What Are the Benefits of Altitude Training for Professional Sailors?

Altitude training is an approach that professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts are increasingly adopting. Professional sailors are among the groups that have seen substantial benefits from this training method. It involves exercising at high altitudes where the oxygen concentration is lower than at sea level. This method can significantly improve athletes’ performance and give them a competitive edge. Learn how altitude training might elevate your performance in sports or fitness, particularly if you’re a sailor.

Understanding Altitude Training

Before delving into the benefits of altitude training, it’s crucial to understand the method and its underlying principles. Altitude training is an approach in which athletes train in high altitude areas, usually above 2,500 meters. The keyword here is altitude, which refers to the height of an object or point in relation to sea level or ground level.

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The foundation of altitude training is the body’s physiological response to decreased oxygen levels. At high altitudes, the air is thin, implying that the concentration of oxygen drops. The body, in response, produces more red blood cells to increase its oxygen-carrying capacity. When the athletes return to sea level, they carry this increased capacity with them, leading to improved performance.

Effects on the Body

The changes in the body as a result of altitude training happen at the cellular level. It’s not just about feeling breathless or dealing with the immediate symptoms of altitude sickness. There are long-term adaptations that take place, which can have a profound impact on your physical performance.

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When you expose your body to high altitudes, it reacts to the lower oxygen levels by producing more erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that triggers the production of red blood cells. It’s a way for your body to ensure that even with less available oxygen, your muscles get the oxygen they need.

Also, your body will start to generate new capillaries, minute blood vessels that connect arterioles and venules. This process, called angiogenesis, increases the flow of oxygenated blood to your muscles. The result? You’ll be able to withstand demanding physical activities for a longer time than before.

The Role of Altitude Training in Improving Performance

The physiological changes in the body due to altitude training can lead to a significant improvement in performance, especially for professional sailors. It helps in boosting stamina, reducing fatigue, improving aerobic capacity, and enhancing overall physical fitness.

For sailors, this can be particularly beneficial. Sailing is a sport that requires high levels of physical fitness, endurance, and strength. In the course of a race, sailors need to handle the sail, maintain the boat’s balance, and make strategic decisions, often under challenging conditions. Altitude training can help sailors perform better and for longer durations.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology and reported on PubMed found that athletes who underwent altitude training showed an increase in VO2 max, a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise. This suggests that altitude training can enhance an athlete’s aerobic performance.

Practical Tips for Altitude Training

If you’re considering altitude training, there are a few important points to keep in mind. First, consult a sports physician or a fitness expert. They can provide guidance and help design a training plan suitable for you.

You should also prepare yourself for the physical challenge. Exercising at high altitudes can initially be tough. You may experience symptoms like shortness of breath, insomnia, and headache. However, these symptoms usually subside as your body gets used to the conditions.

When you start your training, go slow. Don’t push your body beyond its limits. Listen to your body and rest when needed. As your body adapts to the altitude, you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts.

Remember to keep yourself hydrated. The higher you go, the drier the air gets, making it essential to drink enough water.

Altitude Training and Climbing

You may wonder how altitude training can benefit professional sailors who by default, will be at sea level. The answer lies in their ability to climb the mast or rigging without tiring quickly. Climbing requires strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. This is where altitude training can help.

In addition to the benefits already discussed, altitude training also leads to increased lung capacity, better oxygen utilization, and greater endurance. This means a sailor will be able to climb the mast with less effort, less shortness of breath, and will be able to stay at height longer without fatigue setting in.

Altitude training has come a long way from being a training method used exclusively by high-altitude athletes like mountain climbers. Today, a wide range of athletes, including professional sailors, reap the benefits of training at high altitudes. The physiological adaptations that occur in the body as a result of altitude training can enhance an athlete’s performance by improving their body’s capability to use oxygen efficiently, boosting stamina, and enhancing cardiovascular fitness.

The Science Behind Altitude Training

To delve deeper into the benefits of altitude training, let’s explore the science behind it. Change of altitude causes your body to adapt to the decreased oxygen concentration, creating more red blood cells and capillaries. This process is backed by numerous scientific studies and articles available on Google Scholar and PubMed Google.

In a free article on PubMed, a study showed that altitude training increases the levels of erythropoietin (EPO) in the body. EPO is a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells. In addition, an article on PMC Free, reported the increase in the body’s ability to absorb and utilize oxygen after altitude training. This adaptation is crucial in improving an athlete’s endurance and overall performance.

At high altitudes, the heart also works harder to pump blood and deliver oxygen to the muscles, leading to an increase in heart rate. But after a while, the body adapts and the heart becomes more efficient, thus enhancing cardiovascular health. This adaptation is beneficial for professional sailors who need to maintain a low heart rate to withstand the long and physically demanding sailing races.

A separate window of research in Appl Physiol and Sports Med highlights the positive impact of altitude training on weight loss. The increased exercise intensity at higher altitudes causes the body to burn more calories, making it an effective strategy for weight loss.

Into the Future: Altitude Training for Professional Sailors

Coming to the future, altitude training promulgates a potential arena for professional sailors to improve their performance. By training at higher altitudes, sailors can experience several physiological changes, including increased red blood cell count, improved oxygen absorption, and better cardiovascular health. These changes can help sailors withstand the harsh conditions at sea and perform at their best.

A study available on Google Scholar indicates that sailors who underwent altitude training exhibited a higher exercise intensity and a lower heart rate. This means that they could perform demanding tasks, like climbing the mast, without getting as tired.

This is a significant finding, as it suggests that altitude training isn’t just for high-altitude athletes like mountain climbers; it can also be beneficial for athletes competing at sea level.

Altitude training is also making its way into other sports. Martial arts practitioners, for instance, are exploring this method to enhance their performance. They believe that the increased lung capacity, stamina, and cardiovascular fitness associated with altitude training can give them an edge in their competitions.


In conclusion, altitude training offers numerous benefits for professional sailors and other athletes. The physiological adaptations that occur as a result of training at high altitudes can enhance an athlete’s performance by improving their body’s capacity to absorb and utilize oxygen, boosting stamina, and enhancing cardiovascular health.

This training method is backed by extensive scientific research, as seen in various studies on Google Scholar, PubMed Google, and other scholarly databases. As more athletes begin to recognize these benefits, it’s likely that altitude training will become a more common practice in the future.

The future of professional sailing seems to be on a high tide with altitude training. It’s an exciting time for sailors and other athletes looking to push their boundaries and achieve new heights in their respective sports.

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