I hit the pool for the first time after arriving in Cuenca, Ecuador, 3 days ago. At 8200ft. I felt like I was swimming though molasses. And here is why:
• Your resting heart rate at altitude can be 10% higher and maximum heart rate can be 10% lower in the first week in altitude. Not going to tolerate much high intensity starting out!
• Iron uptake can increase almost 100% in the first few days at altitude. Normal iron stores during this time are not sufficient to meet the demand for hemoglobin synthesis. A multiple vitamin as well as iron supplementation is important (200-300mg/day beginning 2-3 weeks prior to heading to the mountains) or as I like to say “Where’s the beef?”
• Fatigue also sets in quicker at altitude and requires longer rest intervals when training and between workouts. Rest periods should be extended 15-30% at altitude for adequate recovery. and oh yea take more daily naps!
• Dehydration can also be a problem at altitude. Plasma volume has been shown to decrease as much as 25% in the first 8-10 days at altitude. So drink lots of fluids and keep the diuretics (caffeine) to a minimum. Salt will help to retain fluids. So bring on the beer and salted plantain chips!
The good thing is that I know the pool workouts are going to get easier the longer I am here swimming at 8200ft. And when I return to Tucson I’ll be feeling like at dolphin slicing through the water!