It may seem like a modern idea, or even sound like a trend, but the use of supplemental oxygen in sport has been happening for a long time.
As far back as 1908, Jabez Wolffe used it as a part of an English Channel crossing swim attempt. When he became exhausted, he would take on supplemental oxygen through a tube every 15 minutes (Fighting the Current, 2011).
Anyone who has exercised, or even just been at high altitude will have felt the impact that reduced oxygen can have on you physically. Breathing quickens, heart rate increases, power decreases and you generally feel more out of breath. Supplemental oxygen is basically the reverse of all of this and training with it can therefore have many benefits.
The technical term for training which focuses on increasing the amount of oxygen your body has access to during exercise is hyperoxic training. People train in this way due to the benefits oxygen has for increased power, endurance and training capacity and also to improve recovery time.
When someone trains with supplemental oxygen their power output at a given heart rate increases (trainright.com). A Mexico University study found that training under these conditions enables you to work at faster-than-usual speeds for longer and that training in this way benefits your overall performance in normal conditions.
Original four-minute mile runner, Sir Roger Bannister, published a paper on the effects of oxygen-enriched air a few weeks after his record breaking performance in 1954. Kenyan distance runners are very clearly among the (if not the) best in the world. One suggested reason for this is because many are born and train in high altitude areas of reduced oxygen, when they compete they are usually at lower altitudes and therefore are experiencing a natural surplus of oxygen. This is the boost that those at normal altitudes can get from supplemental oxygen.
Oxygen, very clearly, has a core role in many aspects of athletic performance. A lack of it can cause reduced muscle control, lack of stamina and lead to struggling to concentrate. In a sport like powerlifting and when weight training, a lack of concentration can be dangerous, which is one reason supplemental oxygen is beneficial.
In a surplus oxygen environment, extra oxygen passes quickly from the lungs, through the bloodsteam and into the muscles. Here, the muscles use the additional oxygen to create more energy aerobically. This means that the athlete can carry out intensive training, which in turn creates an ability to perform better in competition whilst improving overall fitness.
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