When I arrived in Bogotá for the first time and walked my backpack to a car that was waiting for me at the airport, I thought I was going to collapse. When I arrived at my destination and tried to walk up two flights of stairs, it was near impossible. Doing anything at a high altitude is difficult, but if you want to keep up your fitness and exercise, it can be rough. So here are my tips for exercising at a high altitude.

1. Let your body get used to it

Just because you want to go for a hike or a trail run the day you arrive in Bogotá, and just because you think you’re fit enough to handle it, doesn’t mean it’s such a good idea. Give yourself a few days or a week to adjust to your new environment. Go sightseeing instead.

2. Avoid oxygen deprivation

Make sure you are not iron deficient and are including lots of iron in your daily diet. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, like myself, then that means including loads of leafy greens, spirulina, lentils and pumpkin seeds. You want to make sure your blood is as oxygenated as possible, especially because at these heights the oxygen is at a much lower pressure.

3. Start slow

Your body is going to react differently at this altitude so don’t expect to be able to do what you could do at sea level straight away. Move into your exercise routine slowly and patiently. Gradually you are going to see results and watch your body move faster and for longer. But take it slow, unless you want to suffer from oxygen deprivation and a bruised ego.

4. Don’t work out alone

If you’re not sure how your body is going to react, then make sure you work out with a buddy, or head along to a gym. It’s not a great idea to go for a hike alone when you’re still getting used to this whole altitude thing.

5. Stay hydrated

Of course, make sure you keep your fluids up.  And remember, if you’re thirsty then you’re already dehydrated!