AUSTIN (KXAN) — While Q2 stadium is where Austin FC play their games, much of the hard work is done elsewhere.
Most of the training and recovery for Austin FC happens at the St. David’s Performance Center in north Austin. That’s where they have multiple practice soccer fields, a weight room, a barber shop and an altitude training room.
In the altitude training room, the air is regulated so it simulates the lower oxygen content found at higher elevations. It helps to prepare for places the team travels, like Denver or Salt Lake City.
“It’ll turn back on at six and it takes roughly four to five hours until it’s back above 10,000 feet again,” said David Tenney, High Performance Director for Austin FC, talking about the machine that regulates the oxygen in the room as he showed KXAN’s Nick Bannin around the facility.
Lower oxygen levels, if players are not used to it, can impact performance.
“The oxygen levels in your body are lower, so your oxygen that goes to your brain just gives you the sense of just not feeling quite as sharp cognitively,” Tenney added.
Exercising in this lower oxygen environment helps not only prepare players for higher elevation games, but it can help injured players recover.
According to Tenney, “being able to have a really efficient, short sprint interval session in there just helps us get a really good stimulus without actually being impact — impactful on their knees, hips and ankles.”
Tenney believes only one other MLS team has this type of equipment and that means Austin FC has an advantage.
“As sea level teams go into the altitude, typically, it’s difficult for them to win, and we’ve won twice in Denver, and now once in Salt Lake, since we’ve come in the league,” Tenney boasted.
But where they see the main benefits are with regular use. After two or three weeks, any fitness benefits from training in the altitude training room start to fade.
The team uses the altitude training room in conjunction with extra hydration to maximize results.
They even time their flights during those high elevation games to spend as little time as possible in a lower-oxygen atmosphere.
Austin FC play a high-altitude opponent, Colorado Rapids, this Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The game, however, is not at altitude, but instead at Q2 stadium where the air has plenty of oxygen.