Week 4 Update: Jul 08, 2013
One week down in our hypoxic tent! Here are some things I learned so far…
- Slowly acclimating to simulated altitude (by 500 feet increments daily) has no detectable adverse effects
- Two bodies produce a ton of heat in a hypoxic tent
- Training feels easier after hypoxic sleeping - live high, train low seems to have immediate effects
- I can easily handle 18 hours of working out. My maximum weekly workout total will be 26.5 hours but that workload is in the distant future (March 2014).
Here is my usual figure. I plan to start adding in a few other figures as I collect more data. After carefully monitoring my mood and fatigue, I discovered that my best weeks are front-loaded. If I complete the majority of my hours training in the first three days, I tend to use the latter part of the week as recovery. My mood improves, fatigue decreases, and performance improves. I am swimming better than ever and can easily sustain long, fast runs without any soreness.
Sunday was a beast of a day! I worked out for 4 hours - 1.5 hour swim practice, 1 hour bike ride, 1 hour elliptical workout, and 30 minute run. Actually, the first three days this week were tough. I put in 11.5 of my 18 workout hours in before Wednesday (my day off). Our weekly Wednesday evening sail could not come soon enough. Unfortunately, a storm forced us to cancel the outing on July 3rd but we managed to get out on the 4th. Sailing is a critical part of my recovery - perhaps more mental recovery than anything else.
Front-loading my weekly workouts seems to work - particularly with the marriage of my workout load progression and the hypoxic training. Kathy and I both experienced a huge boost in our workouts. We both felt while working out even though we felt a bit more fatigued afterwards.
Kathy and I record O2 saturation (spO2) and resting HR (RestHR) before and after sleep. These two variables provide different feedback about our hypoxic training response. spO2 indicates the percent of peripheral oxygen saturation (measured in the fingertip). Higher values around 100% indicate fully saturated red blood cells and good acclimation. The problem arises when we try to interpret low levels. Aerospace and commercial air travel research indicates that levels below 92% may require supplemental oxygen. Note that these studies focus on harm reduction whereas my focus is acclimating to a hypoxic environment. I get concerned when my saturation levels drop below 95% because values that low indicate that my body is struggling to acclimate. Low levels also affect my cognitive performance - just think of a person with sleep apnea and you get the picture.
Resting heart rate offers another glimpse into our acclimation. As the stress of hypoxia impacts our bodies, we ought to see an increase in resting heart rate. I have a very low resting heart rate (38-42 beats per minute). The figure below clearly shows that the first week of hypoxic sleeping increased my resting heart rate from my usual low levels by roughly 10 beats per minute.
Finally, sleep quality indicates whether the acclimation process affected my sleep to a noticeable degree. Sleep is vital to exercise recovery and to acclimation. More is better but quality trumps quantity. Thus, sleep quality tells me if I am struggling to acclimate. All signs indicate that my sleep quality slowly improved over the week - partly or almost fully due to the fact that Kathy and I got used to sleeping in 90+ degree temperatures.
Updates for the week
The 4th of July week was a bit less frenetic than most weeks. Previous weeks had hours of work, life, and workouts competing for the few hours I had in a day. Here is what I did in the last month:
- Submitted two papers for publication
- Met with my 9 doctoral students for an hour each/week to write
- Completed two contract analyses and reports
- Refinanced our house
- Almost (I hope) finished our taxes for 2012 - don't ask.
- Setup an LLC
- Continued moving about 5 other projects forward thanks to stellar collaborators and colleagues
and still managed to have some fun. I need a break from some of these tasks so I plan to break from work in August to climb. Finally, Kathy and I recognized that we have competing interests with the hypoxic tent; perhaps Brian can show us how to get the most out of one tent. I will submit an update after I consult with Brian. Stay tuned for more….