Johannesburg has an altitude of 1753 meters or 6000 feet, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannesburg . Professional athletes need at least a week to acclimatise to this altitude before competing and is something that is considered by all coaches irrespective of the sport. This shows the seriousness that altitude has on athletic performance.
Making sense of it…
In a nut shell, the higher the altitude the less the oxygen in the atmosphere. Typically coastal cities range between 20 – 21% in oxygen levels while areas like Johannesburg can range between 18 -19%. Climatic conditions as well as pollution also play a factor and in most cases can be worse than these ranges. Now a 2% change in oxygen levels might not sound like a lot, but as a percentage it is about a 10% deficit to anyone moving from a coastal region.
Oxygen together with glucose results in the formation of ATP, the body’s primary source of energy. By reducing oxygen levels by, let’s say 10%, ATP production is limited resulting in less than optimum performance. This illustrates the importance of oxygen for energy production.
How does it feel…?
The symptoms of competing at altitude varies per individual, however these are the common ones. Ever notice from early on into a match, your breathing becomes heavier, there’s a feeling of being light headed, sometimes even needing a time out to catch your breath. Your mind can’t comprehend the lack of ”oomph’’ in your performance, as the previous week you performed strongly in your training sessions at ”home’’. If you have experienced this, even after having gone through a consistent training regime before such a match, congratulations, you know what it’s like to compete at high altitude with low oxygen levels.
Who does it affect…?
Athletes living in a coastal region and competing in Johannesburg
For those moving from any coastal region to compete in JHB, the unfortunate reality is that you are moving from oxygen rich levels i.e. coastal cities (20%-21%) to lower oxygen levels (18%-19%), which can result in less than optimum performance levels. Even with a week of acclimatisation the feeling of fatigue and breathlessness becomes more evident in high intensity sports such as Crossfit, Strongman, Powerlifting, Cycling, Ironman, Squash etc.
Challenge: Low oxygen levels at higher altitudes
Solution:Oxygen Loading – simulating an oxygen rich environment where training was completed.
Athletes living and competing in Johannesburg
Studies have shown that training at high altitudes and competing at sea level has great performance benefits i.e. moving from a low oxygen environment to a high oxygen environment. Living and training in JHB has its advantages IF you going to compete at lower altitudes. If however you will be competing in JHB, its best to create an oxygen rich environment during competition, to leverage the high altitude training.
Challenge: Oxygen levels too low to simulate a higher oxygen environment during competition
Solution:Oxygen Loading – simulating an oxygen rich environment to maximise the effects of high altitude training.
What is Oxygen loading…?
Oxygen loading attempts to replicate performance and recuperation times as if competing at maximum oxygen levels. 5 to 10 minutes prior to competing, start inhaling concentrated oxygen every few breaths. Depending on the intensity of the activity as well as the individual, the amount of inhalations will vary. We have found 1 inhalation every 20 seconds for 5 minutes, works amazingly well for oxygen loading. Use this as a guide and tweak accordingly based on how you feel. This will ensure your body and blood are saturated with oxygen before the body is put under extreme performance pressure. This creates the optimum state for maximum performance. During intervals, continue with oxygen supplementation to ensure recovery times are shortened.
Oxygen supplementation has been created for when the body is put under extreme mental and physical strain irrespective of altitude. The effects of altitude are very real, however the high concentration of oxygen in Pure O2 will ensure that the mind and body will be in the optimum state to compete.