Montana State University

New equipment in MSU's Movement Science/Human Performance Lab helps skiers

November 22, 2010 -- Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service


Tyler Reinking, an MSU Nordic skier from Silverthorne, Colo., performs a VO2 max test on a new oversized treadmill in MSU's Movement Science/Human Performance Lab. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Nordic skiers from Montana State University and the Bozeman community have the opportunity to participate in advanced performance tests thanks to a new oversized treadmill at MSU's Movement Science/Human Performance Lab.

The treadmill, measuring 8 feet wide by 10 feet long, is currently the largest treadmill in the Pacific Northwest used for human testing of any kind and is the same size treadmill used at U.S. Olympic training centers in Lake Placid, N.Y., and Salt Lake City, according to Dan Heil, a professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance. The treadmill has a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and can reach an incline of 40 percent.

At MSU it will be used, along with other equipment in the Human Performance Lab, to perform several tests measuring the performance of MSU's Nordic skiers and junior Nordic skiers from the Bridger Ski Foundation, a local non-profit. Those tests include individuals' VO2 max, or the measure of the rate at which an individual can consume oxygen, and upper body power. The VO2 max test is conducted while athletes use roller skis on the treadmill, and the upper body power test is conducted as athletes perform a double-poling motion with ski poles on a modified ski ergometer.

The testing benefits individual skiers by tracking their progress and fitness over the years, Heil said, giving them information they can use in training.

"After awhile, data can be used to judge how well they're maturing as a skier," he said. "These tests also give graduate students (who are running the tests) experience working with athletes in different scenarios and in stressful conditions."

Graduate students in health and human performance work with Heil to conduct the tests, doing everything from helping strap the skiers to a safety harness system to taking blood samples from the athletes throughout the tests to measure their blood lactate levels.

"This is really great lab experience," said Katelyn Taylor, a second-year graduate student from San Francisco. "It's very different from other research I've done before. It's cool to help athletes and get experience at the same time."

Tyler Reinking, an MSU Nordic skier from Silverthorne, Colo., said the test results give him valuable information.

"It's helpful to see where I am and to compare my progress from year to year," Reinking said. "It helps me decide how hard to push myself."

While taking the VO2 max test, Reinking skate skied on the treadmill using roller skis, which allow athletes to mimic outdoor roller skiing. Throughout the test, information measuring Reinking's condition, such as his heart rate, was updated on a monitor in front of the treadmill. Below the monitor, a giant clock allowed Reinking to anticipate when the pace and slope of the treadmill would be increased.

As Reinking skied, he breathed into a tube so that measurements could be taken. He also wore a harness and was hooked up to ropes suspended above the treadmill, protecting him from flying off the back end and injuring himself if the pace became too great.

Half a dozen spectators from the MSU team and the team's assistant coach cheered Reinking on as the test continued, taking about 40 minutes to complete.

"There's definitely excitement in this room," Heil said after the conclusion of the test. "Everyone cheers everyone else on, and they're also very competitive. Nordic skiers definitely tend to push themselves and want to see how good they can be. We're glad to be able to give them information they can use in their training."

Dan Heil, (406) 994-6324 or dheil@montana.edu