specialized in exercise physiology, hypoxia, neuromuscular system and motor skill development. IG: @albert_pinol

5 tools to get the most out of your heart rate

July 27, 2021 in ATHLETES, General, HEALTH, P:REHAB

When exercise is prescribed, if it is for either performance or health purposes, its given with different details and structures about how to do that task. The importance of its intensity is fundamental and the information is crucial to actually reach the exercise goals and most importantly its benefits. Here are 4 points to get the most out of your heart rate.

1. Heart Rate

Heart rate has become a popular and well know biomarker over the years to target exercise intensity. Although nowadays it might have been overshadowed in sport performance by mechanical markers, specially by endurance sport tech trends, it is a powerful tool to measure exercise intensity.
Heart rate is a dynamic adaptable continuum dependant of metabolism demand, highly effected by muscle requirements and its demands, in synergy with the respiratory system. Heart rate is measured in beats per minute (bpm) and it rises as demand increases.
Heart rate is limited by multiple factors heart pump capacity, cardiovascular conditions, breathing physiology efficiency and the energy demand to supply. Its functional capacity generally decreases with sedentarism, aging, stress and the maturity of the nervous system regulations which affect our life sustaining systems.
An estimate of your maximum heart rate can be withdrawn out of:

Maximal Heart Rate (HRmax) = 220 – age

What is important for you to know is that your heart rate range is composed by a large variety of benefits. Going at your maximal ain’t necessary, nor safe without a proper training adaptation and tolerance.
F
or this reason different exercise intensities ,light, moderate or sever, correspond to a percentage grading out of your maximal heart rate, ex.: 45% of HRmax, 70% of HRmax, 88% of HRmax.

Example for a 35 year old person:
Maximal Heart Rate (HRmax) = 220 – 35 = 185 bpm
45% of HRmax = 185 * 0.45 = 83 bpm
88% of HRmax = 88 * 0.88 = 163 bpm

Targeting the right intensity is fundamental, less or to much intensity might not trigger what is meant to, leading the work effort and time towards another end, even increasing stress and injury risk. It is important to note that intensity in biological structures and systems does not always respond to linear responses and each one of us reacts differently to exercise bouts.

2. Heart rate reserve (HRR)

Heart rate reserve or HRR is a very interesting and more precise way to target your response and exercise intensity range. It differs from regular Heart Rate because its counts your rest base line and cardiovascular adaptations.
Your HRR is the difference between your resting heart rate and your maximal. This two limits set up a precise range or heart rate drift which define the adaptable continuum depending on activity intensity and its metabolic demand. HRR is usually expressed in percentage although it can be read by bpm¡ too. Here is an example:

Resting HR: 55 bpm = 0%HRR
Maximal HR: 185 bpm = 100%HRR
HRR drift: 130 bpm
45% of HRR = 114 bpm
88% of HRR = 169 bpm

3. How to measure your heart rate

Generally, to figure out whether you are exercising within the target heart rate zone, you must briefly stop exercising to take your pulse unless you use a heart rate monitor device which directly reads you heart rate and provides you instant feedback by bpm, HR% or HRR%. You can take your pulse at your neck, wrist, or chest. From the side of your neck, just under your jaw your neck, you can feel the artery pulse. Place the tips of the index and middle fingers over the artery and press lightly. Take a 30 seconds count of the heartbeats and multiply by 2.

4. Ratio of perceived Exertion (RPE)

Heart rate is a very useful and precise tool for sports training and health-fitness alike. But it requires from an investment on wearables and gear. The Ratio of Perceived Exertion or RPE is a subjective qualitative tool to measure your intensity, not only guessing out of your maximum (known or unknown), also by physiological markers. Where breathing and speaking can help to precisely measure exercise bout intensity.
Despite its initial reluctance, it end up being that scientific literature found out and supports strong correlations between measured intensity and RPE scales.
RPE is a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is null or rest and 10 is sever response due to exercise intensity and demand, here is  your guide throughout physiology and speaking markers:

5. Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Heart rate variability or HRV is a powerful tool that uses heart rate, specifically recording beat to beat, to process its data over a period of time. It allows to read further and deep details about ,not only about individual response to exercise, as well to how your nervous system is reacting and adapting to certain stressors, conditions, adaptations and even into clinical settings and diagnosis. HRV is a powerful complex tool.
However, HRV is hard to read on the go, it needs a bunch of data for posterior insightful readings versus HR, HRR and RPE markers, which ones can be used and provide feedback straight away.
HRV tracking plays a big role on tracking fatigue, adaptations and optimal timings to optimize health and performance.

 

* Cover photo for divulgation purposes. No copyrights intended.

About the author:
Albert Piñol – MSc in Physical Activity and Sports Science, MSc in Exercise Physiology, MAT Certified, DHE Snowboard Coach, DE Mountain Guide and Mountain Bike Coach. Specialized in exercise physiology, hypoxia, neuromuscular system and motor skill development. IG: @albert_pinol

4 things you have to know about resistance training.

May 25, 2021 in ATHLETES, General, HEALTH, P:REHAB

When exercise is prescribed, if it is for either performance or health purposes, its given with different repetitions and details structures about how to do that task or exercise. The importance of resistance training is fundamental and the information is crucial to actually reach the exercise goals and most importantly its benefits. Here are 4 things you have to know to attain your goals when exercising.

1. Intensity matters

Physical exercise is a task or an activity deliberately planned, structured and repetitive that seeks to improve or maintain an adaptation contributing to enhance performance or health.
Physical exercise provides the building block for the fitness spectrum and Strength & Conditioning profile, which are ultimately applied to performance and functional capacity in a variety of scenarios as prevention, health and athletics.
However in order to fulfill physical exercise goals certain conditions prevail. Exercise is completely dependant to each individual condition, functional capacity, physiological response and tolerance to exercise. Therefore EXERCISE WILL ALWAYS BE INTENSITY DEPENDANT. Less intensity might no trigger what is mean to, leading the work toward another end meanwhile too much can lead the work toward another end, increase stress and injury risk.

Exercise intensity will condition the dynamic response of biological function and therefore the adaptations targeted. It is important to note that intensity in biological structures and systems does not respond to linear pathways. Intensity does apply to all fitness spectrum pillars ( Balance, Strength, Metabolism, Endurance and Recovery) as the exercise prescribed within every each one of them targets physiological and biological functions.

2. Reps vs RM

As seen, repetition is an inherent and fundamental factor in the exercise or training prescription.
Reps are reps. Its a quantitative repetition detail of the exercise or training prescription. On the other hand, RM or Maximal Repetitions stands for quantitative and qualitative repetitions providing the information of a detailed intensity framework adding or adapting the resistance to complete the number or reps targeted. This exercise or training prescription details prevail intensity thresholds, which is the most individual important marker to target the exercise outcome. RM aims to prevail the intensity as the final end whereas the means can be variable to maintain the final goal.

Reps are reps, but the demand needed to achieve whatever is set will be be different. Lets explain with an example, your physiological response will not be the same if you do 3x10reps of Air Squats Vs. 3x10RM Front squat. Mechanically the exercises are the same. the demand and stress are completely different as the workload to provide the muscle contraction needed to complete 3x10RM Front Squad is increased.

Does this mean that reps in scopes of the Balance, Strength, Metabolism, Endurance and Recovery are useless? ABSOLUTELY NO. But you should be aware of what intensity, whatever exercise it is you do, represent for you.

3. Timing

Timing is another qualitative feature that modulates exercise intensity and therefore the final demand.
Timing adds up information of how to do what you have to do. Timing in resistance training can involve  information about how long you do each exercise and/or how each rep will be timed during the execution of  each phase of movement. Its not the same doing 3x30sec, 3x30sec t414s than 3x10RM t414s Front Squats. For example, t414 will be an example of slow rep execution.

4. Rest

Rest is another qualitative feature that can modulate exercise intensity increasing or reducing the span of an in-set and in-session exercise bout demand. This feature is important to help to line up targeted goals having large impact on rest.

About the author:
Albert Piñol – MSc in Physical Activity and Sports Science, MSc in Exercise Physiology, MAT Certified, DHE Snowboard Coach, DE Mountain Guide and Mountain Bike Coach. Specialized in exercise physiology, hypoxia, neuromuscular system and motor skill development. IG: @albert_pinol