ALTITUDE training has long been fashionable for AFL clubs, and now AFL umpires have taken it up to improve their fitness.
Ten of the League's elite umpires attended a training session at a private altitude training facility in the south east of Melbourne on Wednesday night, including experienced umpires Chris Donlon, Troy Pannell, Rob Findlay and Chris Kamolins .
Senior field umpires assistant coach and AFL Hall of Fame member Bryan Sheehan also took part.
“We believe the benefits of altitude training are significant and will have a positive impact on our umpires," Sheehan told AFL.com.au.
"They are elite athletes who run all day and altitude training will enable them to get fitter faster and to maintain that fitness during the season with less physical load on their bodies between games."
The umpires trained at an altitude of 3500 metres, each completing 30 minutes of high intensity intermittent sprint training under the watchful eye of one of Australia's most experienced altitude trainers, Shannon Adams.
The private chamber used by the umpires is owned by businessman Gerry Ryan, owner of professional cycling outfit Orica-GreenEDGE.
The practice of AFL clubs travelling overseas in the off-season to train at altitude has dropped off in recent years as facilities such as Ryan's and the ProSport gym in Richmond – popular with AFL players – have become available in Australia.
A number of clubs, including Collingwood and Carlton, have purpose-built altitude chambers on-site for players to use.
In November, Essendon had midfielder Heath Hocking sleep in an altitude chamber at the club for twelve nights to help maintain his fitness while he recovered from a groin injury.
The benefits of altitude training have long been debated.
As oxygen concentration is reduced, the body compensates by increasing its use of oxygen. Specifically, EPO production is increased, which in turn increases red blood cell mass for delivering oxygen to muscles, increasing VO2 max (the maximum volume of oxygen the body can use) and enhanced lactic buffering.