Question: does it make sense to train at high altitude for only 3 weeks?
Answer: Although the response to altitude is kind of individual, it is correct that the best effects are generally seen by living at an altitude of 2000 - 2500m for 4-6 weeks.
However, we also know that within the first 3 weeks, there is already a significant increase in red blood cells and hemoglobin mass. And apart from that, already after a two week stay at altitude, athletes have shown to have increased their number of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) and enzymes which help with the production of energy.
In short, already after a few weeks at altitude, our bodies are more effective in absorbing and transporting oxygen to the muscles. Our aerobic system gets stronger and is able to produce more energy. So yes, 3 weeks at high altitude is beneficial!
One pre-condition is that you have adequate iron stores. Check your level of ferritin several weeks before going to altitude. If this is below 100, you may have to consider taking 100 - 200 mg of iron per day, starting two weeks before altitude and continuing during your stay. It's best to discuss the details with a sports doctor, since general doctors are often not aware of this. They will only prescribe iron if your ferritin level is below 20-30, but to benefit optimally from altitude training, you need more than that.
There is so much more to write about altitude training, but we'll keep that for another post.
By the way, this post was first published on Hugo's Instagram account: running_coach_hugovandenbroek ....if you like it, consider following him for more running advice.