Never mind thin air, I used to think altitude training was all hot air – the preserve of elite athletes and Ranulph Fiennes wannabes. But when I learned that altitude training had arrived in the City, (Cheapside to be precise) I was keen to find out what all the fuss was about.
The Altitude Centre is located on the top floor at 6 Trump Street. The centre offers cycling and running classes at high altitude conditions (2,700 metres above sea level) and claims that these short workouts will “improve athletic performance, glucose metabolism and fat burning in a fraction of the time of a conventional non-altitude session.”
I’m introduced to Roy, a self-proclaimed “sports mad Aussie” who until recently worked in the City as a chartered accountant. During my induction they measure my SPO2 (Saturation of Peripheral Oxygen). Roy explains that normal SPO2 at sea level is generally between 96-99 percent (mine is normal) meaning your blood is carrying close to the maximum amount of oxygen possible. My session combines intermittent sprint training with the low oxygen environment. This type of training has been shown to produce the greatest improvements in oxygen efficiency.
Off we head to the altitude chamber. Roy suggests I try the Speedboard; a curved, motor-less treadmill that allows you to sprint on the spot by moving your centre of gravity forward and backward. This would be strange even without the low oxygen levels.
I start running and my legs immediately turn to lead. Is this an immediate response to the reduction in oxygen? Or just fatigue from my tough session in Greenwich Park the day before? Roy assures me it's the former. He explains that SPO2 drops to around 90 percent at 2,700 metres as there’s around 25 percent less oxygen in the air you're breathing. As you start to exercise and your muscles demand more, this drops to around 80-85 percent. Mine drops to 82-84. I can only do one short interval.
The body has to work a lot harder. The result? Training for relatively short but intense periods forces your body to adapt, becoming more oxygen-efficient, which is said to produce a raft of benefits at double the speed of sea level training.
I’m relieved when my session comes to an end. Training at altitude (even for a very short period of time) is challenging but effective, especially if you're pushed for time. As I left, the 1pm class was filling up with busy execs wanting to get fit quick.
The Altitude Centre (https://www.altitudecentre.com/) is at 6 Trump Street, EC2V 8AF Tel: 020 7193 1626