Altitude is a funny thing.

By Paul Corson.

Altitude is a funny thing. We know that the higher the altitude, the lower the air pressure. Lower air pressure equates to thinner air. Thinner air results in hypoxia, a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching body tissue. Our kidneys respond by sending EPO to our bone marrow, which produces more red blood cells to carry more oxygen to our body tissue. Not a bad thing when training for an endurance event.

Living and training at altitude also affects brain chemistry. On the one hand, our brains release more dopamine, which the Urban Dictionary defines as, “the kick ass chemical in your brain that makes you feel and do happy things.” But our brains also release more serotonin and high serotonin levels have been linked to agitation, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, restlessness, and other symptoms.

On the aggregate, altitude induced physical and chemical changes appear to have a positive impact on human performance. According to a 2013 Runners World article, “95 percent of all medalists at the world championships and the Olympic Games since 1968 have either lived or trained at altitude.” At the individual level, however, we can’t always be certain that the benefits will exceed the costs.

Innovation is a similarly funny thing. Innovation can be defined as a change in the status quo. We know that life on our planet has evolved in response to changes imposed on it by nature and time. Elsewhere in the Thin Air blog, Andy Stumpf, Emily Cook, and Hoby Darling offered their thoughts on innovation. An overarching theme of their thoughts was the importance of inspiration and action, not just in response to change, but as a precursor to and generator of change.

And that is where this year’s Thin Air Innovation Festival is different. Alone among living organisms on earth, humans have the ability not just to evolve in response to change, but to act upon inspiration and proactively innovate to expand opportunity, potential, well-being, and performance. We have harnessed and combined the power of technology and commerce to launch entrepreneurial endeavors that solve unimaginable challenges. We have pushed beyond physical and metaphysical peaks in human performance to achieve the impossible. And having done so, we are inspired to continue innovating…because athletes and entrepreneurs share many traits and characteristics.


  • Are motivated by the passionate belief that they can succeed where others have failed;
  • See opportunity where others only see obstacles;
  • Assume risks that turn others away;
  • Seek out the tutelage of experienced coaches and mentors;
  • Constantly learn from others success and failure;
  • Find inspiration from members within their community.

Thankfully, there are places like Baltimore’s City Garage that are dedicated to the pursuit of peak human performance through entrepreneurial innovations. Founded and managed by Kevin Plank and other Under Armour employees and alumni, City Garage “is Baltimore’s space for the entrepreneurial community to gather, collaborate, and succeed.” It offers a place where entrepreneurs can explore ideas, expand networks, launch companies, and pursue dreams. It supports the individual, while building the community. And like the infamous Ricky Bobby, City Garage turns thinkers into doers.

We hope you find inspiration to maximize your performance in Park City’s Thin Air.

Paul Corson is a Thin Air contributor. Check out his blog,

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