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exercise science

Staff from Yale-New Haven Hospital who have received donations of meals through Lisa Siedlarz's fund

Have the latest headlines about COVID-19 made you want to run away? How about just run? How about at 2 a.m.? Probably not. Yet there David Martin, ‘20, was, dragging himself out of bed in the middle of the night to go for a 4-hour run.

“I was exhausted,” the SCSU graduate student said. “My legs were swollen. I was dehydrated.” Martin couldn’t stop running, though. After hearing news reports that local food banks were struggling to stock their pantries, he wanted to help. He was unsure of how to, exactly, when he learned that his fellow Full Throttle Endurance teammates from New York City were doing a charity run.

He contemplated joining but was still reeling from having to leave Southern’s campus suddenly, right before spring break, because of the coronavirus outbreak. As part of his thesis — he graduates this spring with a master’s in exercise science — he had been studying the effects of heat on athletes in a tent on Southern’s campus.

“We partnered with Nix [a company developing biosensing wearable technologies] and were using biosensors to test the sweat of elite athletes while they exercised,” Martin said. “We were some of the first to use this new technology. Shutting that down and leaving campus was devastating.”

The more Martin learned about his teammates’ fundraising success though, the more he experienced “FOMO, or fear of missing out,” he said. “So I picked a Connecticut charity because Connecticut is where I was born and raised, and I pledged to run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.” (The challenge was created by David Goggins, a retired United States Navy SEAL.)

David Martin, ’20 (photo courtesy of Connecticut Post)

Martin focused on Catholic Charities of Fairfield County to help Bridgeport’s Thomas Merton Center.

“The next day, after the website for online enrollment went up, we already had $800,” Martin said. To date, Martin has raised close to $3,500, enough to operate a soup kitchen and food pantry for more than 100 days. He shared his story on Facebook, Instagram, and Strava, a social-fitness network, garnering support with each mile.

“That last run on April 5 was the hardest,” he said. “But some of my fellow athletes showed up. Two ran in front to keep the wind off of me. It felt like a real race experience. People were beeping and shouting and honking their car horns. I collapsed on the ground when it was over, then I went home and slept for 13 hours.”

Similar to Martin, Southern Student Loan Coordinator and alumna Lisa Siedlarz (M.A. in English, ’07, with a concentration in poetry) found herself wondering how she could help after watching the news about the pandemic. She, too, belonged to a well-connected group who had the power to affect change — minus the nocturnal workouts.

“My East Rock neighborhood association is more than 600,” Siedlarz said. “After some of my friends who are nurses said we could help by providing nurses with food, I started wondering how much we could raise.”

Siedlarz kicked off her fundraiser to her neighborhood association on a Friday evening. She took her dogs for a walk. When she returned home 20 minutes later, she had almost $1,000. Five days later, she had $3,600.

The funds have gone to support Yale New Haven Hospital’s 9-7 COVID unit, which has 15 to 16 people working at any given time — often double shifts. Siedlarz has partnered with Christopher Martin’s Restaurant & Pub and Katalina’s Bakery, which deliver the food directly to the hospital.

“It costs $210 a day to feed 16 people breakfast and dinner,” Siedlarz said. “These people are working so hard and in a terrible situation. Providing food for them is not a big deal.”

Although this isn’t Siedlarz’s first experience fundraising, she is “always inspired” by the power of giving. And while the idea of helping may start out as a solitary one, both she and Martin were humbled by the outpouring of support.

“My neighborhood association started 12 years ago when we got a grant to plant trees,” Siedlarz said. “The next thing we knew, 20 people showed up. From there on out, we always had new people looking to join a community. Now, depending on how much more money we raise, we might be able to take on another hospital unit.”

Martin, who is taking a much-needed rest from running, said, “I never asked anyone to run with me, and I had company on every single run. Even at 2 a.m. That final run with the support was such a high. I felt so awful but so inspired. It was a huge team effort.”


The Human Performance Lab in the Department of Health and Movement Sciences

A name change and brand new facilities are bringing exciting — and cutting-edge — enhancements to Southern’s Exercise Science Department, renowned for its programs in athletic training, biomechanics, exercise physiology and more. The department recently was renamed the Department of Health and Movement Sciences, to better encompass its wide breadth of programs, and the department’s new address on campus — a 4-story Health and Human Services building — will enhance learning and  research opportunities for students and faculty alike.

“Historically, our department has been rooted in the exercise sciences, which encapsulated the performance, rehabilitation, and physical education aspects of exercise and sport through human performance, athletic training, and education, respectively,” said Marc Robertson, associate professor of health and movement sciences. “The field has evolved as society has placed greater emphasis on the health benefits associated with physical activity, hence the departmental name change better represents the types of programs we offer.”

Just a few years ago, the Exercise Science Department encompassed only the undergraduate majors of Athletic Training and Exercise Science. Now, Southern offers an accelerated 3+2 (3-year undergraduate degree plus 2-year graduate degree) Athletic Training degree program, one of the longest running accredited programs in Connecticut, as well as undergraduate and graduate programs in human performance, physical education, respiratory care, and school health education.

A new Bachelor of Health Science degree program was added in fall 2019 to provide tailored educational programs to students who plan to pursue graduate health professions such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant.

When construction begins in March 2020 on the Health and Human Services building, these programs will be enhanced with new teaching and learning labs, expanded research opportunities for faculty and students, and interprofessional education programs with other health and human services professions. Many of these collaborative learning experiences will take place in the patient/client simulation center that includes six hospital rooms, four medical exam rooms, and a home simulation facility.

A dedicated human performance lab and a biomechanics lab will enable the department to expand its research opportunities with additional equipment for testing and analysis. High-tech components include motion capture technology and the use of force plates for movement analysis. A new piece of equipment called a BOD POD will allow students to measure body fat using air plethysmography (air displacement). The equipment will replace a technique known as hydrostatic underwater weighing, which required clients to sit on a special scale and be lowered into a tank of water to estimate their body composition.

“The person sits still in an egg-shaped structure while the measurement is taken,” said William R. Lunn, associate professor of health and movement sciences. “It’s easier for the participant, as there is no anxiety of needing to be submerged under water.”

Award-winning faculty still will be the cornerstone of the department, although the new space will offer increased opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. It’s what drew champion triathlon racer and student David Martin, ‘20 (a master’s candidate in exercise science with a concentration in human performance), to Southern and continues to fuel his success.

“What is so special about the program and the faculty at SCSU is that I’m surrounded by people who are as enthusiastic as I am about this field of work,” Martin said. “The classes are set up in a way that prepares you for real experiences we will face in the exercise science field. With research being conducted by the professors, we can be hands-on as students and learn as we watch our professors.”

Even after graduation, he added, “There is a huge focus on having a plan. I feel successful here, and I feel comfortable that my success will continue to grow and exceed my expectations because I have the support of this department.”

Department Chair Gary Morin also has his eye on growth, although it’s for the department’s capabilities and programs.

“Once the building is done, the technological capabilities will increase the quality of education students get,” Morin said. “It’s been — and will continue to be — an exciting evolution.”

One by one, members of the men’s basketball team ran towards the Vertec vertical jump tester trying to see how high they could go. With teammates cheering on, each athlete jumped as high as they could. After recording all of the scores, Lonnie Blackwell began explaining how he would incorporate strength and conditioning to see these values rise during the off-season. Blackwell is a graduate student obtaining his Master of Science degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in Human Performance. Blackwell also works for Jim Ronai’s Competitive Edge Sports Performance, a company based out of Orange, Conn., as a strength and conditioning coach. He also has certifications such as the NASM CPT and NSCA CSCS. Blackwell acts as the graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach for men’s basketball, men’s soccer, and women’s field hockey, with head strength and conditioning coach, Dave Hashemi.

The Department of Health and Movement Science’s Human Performance Laboratory, offers numerous fitness, performance, and functionality assessments to members of the SCSU community. Men’s basketball started the preseason by utilizing the lab with Blackwell to test their physical performance. These tests included: vertical jump, change of direction using the 5-10-5 test, and acceleration with the 10-yard dash. Blackwell used the lab’s zybek lasers in order to precisely measure the 10-yard dash. The team tested strength with a 1-repetition maximum weight for the squat and bench press.

Men’s soccer testing included the yo-yo intermittent beep test to evaluate aerobic fitness levels and to predict VO2max, and performed 1-repetition maximum for the squat and bench press to measure strength.

During the regular season, the girls’ field hockey team comes into the weight room two times a week. The strength and conditioning system in place utilized six different lift options. Depending on each athlete’s fatigue level and general fitness, they can choose a lift option that compliments them.

The soccer team and field hockey team is also utilizing GPS. The GPS technology operated by the human performance laboratory gives a researcher data such as distance covered, top-end speed, and work rate. The field hockey team uses this technology every Friday for practice, in order to estimate the training load. Men’s soccer utilizes the GPS to grab data from their games, such as training load. It also allows them to monitor their performance throughout the season.

Blackwell is well versed in GPS technology, as he is using GPS for his master’s thesis. His research will be utilizing data from various sports teams, to gain further understanding of how to prescribe programming to teams during the year and summer months.