The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee employs a dedicated team of sport physiologists, who help athletes improve their training methods by focusing on how exercise alters the function and structure of the body. This is done through analysis of cardio-respiratory, metabolic and musculoskeletal factors that contribute to peak athletic performance.
A sport physiologist seeks to understand the physiological demands of athletes while measuring performance through testing and individual training; this, in turn, enables the physiologist to advise coaches and athletes about training and competition through individualized, measurable adjustments. Physiologists also study and understand how the body responds and adapts to performing in different environments, such as heat, humidity or altitude.
The Athlete Performance Zone at the Colorado Springs Olympic & Paralympic Training Center allows USOPC physiologists to work with Team USA athletes and coaches by offering unique training opportunities such as the Alter-G treadmill, an “anti-gravity” treadmill that allows athletes to run at 20-100 percent of their total body weight. For example, an athlete coming off a knee injury or surgery might do a conditioning run at 40 percent of their total body weight, thereby allowing them to run relatively pain-free and regain their fitness level more rapidly versus using a standard treadmill. Another example of Alter-G use might be a marathon runner or triathlete, who completes long-distance running workouts at 90 percent of their total body weight to help reduce the risk of stress fracture while simultaneously increasing their mileage and fitness level.
The Athlete Performance Zone also features the High-Altitude Training Center, which allows athletes to train or sleep at altitudes ranging from sea level to 24,000 feet. The HATC also has the capability of altering the ambient air temperature (-5 to 100+ ˚F) and relative humidity (5-100 percent). With the HATC, Team USA athletes are able to use cutting-edge altitude training techniques – including “live high, train low” and intermittent hypoxic training – while also pre-acclimatizing to hot/humid environments from anywhere around the globe. The HATC at the Colorado Springs Olympic & Paralympic Training Center is one of the only training facilities in the world that features all of these environmental capabilities for altitude training, and heat and humidity acclimatization.