It’s no secret that all kinds of professional athletes come to Colorado to train at high elevation for competitive advantages.
Training at high altitude increases the number of red blood cells which are responsible for transporting oxygen to the muscles. This in turn improves your VO2 max which is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can obtain and use during hard exercise. Point blank: acclimatizing to high altitude and then making a return to sea level can improve athletic performance.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham believes in the benefits of training at high altitude. He has spent part of the past two summers training (and enjoying life) in Steamboat Springs, CO which sits at a lung-burning 6,732 feet above sea level.
Aside from the thin air, the town itself lends itself to a disciplined lifestyle.
“For me, it’s the community. For me, I feel like everyone’s mindset here is really outdoor training,” he said. “It seems like everyone is working out. Last movie you can watch here is at 8 p.m. People are in bed at 9 p.m. to go hiking at 6 a.m. To be around that is a great atmosphere.” – Jimmy Graham (Craig Daily Press)
Of course for Graham, the high altitude training doesn’t have a direct effect on his regular season numbers because the body acclimates to being back at sea level. However, the training does help him in training camp, and in turn, improvements to regular season play are made then.
In Graham’s two NFL seasons, he has 130 receptions for 1,666 yards, and 16 touchdowns.
The Broncos have a complete advantage playing at 5,280 feet above sea level. Teams that come in are sucking wind and may find that their legs and lungs aren’t in their normal fourth quarter shape. Now imagine those same legs and lungs that have had to defend Peyton Manning’s fast paced offense for three quarters. On the flip side, when the Broncos travel, they are traveling down. Breathing suddenly becomes easy again and bodies feel especially fresh even if the team is eight weeks into the season.
The Mile High advantage isn’t just a myth. It’s something that the Broncos need to take advantage of.