Jock Athletic: Project Altitude

14th March 2014

By Jock Campbell

Late last year I was talking with Super Mum and one of our athletes Eloise Wellings ('Elzy' or 'El' to us) about altitude training. Elzy told me she was still paying off all the camps that had been a major part of her London Olympic campaign from 2011 to 2012. To clarify this El has been one of our most successful 5k and 10k runners in Australia over the past 10-12 years, and unfortunately in Australia there is not much financial assistance or financial future for good female or male distance runners. So I thought, I bet I could get our great company sponsors, made up of mostly local business to sponsor a camp post cricket season. This is how JA Altitude project was born. 

From there I started to think who else would it be good for of our other athletes and what would we need, accommodation wise, food, etc. I hadn’t been to the Australian Mountains sine 96 or 97 when I took a bunch of uni students for a training camp to Jindabyne, but I had taken number of cricket training camps in the High Veldt in South Africa which I had loved and seen great value in. But first a note about the sponsors.

That afternoon in November as I was travelling off to the Australia A game in Tasmania I set the wheels in motion and started ringing our sponsors and what a great response they gave. I rang Georgy from Crust Cronulla and he said immediately, send me the details, but we’re in. I sent our great mate Chanh an email from Adidas Eyewear and rang him the next day, without hesitation he asked me what I needed and that they were on board, and Timmy Freeburn from Hydr8 Zero - a great new Performance Water that we’re involved with - was exactly the same. I was so proud of them, they’ve all been so good to us as a small company over the years and we at Jock Athletic are so happy for their continued support. They all have been so generous and most importantly it's great to be in partnership with such great people.

The Camp

Based at Perisher Valley at 1780m above sea level, certainly not high altitude, but high enough to get some physiological advantage.  The camp went for one-week duration, as that’s all we could fit in with competition tight either side and went extremely well.  It’s a magic spot up in our mountains, fantastic trails to run, a great facility at Sport & Rec in Jindabyne for our track work, and High Country Fitness owned and run by two time Olympian, moguls Skier Manuela Berchtold has a well equipped gym jam packed full of goodness and accepted us with open arms. Great facilities, great location sand a great atmosphere, we'll be back!

The best thing we did was bring our resident food sergeant and food and training conscience Dee McCarthy as our head chef. She was unbelievable and the food 5 star quality, the boys were happy, hart training, and lots of food, how could you go wrong. If Mitch and Rory don’t grow up to be great athletes, they could represent their countries in food eating, both brilliant o the fang!

Another great concept was bringing our long-term athlete, Dux of her year at university for Physiotherapy and one of the best up and coming sports Physios I know Ciaran Williams to look after our delicate athletes. Again she was priceless on tour and a must for our next trip.

And of course thanks to my brother Angus for organizing the accommodation at the ski lodge he’s a member of, it was brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.


Team Touring Party

Eloise Wellings – Olympic 5k & 10k runner trying to run a Commonwealth games 5km qualifying time 9 months after having a baby

Laura James – Blackmore’s Running Festival Half Marathon Champion 2013 – preparing for Commonwealth Games Marathon Qualification.

Ali Najem – Dual State Champion SLSC & Dual National Silver medalist Surf Lifesaving preparing for State & National Surf Lifesaving Titles in the 2km Beach run

Audrey Amiya-Hall – Previous U19 state champion 2km Beach run, Junior Australian Mountain Running Australian Team Member, NSW X Country Nationals Team member. Preparing for Australian Mountain Running Titles. Recently secured a running scholarship to the University of Florida.

Mitchell Palmer – Surf Lifesaving 2km Beach run hopeful. In 2013 selected as one of Scott Morrison MP’s touring party to the Black Cat trail in PNG. Talented runner, ski paddler and committed Volunteer Surf Life Saver.

Rory Darkins – Former U19 NZ International Cricketer. In Australia for match fitness and injury rehabilitation.

Ciaran Williams – Multiple State Medalist in Surf Life Saving, travelling with the squad as sports physiotherapist.

Dee McCarthy – Tour Food Sergeant and chef, very keen runner and age group place getter in The Wanda X-Treme 6 2014

Jock Campbell – Team Captain and genius


Altitude: What & Why

In sport science we always talk about living high (at altitude), and training low (sea level) as being the best option to get the best benefits of altitude. Why, because you get the physical adaptations of living at altitude where there is less oxygen in the air so your body fights hard to create better systems to use the limited oxygen, but by training low there is no reduction in the amount, intensity or speed of training you currently do. Ie you get physical improvement of your energy systems without any disruptions to training. This is tough to do unless you have a helicopter, great funding and a lot of time.

Several of the top athletes around the world attend training camps at altitude, amateurs in Australia have limited options. So, by living at Perisher, doing some training up at 1700-2050m and the more intense sessions at 900m in Jindabyne, we saw this as the best and most economical option.

Even to have our athletes come away and spend a week training with no distractions and extra time to practice recovery techniques, eat the right food, bond together, and get extra sleep was absolute gold. A week away to train like professionals was priceless and thanks to Jock Athletic and our great sponsors we were able to do this for our athletes free of charge.


About Altitude

  • High altitude is considered above 3000m
  • Perisher ranges from 1720m in the valley to 2054m on top of the mountain & considered low to moderate altitude
  • Australia’s highest peak is Kosciusko 2288m
  • 2500m is considered optimum for training camps, whilst doing your intense sessions as close to sea level as possible
  • The maximum benefit of altitude training usually last for 2-3 weeks with benefits however stretching out to 4 weeks.
  • The benefits can be lengthened by the use of altitude masks, nitrogen tents or houses or training in hypoxic chambers on return although not as effective as staying at altitude
  • Physiological improvements come mostly through an increase in red blood cell production & increase blood concentration of oxygen carrying cells stimulated by lower levels of oxygen in the air at altitude (hypoxic air)
  • This leads to increased endurance during exercise
  • Potential improvements in running economy and more efficient waste product buffering within the muscles have also been shown
  • Important to note individuals respond very differently, with regards to improvements, length of time to adapt and how long they carry the benefits for.

The Results

Well I’ll let you out there judge whether the camp was successful:

Eloise Wellings  – ran a season’s best by 50 seconds in running a Commonwealth games B qualifier 4 days after the altitude camp. 15.26 for 5km

Laura James – 5km PB 4 days after the altitude camp

Ali Najem – won double gold State Titles 2km Beach run, running the open event only 40 minutes after the U19 race, 5 days after the altitude camp.

Mitch Palmer – won his first ever State Surf Lifesaving medal in the 2km race coming 3rd, 5 days after returning from the camp.

Audrey Amiya Hall – ran a 10km PB 7 days after returning from altitude to win the Brooks Port Macquarie 10k race in 36mins

Rory Darkins – Ran his best time for a 2km Time Trial in over a year.

 Stay tuned for Jock Athletic Altitude Project 2.0 coming soon.

Jock Campbell is a Sports Scientist, Elite Strength & Conditioning Coach & Level 3 Athletics coach. From 2000 -2005 Jock was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Australian Cricket Team. During this period the Team was World Champions in both Test Match (No. 1 in Test rankings) and One Day Cricket (World Cup winners 2003 and no.1 in World rankings); it was the most successful period in the teams history.  For more on Jock, see About Us.

twitter: @jockathletic
instagram: @jockathletic