Chad Ho (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)
Durban – As team South Africa long distance swimmers,
Chad Ho and Matthew Meyer are entering the final phase of their build up campaigns to
the 2016 Olympic Games which get underway in Rio de Janeiro in less than a
The pair continue to place great emphasis on the inclusion of
cardiovascular-benefiting simulated altitude training.
Through their involvement in the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation backed
Elite Athlete Development Programme, 10km open water competitor and eight time
Midmar Mile winner Ho and 1500m freestyle star Meyer have made full use of
Prime Human Performance Institute’s hypoxic chamber in recent months, the
training technique aiding the in the pair’s conditioning.
"The body responds to stress that it is put under and in order to achieve
optimal adaptation, the training exercise needs to be of a high enough
intensity to create maximal stress," explains Wayne Holroyd, Prime HPI
"Training at altitude causes physiological adaptations in the cardiovascular
system as well as locally within the muscles being exercised.
"We see a higher exercise tolerance as a result of the altitude training,
mostly due to improved oxygen transport and lower lactate production, as well
as a quicker recovery after exercise.
"The biggest effect though is a secondary improvement due to the athlete being
able to train harder as a result of the higher exercise tolerance and improved
While the effectiveness of the technique remains unique to each individual,
Holroyd is confident that all sportsmen and women across all sporting codes and
disciplines can benefit from altitude training.
"We try to simulate each athlete’s sporting requirements as closely as
possible, something that is easier to do in some sports than others," he said.
"Despite sprint and endurance athletes having different cardiovascular
requirements though, we have seen that by planning each of their training
programes differently, both benefit significantly from simulated altitude
Holroyd explained the variety of benefits Ho and Meyer, amongst others, enjoy
through the hard work they put in in Prime HPI’s simulated altitude chamber.
"When an athlete starts using the room, there is a period of about 3 to 4 weeks
where the athlete becomes optimally altitude acclimatised and that period is
usually quite intense with 2-3 sessions per week," he said.
"Once they are optimally acclimatised, they then do 1 or 2 sessions a week to
maintain the altitude benefits."
The altitude affects a variety of physiological processes in the body, from
uptake of oxygen in the lungs and transport to the muscles, to the way the
oxygen is used inside the muscles, the by-products that are produced by high
intensity exercise in the muscle (mainly lactate), the clearance of lactate out
of the muscle cells, and the processing of that lactate within the body.
"Everyone will have some degree of adaptation in all of these areas, although
where and how much varies a lot from person to person," added Holroyd.
"Interval training is a very important part of most athletes training and
another benefit of altitude training is that it enables athletes to hold a much
higher output for each of their intervals, resulting in an enhanced training
Ho’s open water Rio challenge takes place on Tuesday, August 16 while Meyer
will be in preliminary 1500m Freestyle action on Friday, August 12 with the
final taking place the following day.