Olympic Rowing Teams Gets Help From Ohio University

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One gold and two bronze – the medal score of the US Rowing team in the Summer Olympics. 

That performance is an improvement over previous Olympic efforts, and the fifth-place US team may has had some help from Ohio University.

Ohio University's Fritz Hagerman and Jason White spent a couple of weeks this summer testing the physical performance of the men's and women's four- and eight-person rowing teams as they trained in Princeton, N.J. (women), and in the San Francisco and San Diego areas for the London Olympics.

Hagerman is an emeritus professor of physiology in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. White is an associate professor of exercise physiology in the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP).

During their work with the teams, Hagerman and White tracked numerous markers of physical performance, such as oxygen consumption and the level of lactate in the rowers' blood during various levels of exertion. Lactate signals the presence of lactic acid in muscle – that burn you feel during strenuous exercise.

By learning when lactic acid levels in their muscles peak, the rowers and their coaches hope to be able to better pace themselves during Olympic competition.

Hagerman has been a consultant to the U.S. National Rowing Team since 1972.

He and his wife, Marjorie, established WellWorks, the fitness and nutrition center housed in CHSP.

After retiring from Ohio University in 2001, Hagerman began passing his Olympic testing torch to White.

"I have been crunching data from the Olympic rowers since the Sydney games in 2000," White said, "when I was an undergraduate student and Fritz was my adviser. And I've worked hands-on with the athletes since 2008. I'm so appreciative of the opportunity he has given me to meet some of the best athletes and people in the world."

For decades, Hagerman has researched and written on the body's responses to high intensity and long duration exercise, particularly rowing.

"You burn more calories in rowing than any other activity," Hagerman said in an article for Concept2, a rowing machine manufacturer.

"Cross-country skiing comes the closest.

Rowing will burn calories at a rate 10-12 percent higher than running, and 15-20 percent higher than cycling."

Hagerman and White will be eagerly watching the U.S. rowing teams on TV as they compete in England.

"After more than 40 years of testing and working with the athletes, it's still exciting to watch U.S. teams compete for gold," Hagerman said.