Elevation and training


I live/train at 3500 ft elevation, and often travel to Houston (sea level) to visit friends or for work. When going down to sea level, I understand my ftp should go up. According to Joe Friel, going from sea level to 3500 ft, you are limited to ~94% of your ftp, does this mean I should be doing my TR workouts at 106% when I’m at sea level?image


Its a good question, as most of the studies I’ve seen investigate the effects of increasing in altitude, and not dropping down to lower elevations.

The studies I’ve seen on effects of altitude show a decrease in VO2max of 6-7% for every 1000m of elevation gain (and all else equal, similar effect on FTP), and that you can recover approx 1/3 to 1/2 of the loss with multiple weeks of acclimatization.

So let’s say you move from sea level to 1000m (3300 ft), your FTP will drop from 100% to about 93%. But then after multiple weeks you may acclimatize and recover to, say, 96%.

So if you go back to sea level, will your FTP return to 100%, or 103%? I don’t know, but my guess is somewhere in between. Maybe you can answer the question for yourself by doing an FTP test at lower elevations?

Training at altitude/racing at sea level

Good question. I would be curious to hear the results if you do an ftp test.


I’ve got a trip planned in a month that falls near the end of my recovery week, so I’ll test at sea level then again back at altitude in a few days.

So with that being said, how will 5 days at sea level and going back up to altitude affect my testing if it’s scheduled for the next day?


I don’t have any good answers to your questions but a few more questions to pose for the group! How will the trip itself and going down from altitude and back up affect results just on its own? Will you be doing the ramp test? The old 20 min test seems to be a bigger effort so would take more out of you and may hamper subsequent FTP tests just from that standpoint (if within same seven day span).


I was going to do a ramp test before I left and one while I was gone to compare the results of the two.

But I’ve been back for 2 days after spending 10 days at sea level, and I couldn’t finish Leavitt +2 today at 100% after training at 106% the entire time I was gone. Originally I was going to test after I came back, but after seeing my performance today, I think I want to test before I go.


Interesting. The tables would suggest 100% should be doable after 10 days where your workouts were at 106%.

Did you do a lot of riding at sea level, and maybe were a little fatigued?

Separate from the numbers clearly showing you were stronger at sea level, how was RPE? Did you feel like you could recover a lot quicker from hard efforts? I’ve noticed this when I’ve gone from altitude to sea level …


Agree with @DaveWhelan comments. Seems like something else must have been in play (fatigue, etc) other than just elevation. Perhaps, body has difficulty when going back and forth quickly from altitude? However, that seems to be the whole precedent behind live high/train low philosophy so maybe not.

Also, was training any different at sea level than at altitude or was it typical routine?


I was at sea level for 10 days and I rode TR for 6 of them, so it’s less than my normal routine of 5-6 rides per week doing Sweet Spot base mid volume. Rides at 106% at sea level felt easier than 100% at home, both on the legs and the lungs, so RPE was definitely lower at sea level. Maybe it was just a hard first workout back, not really sure but I nailed today’s workout so maybe it was fatigue yesterday that wasn’t bike related.