Army athletes get acclimated to high altitude ahead of Warrior Games in Colorado Springs

By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Warrior Care and Transition

Colorado Springs, Colo. - When training hard for a big competition, athletes know how important it is to stop and take a breather. At 6,000 feet above sea level, that may be easier said than done.

"There's a lot less oxygen in the air," said Col. Ben Solomon, the Army Team Doctor. "You can become dizzy from exertion faster. You can also become tired and dehydrated faster."

The United States has an average elevation of 2,493 feet above sea level. That means most of the Army athletes who traveled to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to participate in the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games had some adjusting to do.

Most of the wounded warriors arrived several days early to train at Fort Carson and adapt.

"As far as exercise intensity goes, you should start low and go slow as you build up," Solomon said. "But every athlete is different."

First time Warrior Games participant Spc. Lauren Jahn started feeling the effects right away.

"I felt it indoors and outdoors. Just walking up a flight of stairs, I was out of breath," she said describing her first few days in the Centennial State.

Jahn says she has dealt with anemia for years - an added risk factor for altitude sickness.

"I've been taking a double dose of iron and drinking a gallon of water a day," Jahn said, which seemed to help as she found herself fully adjusted days before the first competition got underway.

In addition to iron and hydration, Solomon says Vitamin C - taken in advance - can also help with fighting off the fatigue.

"Altitude sickness is more common about 10,000 feet, but it is possible to get at 6,000 feet," said Col. Solomon. "Thankfully, athletes are in such shape that they shouldn't have any problems."