Taking sports to a higher level
By Ana Maria Prado Original Print Publication: July, 2008
Before the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, one of the biggest concerns for trainers and athletes from around the world was the altitude (2,240 meters above sea level). Adapting to the oxygen-deprived air would be difficult for many endurance athletes.
Image:Ana Maria Prado
Centro Ceremonial Otomí
Once the Games were over, however, the high altitude was credited with contributing to several world records in sprints and jumps.
Since then, trainers and athletes have learned that exercising at high altitude provides great benefits.
In 1980, amid a pine and oak forest northeast of Toluca, the Centro Ceremonial Otomí was built as a tribute to the local Otomí culture. Now, the park is also a high-performance training center for world class athletes, managed by INCUFIDE (Mexico’s State Institute for Physical Culture and Sports).
Tiburcio Garcia, the internationally recognized trainer of boxers José Luis “El Temible” Castillo and Jorge “El Travieso” Arce—both have been world champions—explains the benefits of training at high altitude.
“The most important benefits for a competitor who works out at altitude are strength and endurance. It’s not easy to get used to the altitude but after a couple of weeks you can see the results in the athlete’s performance. The Centro Ceremonial Otomí is great for this kind of training. It is located at 3,300 meters above the ocean, and if you go to the top of the mountain you’ll be at around 3,800 meters.”
But why is it good for athletes?
“When you are at a higher altitude there is less oxygen. This means you get less air to breathe, and you consume smaller amounts of oxygen which makes your heart get bigger. After training at high altitude, when you go to a lower altitude you’re quicker and stronger, and the recovery time for your heartbeat is faster. Training at altitude also stimulates the production of red blood cells [a process called erythropoiesis],” explains Garcia.
Are there any disadvantages to altitude training?
“I don’t think there are any. I’ve seen only positive results. But you should be in shape before you get here, and it’s always going to be better if you are guided by a professional trainer.”
The Centro Ceremonial Otomí is located 45 minutes from Toluca and 1.5 hours from the DF. Visitors are welcome Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 am to 5 pm. www.ccotomi.com. For athletic facilities you can visit www.imcufide. com/instalaciones/otomi. html#. Location: Km. 10 on the highway from Temoaya to the Centro Ceremonial Otomí, San Pedro Arriba, Municipio de Temoaya, Estado de México. Tel: 01 (722) 167-5446