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Altitude, AKA, elevation training masks have been available in stores for a handful of years now. When you see one of these masks for the first time, your mind instantly jumps to the last superhero movie you might have seen or the last video game you might have played, but there are reasons why athletes wear them and it isn’t to simply protect the face or look like a tough thug.
These altitude training masks are worn during training in the offseason, whether it is out on the field or in the gym. These masks are designed to allow you to train as if you were training up on the side of a mountain. They simply reduce the amount of air you inhale. You aren’t supposed to suffocate or breathe no air, but you will end up taking longer, deeper breaths, forcing your body to respond in other ways. Many altitude training masks also allow you to customize how much or how little air you would like to breath. The less air available to you, the most intense your training will tend to be.
When you go to train at high altitude levels regularly, which is starting from 2500 meters above sea level, you run out of breath much faster than when training at normal altitudes. Less oxygen is getting produced at higher altitudes, meaning that your body creates additional red blood cells as a result. With more red blood cells, your body has an easier time to deliver oxygen.
But you might then be asking “What is the point of this?”. When using an altitude training mask to train, you expect that your body can increase its endurance as well as your oxygen intake and therefore your cardiovascular strength. When using an altitude training mask regularly to train, you should have the energy to work out to longer than usual, thus making it easier to stay fit throughout the year and maintain the body that you want to achieve during a season in sports; whether it be football, basketball, tennis, track, etc. These masks are not meant to improve an athlete’s performance, or make them stronger, faster, more flexible, or more accurate.
Frequent training is necessary with the altitude training mask, so you won’t notice any immediate changes to your body on the first day. Athletes typically train for 1 to 2 hours a week to maintain their stamina, but for better results with an altitude training mask, we recommend 3 to 4 hours per week so that you are able to work out more and have your body work smarter, not harder, so that you can stay primed for the next season and beyond.
After training for a long-term period of time with your training mask on you can train with it off and still be able to work out while retaining cardiovascular strength and stamina. This is why altitude training masks are most-commonly worn during off seasons, because after wearing them to train for a number of months, athletes can compete in sporting events and have improved endurance. However, the effects from training with an altitude training mask aren’t permanent, and if your body doesn’t keep training, it will go back to a limited level of endurance like normal, such as when after the season concludes, until you start training again with the training mask.
It is important to note, however, that not everybody should use an altitude training mask. Because these masks can limit how much air you breathe at a time, they cause people with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions to hyperventilate or faint.