Boston Marathon, 2019

If you’ve worked out at Well-Fit anytime within the, oh, last year or so, odds are you’ve met or seen Paul Gavin.  Like all our athletes, he is dedicated to his training.  He puts in the time, and he realizes great results—on both a personal level and for the charity he supports.  After being his own test dummy and incorporating a new variable into his training, Paul ran the 2019 Boston Marathon:  He wanted to see how this marathon would compare to his previous marathon of six months prior in Chicago, if he incorporated altitude training into his regimen.  Like so many other Well-Fit athletes, he experienced some rather impressive results.  We encourage anyone looking to improve their overall fitness or seeking improved performance to utilize the valuable asset of the altitude room onsite here at Well-Fit.

Following is Well-Fit Performance’s interview with Ironman and marathoner, Paul Gavin:

What was the impetus for training in there?

I read into the science behind it.  I figured if my gym has an edge that no other gyms have, why not take advantage of it?  The impact the altitude room has on an athlete is very difficult to quantify.  If an athlete does improve, it’s not always black and white when determining what exactly caused that improvement.  That’s why I wanted to capture the difference in my heart rate from Chicago vs. Boston.  I felt that was the best way to really see the positive impact the altitude room has had on my own performance, or at least the positive effect it has had on my heart rate.

Given that your heart rate/beats per minute were considerably lower in Boston versus Chicago, what impact did this have on your race, physically and mentally?  

For the first time ever in a marathon or Ironman, I barely looked at my pace/time.  After mile 5 in Boston, the only number I looked at was my heart rate, because I knew if I can keep it in high zone 2 tops, then I would be running up those hills at mile 20 and not walking.  If I had raced Chicago not letting my heart rate go any higher than zone 2, then I may have run a 3:15.  I needed to be in zone 3/4 in order to run a 3:02 on a flat course in Chicago.  Then seven months later in Boston, I ran a 3:03 in zone 2 on a much more difficult course. 

Do you experience any other intended (or unintended) side effects of altitude training?

Breathing just seems easier at sea level during my intense rides/runs.  That coupled with a generally lower heart rate during my rides and runs has been a positive side effect.

Any words of advice or other tidbit you’d care to share?

Like I said, the positive impact from the altitude room is difficult to gauge, but I would say keep an eye on your heart rate to see if it drops under similar sea level conditions.  You have to be consistent and have structure to your workouts in there as well.  It is not for the faint of heart and an athlete has to be entirely focused on the workout in order to get the most out of it.  Adhere to a program and be patient with it….it will take time to see any effects.  It is not easy in there, especially at the start.  My pace rises by 45-60 seconds depending on the distance, so it’s important to not get discouraged.  I would trust the science behind it, the workouts that Well-fit provides and the coaches that lead the workouts. 

Paul’s side-by-side results:

  • Chicago 2018:  Flat course vs Boston 2019: rolling hills (including the famed “Heartbreak Hill”
  • Weather conditions Chicago vs Boston: About the same.  It rained during Chicago but not steady enough to where it affected my time.
  • Finish times – 40 sec faster in Chicago
    • 45 seconds faster in Chicago
    • Chicago 3:02:38
    • Boston 3:03:23
  • Heart rate – 16 bpm lower in Boston, thanks to altitude training
    • Average heart rate in Chicago: 173 BPM
    • Average heart rate in Boston: 157 BPM

Paul ran the Boston Marathon in honor of police and firefighters that die in the line of duty.  His dad, an ex-Chicago police officer, passed away in 2016 (not die in the line of duty), and he does this to keep his memory alive and to support a great organization like the 100 Club.  Here are links to their fundraising pages:

To learn more about the benefit of training in Well-Fit’s Altitude Room, click here.