You may have never heard of training masks before, but I’m sure you’ve seen them. The question is, do training masks work?
Training masks, elevation masks, high altitude masks, are all the same thing. Those who wish to replicate the conditions of training at a high altitude while not actually being at a high altitude see training masks as the solution. The problem is because training masks are so new, there is a lot we don’t know about them.
Why train at Elevation / High Altitude?
Training at high altitudes or training in Hypoxia has been used by athletes for years. The idea is that it improves your potential. Explained simply, training in ‘hypoxia’ (oxygen reduced environment) makes your body struggle to produce the energy you need. This is due to the fact there’s less oxygen in the air. The lack of oxygen forces the body to adapt, meaning the cardio and respiratory systems improve their efficiency, including:
- The number of small blood vessels (used to transport oxygen) increase.
- The buffering capacity (how your body deals with the accumulation of waste acids), and the function of your muscles albeit at a microscopic level changes.
After training at hypoxia you return to the normal atmosphere or sea level and in this atmosphere, you should be able to compete at a much higher level. Well, that’s the idea anyway.
So do Training Masks work?
There is a real difference to actually BEING in a high altitude location Vs. trying to REPLICATE a high altitude with a mask. Your air pressure is much lower in a high altitude location which means fewer air molecules (oxygen included). With the mask, you are training in an environment which doesn’t have a lower air pressure, so you’re exposing yourself to the same amount of oxygen.
You need to actually be in a high altitude location for a longer period of time to reap the benefits. Wearing the mask a few times a week for an hour or so just doesn’t have the same effect.
But they’re not all bad…
Training masks do have their positive benefits, with regards to the increase in heart rate, your Vo2 max readings, and your power output. The best thing to do is try a mask out for yourself and see if you feel any benefits. I tried out the Gorge High Altitude Training Mask to see the effects for myself. I will say that after wearing it for about an hour while running my breathing felt very different, I felt as though every breath was a deep breath and my breathing was much easier, quite a strange feeling.