Altitude training versus the training camp effect; an anecdotal look at my time at Big Sky.

By Joe Burgess

Before I start telling you about my experience at Big Sky Bright, let me make very clear that I am not from a sports science background. In fact, I’m the only one of the three of us who came here who didn’t study a health science of some description. As such, I can only write from an anecdotal standpoint about my time here in Bright. I don’t profess to understand the science behind my experience, but I feel that’s what makes it raw and personal.

I wanted to share with you my experience at Big Sky in Bright, and how this experience is different from what I feel when at home in Sydney. My auxiliary training (everything outside of my sessions) in Bright was almost identical to what I’d do in Sydney. I had one run that was longer than what I’d normally do, but that was really it. However, there were two things that were drastically different during my time here- the altitude I slept and recovered at, and the different styles of session that I experienced as a result of being here. This feeds in to my discussion of altitude training versus the training camp effect.


The altitude that I slept at is the highest I’ve ever been at, even on previous trips to Falls Creek and Jindabyne. Bryce typically had our room set at an altitude between 2500m and 3000m of elevation. This was something I really noticed when I walked in to the room, as it was certainly harder to breathe. I found that this meant my muscles recovered less overnight. I started to find that I would be more sore at the start of easier runs, and would run slower for these runs. Moreover, the morning workouts were challenging for me, particularly when we did anything faster or more interval-based. Because of both of these things, I feel that the altitude was a factor in my increased effort. Therefore, I found the principle of ‘Live High, Train Low’ to be a really challenging and rewarding thing to undertake.

The Box Altitude App allows you to adjust the altitufe setting from your phone


Training-Camp Effect:

We’ve all been on training camps and we all have different memories of them. My predominant memory is doing 1km repeats at Falls Creek with hundreds of other athletes on a dirt trail. Big Sky was different for me. For me, it was an opportunity to try something different to what I’d normally do. In Sydney, I train by myself, and set myself sessions that would normally include 8km+ of effort, but a combination of tempo and faster efforts throughout. Bryce and James train differently. They introduced me to the ‘20 minute workout’, which typically only has 2 components to it. For instance, on Thursday we did quarters, followed by 5×200. All up, the session took 25 minutes, with only 12:30 of actual hard effort. This was not something I was used to, and I found it really tough. However, this was exactly what I wanted. We often exist in our own training bubble, with our own philosophies and ways of doing things. A new stimulus is rewarding and may improve you quicker, as there are no diminishing returns on something you’ve only done once! Despite the fact that I struggled in these sessions, I hope to take a lot of improvement out of them, and am grateful for the change of stimulus the trip provided me. This is something I’ve always found to be hugely beneficial with every training camp I’ve been on.

Running trail perfection

To finish off, I just wanted to say what a fantastic time I had on this trip. I found that staying at Big Sky meant that the benefits of Altitude Training and the Training Camp effect we’re both present and equal. From that stand point, I do feel that the Altitude effect of staying at Big Sky was greater than any other place I’d been. The ‘Live High, Train Low’ approach was tough, but this is exactly what you want from a performance perspective. However, this is only one component of a training camp. The company you keep on the training camp is so important to the success of the camp. There are two reasons for this. First of all, they make the camp memorable from a social perspective. The boys kept me sane on this trip. We had a blast and they were great company. Second of all, the training stimulus provided by the guys was invaluable. Doing something different can be incredibly beneficial from a performance perspective, so long as this change is measured.

I look forward to seeing how this camp impacts my performance. I suspect it will be for the better. One thing is for sure, though: I’ll be back at Big Sky.

Pure luxury at Altitude 1