AUSTIN (KXAN) — Passing, shooting, tackling and dribbling are all part of the training regime in the days leading up to an Austin FC game, but there’s another aspect of the game that coaches and the medical staff must prepare for before a road trip — elevation.

The elevation at Q2 Stadium is around 775 feet above sea level. The higher you are, the lower the oxygen content in the air, the harder it is to breathe, especially when you’re exercising.

For Austin FC’s second game of the season, they traveled to play Colorado Rapids in Denver at an elevation almost 4,500 feet higher than that at 5,164 feet.

Chad Kolarcik is Austin FC’s head fitness and rehabilitation coach. He uses three methods to get the players acclimated.

  • They train in an altitude room with limited oxygen to simulate higher elevations.
  • He changes the players’ diets, having them consume beetroot shots to help at the cellular level to deliver oxygen to the working muscles
  • Then they receive over-oxygenation in a hyperbaric chamber just before they travel to the high elevation game.

“You’re saturating your cells with oxygen so that whenever you do finally go to a lower oxygen availability location your cells actually have a lot more oxygen,” Kolarcik said.

Contrary to what you might think, unless you plan on spending a while at altitude to adjust, you’re better off spending as little time as you can at higher altitude before a game.

“Generally, the 24-48, sometimes up to 72 hours after you get into altitude is when it feels the absolute worst. So if you can be inside of that 24-hour window and as short as you can keep it tends to have the least amount of affect,” added Kolarcik.

Against the Rapids, by the way, Austin FC arrived just eight hours before game time and ended up winning 3-1.