Between commuting to school, running errands and recreational riding, it is not unusual for student Jan Peña to peddle 100 miles a week on his bike. Having an analysis system fastened to his face while a team of students measure his heart beat and rate of perceived exertion while he cycles, however, is unusual for the 43-year-old kinesiology major.
Peña is a member of SF State’s cycling team and a student of instructor Katyln Camper’s exercise physiology lab. Part of the class involves exercise tests that incorporate students as subjects. Peña was part of the pulmonary response exercise lab April 15, where students determined how much oxygen a body consumes while performing aerobic exercise. The more oxygen a body consumes, the more fit the subject is, Peña said.
“During my free time I practice riding hard, so the hard effort I experienced during the graded test is something that I often feel during my training or racing,” Peña said. “In my mind, I was pretending that I was racing, running late to class or trying to out-ride friends on the weekend group ride.”
The pulmonary response of students in the lab was determined through a graded exercise test, where exercise intensity is gradually increased through resistance or work rate by adjusting the power on the cycle.
Calculations done prior to the test determined 90 percent of Peña’s maximum heart rate. Once his heart rate reached that percentage during the lab, the test would be stopped. The testing would also be stopped if he indicated that he had reached a rate of perceived exertion that made it uncomfortable or difficult to talk, Camper said.
Peña never indicated he had reached a exertion rate that was uncomfortable, so the test ended when he exceeded 90 percent of his maximum heart rate. The test proved he was able to consume an amount of oxygen that placed him in the top tier of aerobic fitness, Camper said.
“Thankfully the numbers from the testing tell me that all the hard work I do by riding my bike and the time I spend at the SFSU gym pays off,” Peña said.
Peña said he returned to school to study kinesiology after he became unhappy with his career as an auto technician. Camper’s lab has taught Peña about his body’s limitations as a cyclist, he said.
“I now know from my exercise physiology class you can’t go totally all out on a super long 100-mile ride because the the body can only supply energy for a maximum effort sprint for 10-15 seconds,” Peña said. “So in my bike racing I know it’s important to manage my physical effort.”
Throughout the semester, the lab performs a total of 11 labs that asses individuals strength, blood pressure and heart rate changes, exercise capacity and body composition. Camper said the goal is to promote exercise physiology as a career, which could provide nutritional and exercise plans to encourage healthy habits.
Camper said that the ability to teach this portion of the class was exciting to her as a hands-on learner who needs to witness actual results in order to have a full understanding of it.
“This course allows students to visually see changes within the body that occur with exercise that are discussed during the lecture portion of the course,” Camper said. “I try to make my class a fun learning environment for my students by playing music throughout class and encouraging group discussions to gain understandings of the material.”
Skylar Belsher, 23, studies kinesiology at SF State and tested Peña during Camper’s exercise lab. She said she decided on the major after a high school soccer injury gave her a personal interest in taking physical therapy and sports medicine classes.
“This class teaches the students a lot about themselves,” Belsher said. “Through this class I have learned plenty on how my body works and what it is capable of.”