For the past few weeks, national marathoner Soh Rui Yong, 24, has been staying at the Altitude House in the Singapore Sports Hub.
This House, which opened its doors in September last year, is a 100 square metre facility that allows up to 16 national athletes to live in conditions that resemble 2,500m to 3,000m above sea level (that is, having 15 per cent oxygen for breathing) for up to four weeks – to aid them in training their bodies for major competitions. The normal level of oxygen at sea level is 21 per cent.So because of this high-altitude environment, living in the house can give benefits to athletes through better oxygen delivery to the body. This will also help with the reduction in muscle fatigue. And the recovery time for the body will be reduced too.
Can stay in Singapore while getting the benefits of altitude training
Soh feels grateful to have been given the opportunity to live in the Altitude House. He said, “This type of altitude exposure is unique because it offers the benefit of living at altitude with being able to do the fast running at sea level. I like the natural environment and the altitude house for different reasons.”He added, “Being in the natural mountains is always a beautiful experience, while being able to be at home here in Singapore, with my family and the local community while getting the benefits of altitude, is really cool as well.”
Athletes sleep and eat within the Altitude House
Built in the style of an apartment inside, the Altitude House is a fully-fledged living facility comprising of a living room, kitchen and four bedrooms, all with individually adjustable conditions.
So this means that athletes can sleep and eat in the Altitude House, as normally. Workouts may be done indoors or outdoors, depending on the nature of their sport. For Soh, most of his workouts are usually done outdoors.
Said Soh, “I live here and do my training outside. Usually I am up by 6am or 7am. Then I go out training, come back to wash up and have lunch, nap then I am out for a second session of training.”
Differences between living at home and at the Altitude House
What does Soh feel is the biggest difference between staying at home and living in the Altitude House? He said, “Communal living with other athletes is the biggest difference and getting the benefits of altitude living. But otherwise, the Altitude House is as comfortable as home.”
The first week at altitude can be rough for newcomers
For Soh, because he has had two altitude stints, it wasn’t too much trouble for him personally, to settle into the Altitude House.
He added, “But for newcomers to altitude living, the first week can be rough. Sleep can be disrupted at nights as the body tries to acclimatise and one must closely monitor his or her iron levels.”
Has already experienced some benefits
During his workouts, Soh added that he has already felt some benefits from staying in the altitude house. He said, “I’ve been feeling good on workouts, and I am sure that the Altitude House has contributed to this. Based on blood tests, it has boosted my haemoglobin level – that is, the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood around the body.”
And Soh feels that these benefits will put him in good stead for his next phase of his marathon training, by laying down a solid aerobic base. Upon leaving Singapore, Soh will be headed to Iten, a town in Kenya – which is world-famous for producing marathon champions.
Tips for athletes who are new to altitude living and training
And what tips can Soh share, for athletes who are new to altitude living and training?
He said, “Be patient and allow your body to adapt to the altitude. Dehydration, fatigue, shortness of breath and slow training times are all initial challenges that athletes can face when first attempting altitude living and training. But stick in it long enough and monitor your body accordingly and eventually you will see the results.”