Gas Mask Running to Simulate High Altitude

by Jason
(Louisville, KY)

gas mask running to simulate high altitude

I have recently been training for my first triathlon and I have began to use a gas mask when I run and bike. Are there any health risks to doing this and have you heard of this before?

I figured it would simulate high altitude training with less oxygen, or maybe I am just an idiot who loves torture. Any information on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks


Answer by Dominique:

A very interesting approach...

My thoughts on this are as follows:

1. How well can we simulate high altitude training with a gas mask?
2. What are the benefits and drawbacks of running with a gas mask on?
3. Any further tips if you continue running with a gas mask

How Well Can We Simulate High Altitude Training with a Gas Mask?

gas mask running to simulate high altitude

Running with a gas mask on can be a way to simulate running at high altitude. Altitude masks work by restricting the amount of air that you can breathe in, which makes it harder to get enough oxygen. This can help your body to adapt to running in conditions where there is less oxygen, such as at high altitudes.

However, it is important to note that altitude masks do not actually simulate the exact conditions of running at high altitude. The pressure means there is less oxygen in the air at high altitude. So at high altitude you suck in as much air, which contains less oxygen. With a gas mask on, you are reducing the amount of air you are breathing in.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Running with a Gas Mask on

Some studies have shown that running with an altitude mask can be beneficial for athletes. One study found that runners who trained with an altitude mask for six weeks had improved VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) and running economy (the amount of energy it takes to run a given distance). Another study found that altitude mask training can help to improve endurance performance at high altitudes.

gas mask running to simulate high altitude

However, it is important to note that altitude mask training is not a magic bullet. For a start, it makes it harder initially to do your running training sessions.

You run out of breath quicker, you can't go for as long or as fast. Only after a longer time you start to adjust and cope with the less oxygen in the air as your body adapts. At first it is actually a little detrimental to your running training.

I experienced this first hand when I lived in Colorado for six months when I went on a student exchange to Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO). The first few weeks running was awful.

After a while I got used to it, but in the beginning it was hard to get the usual amount of work in.

You may also find that when you are trying to do more strenuous workouts, you can't go for as long or as hard.

Sometimes it is good to take a step back and consider: what are elite athletes doing? Yes, they do high altitude running camps. But I haven't heard too many stories of elite runners structurally running with gas masks on. That should tell you something.

However, maybe you are not just torturing yourself, but you are a true visionary! See for yourself what you want to do, but I wouldn't do it.

Any Further Tips if You Continue Running with a Gas Mask

I would just like to provide you with a few words of caution. A few things to keep in mind when running with a gas mask:

  • Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts over time.

  • Listen to your body and take breaks when you need them.

  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

  • Be aware of the risks of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, especially if you are running in hot weather.

  • If you experience any discomfort or pain, stop running and remove the mask.

  • I hope that provides some answers to your questions.
    Check out the running training section for further running training advice.

    Kind regards,

    Comments for Gas Mask Running to Simulate High Altitude

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    May 21, 2013
    by: Anonymous

    That is a good question i am in the marines and my time in training I have seen a lot of my guys and others use the issues gas mask we have during runs I'd try it out but it's not for everybody

    Jul 31, 2012
    Elevation Training Mask
    by: Anonymous

    I hear that it’s no way that a gas mask can simulate high altitude training “that’s not true”.
    It may be good to go do it naturally in the mountains, but with a properly working gas mask your body will not know the different. I use to believe that too until I order an Elevation Training Mask and put it on for an hour before a run. The body builds up blood cell as soon as there is a lack of oxygen to conversation for oxygen not getting to the muscles properly. I went on my run my heart rate was the same during training, but my training pace improved by 30 seconds per mile without putting in extra effort.”All this on the first day of use”. This experiment showed me that your body if you used a gas mask or a product that simulates less oxygen an hour before exercise can improve my running times temporally for the next hour. I also believe that the longer you stay at attitude the longer the benefit, which that’s why people think the mountains are the way to go. Fact is if your body can not tell the different between bottle water and tap water “Less oxygen is less oxygen as far as the body is concerned. People using injected epo which is illegal in sports the body has more red blood cell and more oxygen to work with at sea level which in fact the body cannot tell you have been to the mountains. I thank some altitude training methods reap real benefits.
    Thank you, Edward

    Dec 07, 2010
    Altitude Training Part II
    by: Anonymous

    Also, to benifit from the affect of altitude, you don't just train there, you have to live there. You have to spend at least 15 hours a day at altitude to achieve the effect. That is why Lance Armstrong sleeps on an altitude chamber or tent. It isn't about the training, it is about the bodies' adaptation.

    Dec 07, 2010
    Altitude Training
    by: Anonymous

    The benefit of training at altitude has nothing to do with difficult breathing. That is just the result of the "thinner" air. Training at altitude - above 6000 feet increases your red blood cell count. This is your bodies response to the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere. More red blood cells means your blood can transport more oxygen which means it carries more fuel for your muscles.

    Running with a gas mask will do nothing to help your performance.

    Oct 11, 2010
    by: Anonymous

    you can buy this training tool called the powerbreathe trainer. Its an official product of iron man, i.e the iron man triathlon. Im currently doing hill runs with the heavy duty powerbreathe and its hardcore but good. take it easy at first though try walking uphill with it first or upstairs even.

    Feb 24, 2010
    Gas mask Training
    by: Anonymous

    If you are a good long distance runner already then the gas mask will have better effects than if you are a total begineer! I use a gas mask, and a 50lbs weighted vest in my martial arts training! it helps alot because it gets your muscles used to working with low oxygen levels so you can break down the 'wall' so to speak.Get good at what ever you do before you introduce the gas mask as it could have negative results and detere you from the sport you doing as it might be too hard!

    Nov 21, 2009
    Gas mask jogger
    by: Swineflu Avenger

    I've been training with a gas mask, flak jacket, helmet & 10 lb. baton in New York City. I've recently made it up to 21 miles with all the gear and had attempted to run the NYC marathon like that. US Coast Guard Police wouldn't let me on base (where the starting line was) with the mask & baton, but I'm going for more full marathons in the near future.

    Anyway, the GM won't simulate a high altitude, but it most certainly will give your lungs a work out that will blow your mind! By creating pulmonary resistance, your diaphragm is strengthened, surface area and elasticity in the alveoli is increased. With the addition of the other gear, cardio resistance is also increased. Their will also be a noticeable improvement in blood pressure & heart rate that you just won't get with out the gear. Rest assured, with a little GM training, your lungs will soon be the last thing aching no matter how hard you train without it.

    Also, if you live in an area with polluted air, your eyes, nose throat & lungs are completely protected. Anyone who would run in mid-town, rush hour traffic in Manhattan without a gas mask in insane! If training in public however, I would be sure to wear safety vest or similar gear, and be prepared to be completely candid with any inquiries as to what you're up to, esp. from police. I am so impressed with the effects of gas mask training it amazes me that everyone isn't doing it!

    Apr 04, 2009
    Gas mask
    by: Anonymous

    Hey man I run at least 8 miles a day and 5 of those are with a gas mask. It doesn't hurt you at all. If anything it will get your breathing under control and help with lung stamina. I love running with the mask on. good luck

    Nov 07, 2008
    Gas Mask variation
    by: 82MAchines

    I also have the same idea of training my body with less oxygen than normal, but what I do is that I breathe only using my nose. I never open my mouth and I think it gave a positive effect on my body.

    Good luck


    Oct 07, 2008
    I remember when....
    by: BK

    When I was in the Air Force we were required to spend a certain amount of time in our "Chem-Gear" To make it more interesting, we would play full contact basketball. I'm sure we looked silly but it was a lot of fun. It also helped us get used to moving about in our gear.

    I want to know how many strange looks you get as you cruise down the road with a gas mask. Have you panicked anyone yet? Should I be waiting to hear about you on national news?

    Have fun!

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