Do you know why athletes spend so much time at high altitudes? Or why the US built its Olympic training center at high in the Colorado mountains?
Interestingly, the reason behind altitude training actually points the way to getting similar results without ever having to leave your own distance above sea level.
How it Works
The primary difference between sea level and high altitude is the amount of oxygen available in the atmosphere. When athletes live or train at a higher latitudes their bodies must adapt to having less oxygen available. These adaptations help them immensely when they return to sea level for competitions. Many adaptions occur to improve the athlete’s breathing. The main physiological effect, though, is an increase in the number of red blood cells. These cells carry Oxygen to muscles and organs where it is used for energy. Because there is less Oxygen available to the body the athlete naturally grows more of these cells and ensures what Oxygen is available gets transported.
The key to this adaption is that it occurs because less Oxygen is available. Well, you can likely already think of ways to force this adaption without moving to Colorado. If you want to gain additional red blood cells just like Olympians all you need to do is breathe less. By doing so you will limit the amount of Oxygen available to your body and it will have to adapt just as it would at high altitudes.
Go for a long cardio session like biking, rowing, or running today. During the workout try to slow your breathing to 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out. Repeat this type of training over time while lengthening the breath when possible. Over time you will see a drastic increase in your cardio performance.