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In April, a few coaches and I attended the CrossFit Level 1 Certification Course held at CrossFit Verve in Denver, Colo.
With CrossFit Games legend, Matt Chan, as our instructor, we were in good hands. Passing this course provides coaches with the education to begin training others in CrossFit as a way to build fitness.
On the drive down, we reviewed the agenda of lectures and workouts. I was ready to learn and get my butt kicked by some intense workouts. The first workout was "Fran," which consists of 95-pound barbell thrusters and pull-ups. The first round is 21 reps of each movement, then 15 reps of each movement and finally nine reps of each movement.
This is a workout that I've done before, so my confidence was high.
Tim Collins is a certified personal trainer based in Omaha. He blogs for livewellnebraska.com. Read more from Tim.
I chalked my hands up, high-fived the guys next to me and went to work on getting the reps done.
After several minutes went by, I wondered why it was taking me so long to finish. My muscles were moving much slower than normal and it was a lot harder for me to breathe.
After finishing the workout, I began to question why it took me so much longer to finish this time than the first time I completed the same workout.
Then, something clicked in my head. It was the realization that I was in Denver, in a high-altitude environment, more than 5,200 feet above sea level.
My body was struggling through the endurance workout because it wasn't accustomed to training in a high altitude.
The human body's ability to deliver oxygen to muscle fibers decreases in higher altitudes. With a lower oxygen level, your performance during endurance activities decreases.
For this reason, many endurance athletes will train in higher altitudes to build a stronger lung capacity.
Another method which simulates the effects of this type of training is wearing altitude-training masks during workouts. The science behind the masks is that they strengthen the lungs by teaching them how to use oxygen more efficiently.
I've personally never used one, but I would be interested in how it would affect my personal workouts.
Geoff Vlcek, who has used an altitude-training mask during workouts at Fit Farm, said he bought the mask online in hopes of increasing his lung strength. The Omaha firefighter has also used the mask during firefighter training drills and said he's seen its benefits.
Chet Fortune, a co-owner and trainer at Warrior Fitness Center in La Vista, also uses an altitude training mask to improve his fitness. However, he said wearing it at first wasn't easy.
"It has a very claustrophobic feel to it," he said. "It strains the breathing significantly."
But after a few times working out with it, Fortune said it becomes easier to tolerate and the results are worth it.
"I've noticed increased endurance when not wearing the mask," he said. "It has taken my conditioning to another level."
So if you need an extra push to take your endurance to a higher level, it could be worth your while to try using one.
Always remember safety is first and that these methods should be used with caution. If you're an inexperienced endurance athlete, talk to a professional to determine if this type of training would be helpful to accomplish your fitness goals.