Running at Altitude - What is Altitude Sickness

Updated: Jul 29

Running at Altitude - The Mountains are Calling

Are you looking to add some elevation to your workout? Whether you are training for a race, looking for a change of scenery, or seeking a challenging workout, you step into an entirely different experience as you climb in altitude.

The sun is shining and the mountains are calling. What better time to lace up your running shoes and go for a jog? But before you hit the trail, consider this: if you're not accustomed to running at altitude, you may face more than just breathtaking scenery.

If you are a novice, an expert, or somewhere in between, maybe you've heard of altitude sickness — that pesky condition that causes headaches and nausea for those who travel too quickly from sea level up into the mountains.

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude or acute mountain sickness (AMS) results from climbing in elevation and not giving your body time to acclimate. You develop symptoms caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen.

Everyone can experience symptoms differently. Some may have a difficult time breathing, while others may not. Other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, rapid heart rate, aching feet, etc.

Wait... my feet can hurt? Yupp, it's true!

Wondering what else you should be prepared for when hitting the mountains.

As a runner myself, I wanted to share some tips on how best to acclimate yourself when first hitting high elevations.

What to Know About Altitude Sickness

If you’re not accustomed to running at altitude, you may face more than just breathtaking scenery. Altitude sickness is a severe condition that can be dangerous if left untreated.

  • Altitude sickness results from less oxygen in the air. At higher altitudes (more than 8,200 feet above sea level), your body needs time to adapt to breathing thinner air before being able to perform at full capacity.

  • If you exercise too soon after arriving at high altitudes without allowing yourself time to acclimate, you risk developing AMS.

  • AMS occurs when the body produces too many red blood cells due to being under stress from exercising.

  • AMS causes headaches, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea - these effects can become worse over time without treatment!

But there are ways to avoid this affliction and treat it if you do experience symptoms.

Tips For Running At Elevation - Avoid AMS Symptoms