Bowerman Sports Science Clinic helps improve athletic performance
Oregon Track Club Elite athlete Aisha Praught was working out at Hayward Field on a cool October morning, running about five miles at 5:45 pace.
But this workout carried an extra sting: After each mile, Praught stopped at a table by the east grandstand and got her finger stuck with a needle so that a drop of her blood could be tested.
Those drops of blood carry information about Praught's fitness, and will be used to help make her a faster runner.
This is the kind of analysis that happens at the Bowerman Sports Science Clinic, located in the Bowerman Building next to Hayward Field on the UO campus. Both are named for Bill Bowerman, the legendary Oregon track coach and co-founder of Nike.
The clinic, which is hosting an open house from 4-7 p.m. Oct. 24, operates under the auspices of Research, Innovation and Graduate Education at the UO. It offers services intended to improve athletic performance and reduce injuries, including exercise physiology testing, body composition measurement and analysis of running mechanics in its biomechanics laboratory.
While Bowerman coached world-class athletes, he also is credited with bringing the sport of running to the masses in the 1960s. He also was a tireless innovator who built shoes for his athletes and devised Nike's famous waffle sole using his wife's waffle irons.
Michael Hahn, the clinic director and an assistant professor of Human Physiology at the UO, said that legacy drives the work at the Bowerman Sports Science Clinic. Right now, the clinic works mostly with the professional athletes of Oregon Track Club Elite, but it also helps weekend warriors who want to improve their performance, he said.
"I think the community understands the history, and they know that Bill Bowerman's impact here was to bring science into the athletic community and then broaden it out to the everyday athlete as well," he said.
"That's really still our vision here: To bring science into lockstep with the sport, and work with the athletes and coaches and athletic trainers to make sure there are no drops between the understanding of science and sport, but then also to get it to programs like Kidsports and developing athletes here in Eugene."
The BSSC is part of a network of international research centers connected through the University of Calgary, which gives its staff members access to a massive database of information that can be used to improve athletic performance.
Working with Praught, BSSC staff members will analzye the results of those blood tests and determine her lactate threshold — the point at which lactate ions begin accumulating in her blood at a rate faster than she can metabolize them. This threshold is critical for understanding at what rate fatigue sets in and when performance begins to decline.
Knowing precisely what speeds and heart rates she can maintain at or below the lactate threshold helps Aisha and her coach to more effectively determine training intensities.
"It helps having data because you think you know where you are," said Praught, who races 1,500 meters and the 3,000-meter steeplechase, "but you're not necessarily sure what's going on on inside (your body), so it's real helpful."