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C of I athletes study performance in HHP lab

January 19, 2017

Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud.

With wires, tubes and electronics harnessed around her, College of Idaho senior Emily Hawgood looked more bionic than woman as she ran on the treadmill. Fellow seniors Jayde Folsom and Dalton Ridgway looked on as the computer gathered information on Hawgood’s oxygen uptake levels.

This winter, six C of I students have been busy testing the human body and performing various research projects in the Health and Human Performance lab under the guidance of Dr. Harold Frobisher.

“It’s more about the experience,” Frobisher said. “We’re not bothered about the absolute answer. These tests have probably been done before, or something similar. We’re bothered about following the scientific method, and also the process from concept to completion and presentation.”

Being able to offer research opportunities to undergraduates is fairly unusual, Frobisher said. But inquiry-based learning and small class sizes at the C of I prompt more and better questions from students who are personally invested in their research.

On this particular day in the lab, Folsom collected data for her project on oxygen uptake levels, testing the difference between running on a treadmill versus running on flat ground. Folsom, a volleyball player, tested eight fellow student-athletes from various sports, having them run around the gym and then run at the same pace on a treadmill to see which was harder.

“It’s a question that a lot of people have asked, but no one really knows the answer to,” Folsom said. “A lot of people think that running on a treadmill is easier…I thought it would be interesting to see if that theory is correct.”

Though her hypothesis was there wouldn’t be a significant difference between running on a treadmill versus flat ground, preliminary results showed oxygen uptake levels were higher running on the treadmill. Her subjects also showed an increased heartrate of 10 beats per minute on the treadmill. But the numbers need to be fully crunched before results are final.

While Ridgway and Hawgood helped Folsom with her project, they also performed their own research. Ridgway was in the process of testing his baseball teammates to see if there was a difference in one-rep squat max for athletes who took a pre-workout supplement. He wants to see if pre-workout really helps you have a better workout, or if it’s more of a perceived stimulant—a placebo effect.

“A lot of athletes, at least on our baseball team, use pre-workout,” he said. “I just want to see if there is actually an effect, or if we’re just wasting our money.”

Hawgood worked with triathlon athletes from the Treasure Valley to test the metabolic efficiency of riding a bicycle in a road position versus riding in an aerodynamic position. Her data showed there wasn’t a significant difference between the two positions, showing the same power was produced with the same amount of work. With the demand on their body the same, it seems like riding in a more tucked-down, aerodynamic position would be more beneficial.

As Hawgood trains to compete in an Ironman race this summer in Coeur D’Alene, she’s enjoyed unearthing and discovering the answer to her hypothesis while interacting with the athletes and seeing their prowess on the bike.

“It’s been inspiring to work hard and get on the bike every day,” she said.

As all of the seniors look toward graduation and the pursuit of a career in health and medicine—physician’s assistant, health nutrition or physical therapist, to name a few options—the experience of getting in the lab, working with test subjects and learning how to use lab equipment has been priceless.

“Students probably remember [working in the lab] more than anything else,” Frobisher said. “It’s special to them. It’s something that they’ve chosen to do.”

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit