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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 22  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 107-112

Efficacy of high-altitude training on running performance in elite Indian long-distance runners

1 Faculty of Sports Science, Army Sports Institute, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Army Sports Institute, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission30-Sep-2022
Date of Decision16-Nov-2022
Date of Acceptance21-Nov-2022
Date of Web Publication15-May-2023

Correspondence Address:
Shrirang Tatte
Faculty of Sports Science, Army Sports Institute, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/sjsm.sjsm_23_22

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Introduction: Altitude training is an important integral part of long-distance running events. Understanding and safe implementation of various methods of acclimatization, periodization, and strength training at altitude is important for performance enhancement. Hence, the present study aimed to study high-altitude training effects on performance with well-organized strength and conditioning and periodization program in Indian elite long-distance runners.
Methods: Ten elite Indian male athletes of long-distance event (5000 m/10,000 m) underwent 6 months of well-organized strength and conditioning program with linear and block periodization at altitude of 2240 m (6710 feet) above sea level.
Statistical Analysis and Results: The mean height of 10 elite athletes was 171.9 ± 5.22 cm, weight was 57.7 ± 3.92 kg, and age was 24.6 ± 4.40 years. Pre and post 6 months of running performance were compared with Wilcoxon signed-rank test of 5000 m and 10,000 m with 0.98 and 0.87 large effect sizes, respectively.
Conclusion: There was significant improvement in performance with reference to running time with proper monitor of training load at high altitude.

Keywords: Endurance training, high-altitude training, long-distance runner, periodization and strength and conditioning

How to cite this article:
Tatte S, Sharma A, Adkitte R, Khan Y. Efficacy of high-altitude training on running performance in elite Indian long-distance runners. Saudi J Sports Med 2022;22:107-12

How to cite this URL:
Tatte S, Sharma A, Adkitte R, Khan Y. Efficacy of high-altitude training on running performance in elite Indian long-distance runners. Saudi J Sports Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Sep 29];22:107-12. Available from: https://www.sjosm.org/text.asp?2022/22/3/107/377102

  Introduction Top

For competitive runners, it is crucial to decrease the time needed to complete a race distance.[1] Race distances are categorized as short-distance events (100, 200, and 400 m), middle-distance events (800 m, 1500 m, and 3000 m), and long-distance events (5000 and 10,000 m).[2] Middle- and long-distance events come under aerobic endurance events but also required strength to increase the pace to break off groups and final sprint in the last leap.[3] Long-distance running, i.e., 5000 m and 10,000 m, mainly depend upon the aerobic capacity of an individual. Thus, oxidative system is the main source of energy.

There are several categories of altitude, which range from sea level (>500 m) to low (>500–2,000 m), moderate (>2000–3000 m), high (>3000–5500 m), and extreme (>5500 m).[4] At moderate altitude (up to 2300 m), it takes 12–14 days for acclimatization.[5] According to Wyatt,[5] there is dramatical vary in recommendations for optimizing performance at altitude, from arriving 24 to 48 hours immediately before competition to 3 months of altitude exposure.

Professional athletes trained at altitude for an ergogenic effect. At moderate altitude (approximately 2100–2500 m), an athlete must receive a hypoxic exposure of ≥12 h/day for a minimum of 3 weeks to get its beneficial and required effects.[6],[7]

It is always been a challenge to design training program for optimal adaptation for maximizing performance at competitive season. Hence, it is required to plan traditional periodized training program in a systematic way with consideration of short- and long-term goals considering associated physiological changes at altitude that can impact athletes' readiness for peak performance in competition.[8]

Hence, the present research focuses on understanding high-altitude training effects on performance with well-organized strength and conditioning and periodization program in Indian elite long-distance runners.

Hence, the aim of the present study is to observe and evaluate the efficacy of high-altitude training on running performance in elite Indian long-distance runners.

  Methods Top

Study design

This was a quasi-experimental design study that analyzes the data related to the timings of 5000 m and 10,000 m athletes before and after the altitude exposure.


The study approved by Institutional Ethical committee. Participants were educated and informed with benefits, risk and procedure involved in study and consent form were taken.

In the first week of December 2021, 10 elite Indian male athletes of long - distance event (5000 m/10000 m) along with a coach and sports science staff of Army sports institute, Pune (India) which is located at altitude of 560m from sea level had travelled to Ooty, State- Tamilnadu (India) at an altitude of 2240m above sea level. The team was in Ooty for almost 6 months (1st week of December 2021–4th week of May 2022).

Subjects were male national-level athletes practicing at Pune (India) with no history of any musculoskeletal injuries in the last 6 months with training history of more than 5 years. Their mean height of 171.9 ± 5.22 cm, weight of 57.7 ± 3.92 kg, and age of 24.6 ± 4.40 years were measured.

Procedure and training methodology

Initially, a week before going for an altitude training, all subjects' 5 km and 10 km best running timings were evaluated and recorded at competition trials held at Pune (at altitude of 560 m) to compare with their 6 months post altitude training running performances which was recorded at competition held at Calicut (1 m altitude at sea level) and Chennai (6.7 m altitude at sea level).

For the altitude training, there are so many modules available, and we had opted live high-train high (LHTH) module considering feasibility and accommodation availability for athletes of long distance 5000 m and 10,000 m.

Initially, on arrival 2 weeks of acclimatization at high altitude were implemented. During this period, low-intensity and low-volume activities were encouraged that include low-intensity jogging, plyometrics, and repetition training and instructed to maintain the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) below 5. During acclimatization period, all the athletes were not having any signs and symptoms of high altitude.

Linear and block periodisation training were implemented as the competition was expected to be on April 2022.

In LHTH weekly training program, total 10 sessions in a week, including 2 sessions of each Long slow distance training, Resistance training, Active recovery, Repetition training (interval training) and one-one session of hill training and plyometrics were performed [Table 1].
Table 1: Weekly sessions and frequency

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RT (high volume with low intensity ) were given to athletes to improve their musculoskeletal foundations.

As per linear and block periodization, initially in running program, longer duration with lesser intensity workout was implemented with gradual focus on reducing volume and increase in training intensity [Table 2]. The RT program consists of muscular endurance and hypertrophy training in progression gradually shifted toward strength and power training [Table 3].
Table 2: Periodization model for running

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Table 3: Sample resistance training periodized program

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For the upcoming weeks, RT twice a week along with low volume and intensity plyometrics and core exercises was given. RT for lower body including stabilizing of pelvic, basic movement patterns across all the three planes, i.e., frontal, sagittal, and transverse, was given. In the beginning, horizontal pull and push movements training were given to upper body but at later stage, focused on horizontal pull movements considering its sports specific demands to accelerate and propels the body in forward direction.

In the initial period of RT, bilateral exercises were given for both upper and lower extremities. On its later progressive phase, both bilateral and unilateral exercises were considered in training program [Table 4]. Other forms of S&C such as plyometrics, ABC of proprioception (agility, balance, and coordination), and hip activation exercises were implemented.
Table 4: Classification of unilateral and bilateral exercises

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In a RT session, exercises were given in the order of power, strength and then assistance exercise which considered as traditional principles of RT training but during the later stages with more neu-romuscular development, power exercise were given at the end of session.

To develop speed and endurance, interval training focused on time-based repetition run which was a common practice followed by many coaches were followed.

Core strength and stability exercises focused on every component of core, i.e., flexion, anti-flexion, lateral flexion, anti-lateral flexion, anti-rotation, rotation, extension, and anti-extension, were given. We categorize these exercises, as mentioned in [Table 5].
Table 5: Core exercise classification and movement

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Acute-chronic workload ratio (ACWR) was used to assess training load on each athlete which was calculated by monitoring athlete's individual RPE, Session duration, acute and chronic load.

All athletes were in the recommended range, i.e., 0.8–1.3. Hence, there was no undertraining (<0.8) and overtraining (more than 1.5) risks as per ACWR.[9]

Statistical analysis

Data of 10 Indian national elite 5000 m and 10000 m athlete's timings before the altitude exposure and after the altitude exposure were compared using Wilcoxon signed-rank test.

The mean height of athletes was 171.9 ± 5.22 cm, weight was 57.7 ± 3.92 kg, and age was 24.6 ± 4.40 years. The P value and effect size were calculated by Wilcoxon signed-rank test to understand pre and post 5 km and 10 km distance covered with respective time period by participants [Table 6].
Table 6: Statistical results of pre and post altitude training

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  Results Top

Hence, statistically results showed that there was a significant improvement in timings of pre and post high-altitude training within studied sample size of 5000 m and 10,000 m with 0.98 and 0.87 large effect sizes, respectively.

Results showed that high-altitude training for 6 months along with supervised strength and conditioning training in accordance with periodization helped in improving athletes' running performance.

  Discussion Top

In the present study, statistically there is a significant raise in the performance of our athletes due to the implementation of linear and block periodization with specialized designed strength and conditioning program at high altitude for the period of 6 months.

As per mentioned on various studies, it is important to consider physiological effects on endurance-trained athletes at high altitude. Hence, there are short-term and long-term physiological adjustments due to altitude hypoxia which includes pulmonary, acid-base balance, cardiovascular, hematological and local tissue system. In pulmonary adaptations, ventilation rate stabilization increases, and in acid–base system, adaptation improves excretion of HCO3 by the kidneys with associated reduction in alkaline reserve. In cardiovascular system, adaptions at high altitude include lowering of maximal heart rate, maximal cardiac output, and decreased stroke volume at rest, whereas in submaximal and maximal exercise, there is continued elevation in submaximal heart rate. Furthermore, in hematologic system, adaptions include increase in red cell production, viscosity, and hematocrit, whereas there is a decrease in plasma volume. Local tissue system adaptions include increase in capillary density of skeletal muscle, number of mitochondria, and use of free fatty acids and sparing muscle glycogen.[10] In the present study, we expect that the same positive effects must have responsible for performance uplifting in our endurance-trained athletes in 6 months of training, but we did not assess any of these above parameters due to tight competition schedule.

Furthermore, in the present study, we had implemented linear and block periodization program module (traditional module) at high altitude. Some previous researches, it was concluded that the undulating periodisation model is more effective than the traditional periodisation,[10],[11],[12],[13],[14]and in some evidences, it was suggested that there was no difference between the models[15],[16],[17] or that the traditional model is superior.[18],[19],[20] Conversely, in a previous study, overall high-volume loads of training in the undulating model resulted in greater peripheral fatigue with associated increase in risk of injury as the training demanded high levels of metabolic fatigue.[21] Additionally, the fatigue-fitness paradigm and the stimulus-fatigue-recovery-adaptation theory indicated that the undulating model had the potential to decrease athlete preparedness as, with high-volume load training sessions, there is a risk of fatigue accumulation. Hence, considering facts and risk involvement, we had preferred to follow the guidelines of linear and block periodization (traditional periodization) for long-distance athletes.

Considering running and its unilateral stance phase dynamic activity demands, there were implemented sagittal, frontal, transverse plane exercises as a part of routine strength and conditioning program. Hence, in the present study, considering the phases of periodization, we have integrated S&C program which includes all the forms such as RT, plyometrics, agility, balance and coordination (proprioception), speed, and core training programs.

In RT, the first block had focused mainly on bilateral training of upper and lower extremities. For the second and next blocks of training had focused more on unilateral upper and lower extremity exercises as it is more specific and relevant to long-distance running event. In the previous study, Goran Markovic et al. stated and recommended that athletic performance improvement is of the utmost important and to enhance explosive muscle power and dynamic athletic performance, several training strategies of heavy-resistance training, explosive type resistance training and plyometric training should be incorporated in training.[21] Therefore, in addition to RT and plyometric training, it is important to include sprint training to achieve a high level of explosive leg power and dynamic athletic performance.[22] In support, previous studies had also concluded that RT in periodization improves athletes' muscular endurance, strength, anaerobic power, rate of force production, metabolic energy stores, connective tissue strength, and body composition.

Plyometric training has been repeatedly shown that these training increases muscular power for participants.[22],[23],[24],[25] So, in present research, plyometrics and speed training like hops, skips, box jump both unilateral and bilateral, depth jumps, bounding, acceleration drills and symmetric and asymmetric locomotion were given.

Kurobe et al., 2014, performed resistant training on 13 healthy men under hypoxic condition and concluded that hypoxic conditions stimulate hypertrophy as compared to normoxic conditions.[26] And also there is a positive relationship between hypertrophy and strength which results in increase in sporting performance.[27] RT can generate substantial hypertrophy which improves strength and sports performance.[5] Hence, this study had focused on RT at high altitude with the aim of gaining muscle hypertrophy and its performance benefits.

Furthermore, the proprioception training in strength and conditioning program improves sensory function for all normal movement activities which include the ability to maintain dynamic balance and to move accurately. There are several evidences suggested that interventions which challenges dynamic stability using various strengthening, balance, agility, and sport-specific activities improves athletic performance, early recovery from injury and to prevent injuries.[28]

Furthermore, when a trainer builds variety into the training by changing the training method, loca-tion, environment and weather plays positive impact on athletic performance and prevent boredom of same routine should also be considered for athletic performance improvement at high altitude as per mentioned in training principle, tedium.

  Conclusion Top

Effective implementation of linear and block periodization with integrated strength and conditioning program at high altitude significantly improved the performance of 5000 m and 10000 m in Indian elite male long-distance runners.

Practical application

High altitude training with LHTH concept with block and linear periodisation should be considered an effective training methodology. Also, sports specific strength and conditioning exercises designed to gain muscle hypertrophy, strength and power can be given with safety measures in professional long distance runners. Along with running program, well designed and periodized integrated strength and conditioning program is utmost important for the success in long distance running events.

Limitations and future scope

Future research should focus on the testing of key performance variables such as the VO2 max and lactate threshold and repetition maximum before and after altitude exposure for better understanding of physiological and musculoskeletal aspects of high-altitude training and which were not evaluated in the present study.


The authors express their thanks to Col. Devraj Gill, Commandant, Army Sports Institute, Pune (India) and athletes who participated in the study and also thank Mr. Varad Apte for helping in statistical analysis of the present study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6]


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