SUITA, Osaka Prefecture–Sportswear maker Asics Corp. has brought the high-altitude, low-oxygen conditions of Mount Fuji to a more convenient location for athletes who are seeking an edge in training.
The Asics Sports Complex Osaka Suita opened on May 2 on the second floor of a commercial facility about a nine-minute walk from Kishibe Station on the JR Kyoto Line.
The fitness center has a total floor space of about 450 square meters, including 120 square meters for a low-oxygen training room equipped with treadmills and stationary bicycles.
Many athletes, including long-distance runners, train at high altitudes because it increases their endurance and cardiorespiratory functions faster than training at sea level.
The oxygen concentration in the air at sea level is about 20.9 percent. But the concentration is set at about 15.7 percent in the Suita training room by adding nitrogen gas to the air. It is as thin as the air at 2,500 meters above sea level, equivalent to a point between the sixth and seventh stations of Mount Fuji.
The room provides a high-altitude environment without changing the air pressure.
According to Kazushige Goto, a professor at Ritsumeikan University’s Department of Sport and Health Science, the body uses energy-providing glycogen and increases blood flow when exercising in such an environment.
“I’m so exhausted. It’s difficult just to talk,” Mizuki Noguchi, the women’s marathon gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said after training at the facility during a media preview on April 26.
“I trained at an altitude of 1,900 meters during my active years, but I never knew the training load would be this different at an altitude of 2,500 meters,” she said.
Boulder in the U.S. state of Colorado, the Chinese city of Kunming and St. Moritz in Switzerland are among the mountainous places well-known as high-altitude training venues.
But it costs time and money to visit those places.
“It’s great to be able to do demanding training in the early morning and after work in a city,” Noguchi said.
It is Asics’ second high-altitude training facility. The first one opened in Tokyo’s Toyosu district in November 2019.
The Suita training center is open to both professional athletes and the general public. Asics plans to attract 600 members annually, mainly health conscious and physically fit people in their 30s through 50s.
The training center is more expensive than regular gyms. An initial membership costs 22,000 yen ($170), and full-time members must pay a monthly fee of 19,800 yen.
“We want to provide the latest added value by using the expertise we accumulated through our support efforts for athletes,” said Masaaki Koizumi, senior general manager of Asics’ Business Promotion Division.
Asics, in its long-term vision for the next decade released in autumn 2020, said it will not only develop and sell products but will also provide services and an environment to promote health and sports as a core business.
The low-oxygen training facility in Suita is part of that effort.
Asics promotes the concept of “crossing” at its low-oxygen gyms, hoping that top athletes, regular people and those with disabilities can improve each other’s performances while working out at the same place.
“I find myself slacking off when training alone, but working out with others has a positive effect,” Atsushi Yamamoto, a long jumper with a prosthetic leg who competed in the Tokyo Paralympics, said at the preview event. “I am based in the Kansai region, so I hope I can use the facility on a continual basis.”