Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yes, I do feel lucky

Thanks to my generous - and ever so slightly concerned - Mum & Dad, I went for the hypoxic consultation with Richard Pullan at The Altitude Centre in London today.
Fascinating stuff. Really. Richard blinded me with body science but the upshot is that I'm in rude health and at a good fitness level already.....for my excessive years, at least. And from the AMS susceptibility test there's every chance that I won't suffer too badly from the dreaded altitude sickness. As long as I remember to drink 4 litres of water and take 1/2 an aspirin a day, consider taking certain vitamins and my Y-fronts aren't too tight.
I am the proud owner of a written report, showing my blood pressure (optimal at 110/63); resting heart rate (Olympian at 44!); breath hold with empty lungs (pathetic at 26 seconds); hypoxic test result at a simulated altitude of 5,200m with an oxygen level of 11% (time-to-descent very good at 121 seconds; time-to-recover good at 46 seconds). The AMS test was conducted at a simulated 4,000m with oxygen at 12.8%.
I've also got the graph print-outs, showing the readings of my breathing patterns during the two tests. This is all just my simple idiot-friendly interpretation of a complex procedure. See The Altitude Centre's website for a more detailed and scientific explanation of the rationale and benefits of hypoxic training. And I've copied some of the more technical jargon from Richard's report on me below.
So having got a fairly glowing report from Richard and some comfort that I might be lucky enough not to suffer from AMS, will I go for the hypoxic training course? I'm not sure. It's not cheap and it's time consuming.... it might depend on Gill's assessment. If she's more susceptible then perhaps we think about renting for the month prior to Kili, especially if the rest of the brave Kili6 group can get some benefit too. We'll see nearer the time.
Anyway, for me it was £49 very well spent (I'll consider it a small advance on my inheritance). The whole area of hypoxic training is enlightening and intriguing. Richard treats asthmatics and migraine sufferers, as well as endurance athletes, professional sportsmen and mountaineers, who all benefit from this relatively new approach. I'd encourage everyone to try and get an assessment done if they can - the way I decided to look at it was: I'm only going to try and climb that bloody mountain once and I intend to get to Kibo peak and see the sun rise over Africa. I want to minimise the risk of AMS or any other obstacle, and maximise my chances and enjoyment level.
So yes, I feel incredibly lucky already for gaining this knowledge...and just hope that I feel the same way come the first week in March 2007.
Hypoxic Test. Td (Time to descent) was very good at 121s, you display a good tolerance to hypoxia. Tr (time to recover) was good at 46 seconds. Hypoxic training should increase your Td and improve your recovery time, this will make you more efficient with oxygen. Your breathing rate in this test started at 12 breaths per minute, then increased. Increased ventilation during hypoxic exposure (if done subconsciously) is a good sign that you will acclimatise well.
Hypoxic Test. The function of this test is to assess the condition of the user before the IHT course starts. From this information individual hypoxic parameters best suited to the person can be established. The test consists of up to seven minutes of hypoxic breathing followed by up to three minutes of room air breathing. The person undergoing the test wears the finger clip sensor throughout the test. This sensor measures the amount of oxygen in the blood (SpO2) and your heart rate. The two parameters obtained from this test make up your time to descend (Td) and time to recover (Tr).

Td (time to descend). As a rule, the length of this parameter in non-athletes reflects the level of general health and fitness – the longer Td – the higher fitness level. Greater than 100 sec reflects higher ability of the person to withstand hypoxic challenge. In most people Td has a trend to extend over the course of IHT training by 30-100%.

People having Td less that 40-60 sec may be considered having low hypoxia sensitivity and milder IHT program must be assigned for them.

Tr (time to recovery). Generally this parameter may be in the range of 30s – 120s. Over the course of IHT this period has a trend towards shortening.
AMS Susceptibility Test. Your test at 12.8% O2 (4,000m simulated altitude) indicated that your average arterial oxygen saturation percentage was 89%. The test indicates that you are not susceptible to AMS as plotted against the research by Burscher et. al. 2004.
AMS Susceptibility Test. A total of 150 subjects known to suffer from AMS tested their SaO2 values at various simulated altitudes. The test was matched against non AMS suffers. Conclusion, SaO2 measurement is a good indicator to AMS susceptibility.
Intermittent Hypoxic Training (IHT). Hypoxic and room air breathing episodes are each of several minutes’ (3-6) duration. A course of acclimatisation to a high altitude environment normally comprises 15 sessions, with daily sessions consisting of 30-120 minutes of appropriate respiration.

This technique does not deny the role of oxygen in human life. On the contrary, it has been proven that hypoxic training significantly improves oxygen metabolism in the body.

Transient lack of oxygen stimulates the pro-oxidant system in the body. Short-term exposures to mild hypoxia stimulate the body’s defence mechanisms and produce numerous beneficial responses in our physiology.


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