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Physiology Lab: great resource for students

Irene Cooper
The Broadside

Out a side door of Mazama and down some fragrant cedar steps you’ll come across what appears to be an Oregon Coast cottage tucked into the COCC campus.

In fact it is a state-of-the-art Exercise Physiology Lab, dedicated to helping people achieve their best physical performance, whether they are experienced marathon participants, or novices looking to start an exercise program.

The American Society of Exercise Physiologists defines its work as, “the identification of physiological mechanisms underlying physical activity.” To that end, there are several key tests performed to determine how a body responds to physical activity. The goal is to tailor a training program to suit the individual.
Erik Jacobson of the Department of Health and Human Performance heads up the Physiology Lab at COCC.

Jacobson says about 75 percent of the people that come to the lab are athletes from the community who are trying to improve their performance in endurance events. Testing might include VO2 max (relevant to a specific sport), body composition, lactate analysis and risk factor assessment. Athletes may learn how to use and interpret information from a heart rate monitor, and discover ways to vary their training with the seasons.

Staff funding for the Lab comes from COCC, but the equipment is paid for through income from testing and training services. This set-up gives the Lab some freedom from precarious budget situations, but helps maintain educational ties to the school. The resources provided through the Physiology Lab help students pursue Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees in Exercise Science, and help students meet transfer requirements for majors in Health and Human Services for Oregon State University and Portland State University, among others universities.

While the Physiology Lab is concerned primarily with the non-elite athlete, the recent Olympic Games and its past issues with illegal doping shone a spotlight on the role of performance enhancing drugs in sports.

According to Vancouver2010.com, the International Olympic Committee follows a zero-tolerance policy, and will have conducted 2,000 tests during the Winter Games in Vancouver. However some scientists believe that human performance has reached its peak, and only new technologies and performance enhancing drugs will enable athletes to keep breaking records.

Geoffroy Berthelot of INSEP, a research institute for athletics in Paris, said in an article on Ohio.com, “We saw a strong evolution of performance in the past century… [but] peak times [in track and field] have not improved in 64 percent of the events since 1993.”

Jacobson disagreed: “It would be hard for me to say that we’ve reached an apex. I don’t think we’re there.”
The reason we’re seeing more evidence of doping may be that ethics have changed, and that what was once tacitly accepted in some circles is now frowned upon, Jacobson offered. Also, testing has improved greatly in the past ten years.

“Maybe we need to focus more on the competition; focus more on the winner of the race, not the fastest guy on Earth,” said Berthelot.

For the non-Olympian, the tools gained through the Physiology Lab at COCC can help improve efficiency, and make training more fun.

At COCC’s Physiology Lab, the staff can teach you how to spend that energy to achieve your personal best.

You may contact Irene Cooper at icooper@cocc.edu

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