Irish athletes have been given a chance to lift their efforts to compete with the world’s best following University of Limerick’s opening of Ireland’s first altitude training centre.
Rather than being forced to take expensive trips overseas to altitude training centres, the National Training Centre will now bring the acknowledged benefits of such training to the doorstep of Irish endurance athletes. The centre will benefit everyone from runners to cyclists, swimmers, footballers, rowers, triathletes and rugby players. “The success of this mode of performance enhancement is underwritten by the fact that altitude training has been used by virtually every medalist competing in endurance-based sports over the years,” Professor Phil Jakeman, Director of the National Altitude Training Centre at UL, said. “Currently, the most effective altitude training programme involves living at an altitude of 2,000 metres to 3,000m for a period of 14-28 days.
“This is normally achieved by athletes travelling abroad to high altitude camps away from their normal training environments and support structure. “Athletes residing at this altitude find it impossible to maintain their sea-level training programme and therefore must undertake a daily trek to an altitude below 1,500m to train, returning to altitude again overnight. Furthermore, this type of residential altitude setting provides only one altitude, a one-size-fits-all approach that defies best practice in terms of specificity of training.”
Jakeman’s centre at UL is a seven bedroom house with a simulated altitude which allows independent control for each athlete in their respective rooms ranging from sea level to 5,000m through a hypoxic air conditioning system. This will optimize the altitude response for each athlete. Jakeman continued: ”The launch of this facility has attracted the interest of Olympians from within Ireland and abroad preparing for London 2012. The R & D potential is also significant for applied sports performance research in Ireland. “We expect significant international interest in the research capability of this facility in the future.”