For runners seeking help in getting fitter and faster, the Human Performance Lab at the University at Buffalo is at your disposal.
"The doors are open to anybody," said Karl Kozlowski, the lab's director. "The idea behind the Center for Health and Human Performance [part of UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions] is that performance doesn't mean [you have to play] NHL professional ice hockey, or running a 16-minute 5K. Performance means being at the optimal level that you choose to do. It can be as simple as someone who wants to go into the garden and work for three or four hours."
Let's take a random runner in Western New York who wants to do better. He or she could get an introduction to the lab through its Web site, http://sphhp.buffalo.edu/ens/hpl/index.php. Then the runner can call or e-mail for a consultation.
"That's where the process begins -- defining what their goals are, what tests are needed, what kind of information is going to help them progress in their training," Kozlowski said. "Once that's identified, we move into setting up an actual appointment depending on what types of tests they want to do.
"I would probably say we have seven to 15 initial contacts per month. Whether they follow through, that's an individual decision."
Visitors receive a variety of tests at the lab, depending on their needs. For example, runners can put on a vest and mask and have their breathing output measured while on the track as opposed to doing it on a treadmill.
Visitors receive full explanations on the process along the way.
"There's no sense doing any of this stuff with somebody who is scratching his head wondering what the heck happened and thinking, 'How can I use that?' " said Frank Cerny, professor emeritus at UB. "We train the students to sit down and educate the [test subjects], share their knowledge. . . . The more the [test subjects] understand, the better off they are going to be."
When the test results arrive things that are measured include body fat and lung capacity -- they can be almost shocking.
"For the most part, people come in and they are thinking they are in much better shape than they are in," Kozlowski said. "We provide that realization. We base everything on measured standards. We can say, 'Here are the numbers that we calculated, and this is where you fall.' People are often surprised. They have this notion, 'I'm in the elite level. I'm very thin. I don't have much fat mass.' But the numbers don't lie."
To those wishing to become better athletes, staff members at the lab make suggestions in such areas as workouts and diet. Top runners have had such guidance for years, so researchers today are finding that it's older athletes who show the most pronounced improvements by such programs.
"There are a lot of differences that we don't know about between masters athletes and university athletes," Kozlowski said. "We had been basing standards on young, healthy athletes and expecting these older masters athletes to fit the curve. We don't know what aspects they directly fit. For example, it takes a lot longer [for masters runners] to heal from an injury. They are older. Treatment of that injury may be different as you age. Maybe we need to focus on that."
And the cost for all this?
"Your VO2 max [respiration output] on a treadmill or a cycle, because of the scientific equipment needed, will cost about $150, which is nationally on the fairly cheap side," Kozlowski said. "Body composition can range from $15 for an impedence test, which is fairly accurate, to $50 for a hydrostalic weighing, which is the gold standard to measurement of muscle mass. We have graduate students in nutrition as well as registered dieticians that do diet analyses for anywhere between $45 and $70. It's a nice a la carte menu."
The department has been working on a variety of interesting research areas. For example, it is looking at eating disorders among NCAA wrestlers, a problem that has reached a rate approaching that of female gymnasts.
"The benefits of exercise and nutrition are boundless," Kozlowski said. "There's so much we don't know about how they affect certain populations. It really is fun to sit here and think of potential treatments -- training that can help populations."
"Exercise trumps cancer, exercise trumps obesity, exercise trumps diabetes," Cerny added. "Even if you are overweight, if you exercise you are healthier than someone who is a normal weight and doesn't exercise. That's why we get so passionate about this."
*Tommy's Run, 5K, Yates Park, Orchard Park, 7 p.m. Tuesday, 662-8997.
*Depew-Lancaster Boys & Girls Club 10K (The Buffalo News' Runner of the Year race), 5540 Broadway, Lancaster, 9 a.m. Wednesday, 683-6755.
*Dick Bessell Independence Day Run, 2.3 miles, 2255 Baseline Road, Grand Island, 9 a.m. Wednesday, 773-9680.
*Tuscarora Nation 10K Run, Tuscarora Indian School, Walmore and Mount Hope roads, Lewiston, 9 a.m. Saturday, 957-2309.
*Run for Rover, 5K, LaSalle Park, 10 a.m. July 8, 884-5624.