Saturday, May 28, 2016

High Times in the Low Country: My Hypoxico Experience – Part 1

-->           Pursuing a passion for the mountains can be a challenge when you live at less than 1000’ above sea level.  I am lucky because as a high school teacher, my job allows me time to get out to the mountains well ahead of any Summer race so I can acclimatize.  Still, I’ve always wanted to bypass that 2 week period where gasping for air is inevitable as my body makes the necessary adaptations allowing me to run and play above 10,000’.  For several years I have looked into buying a Hypoxico system, but they are an expensive investment. 

(My Idea of Paradise)

(Hypoxico Tent)

--> This Spring my coach and friend Joe Sulak developed a Performance Lab at Stratton Sport and Spine in the Stone Oak area of San Antonio, Texas. They recently purchased a Hypoxico altitude simulator to help athletes maintain aerobic conditioning while recovering from injury as well as assisting mountain athletes get a head start in the adaptation process.  Brock Stratton, the clinics mastermind and owner, and Joe brought me in to test out the unit.  After 6 weeks I am a believer.  Joe devised a protocol that, in 3 workouts of 30 minutes each per week, would have me mountain ready by June.  We started relatively low, usually beginning at 5,000’ and working up to 8,000’, running at speeds ranging from 5mph to 6mph.  Now I begin at 10,000’ (7mph) and work up to fast intervals (10mph) at 12,000’.  Aside from feeling better, my oxygen saturation levels (SpO2) prove that my body is adapting to the stresses of higher elevations.  That’s the cool thing about working with Joe and Brock…their methods are always driven by science. 

(It Puts the Lotion In the Basket)
--> Today I can run faster at higher elevations than when I began which is proof of the application of the adaptations made in the clinic. We have added a few “passive” sessions into the protocol, where I sit around at 22,000’ reading a book.  This sounds easy, but your brain doesn’t initially function well at that altitude.  I usually have to remain seated for a few minutes afterwards so I don’t pass out.  It’s a surreal experience.  I am excited about my mountain fitness and can’t wait to test it out for real next week.  

(Light Reading at 22,000' Above Sea Level)