Exercise Science major utilizes swim team for senior research

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March 06, 2012

For her capstone research project, senior Rachel Walega combined her academic interests with her “second family” here at McDaniel College – the swim team.

Walega, an Exercise Science and Physical Education major from Ambler, Pa., built her project around the concept of tapering – decreasing the intensity of training a few weeks before a big competition, in this case, the championship swim meet.

In the Human Performance Lab, Walega measured the hemoglobin levels of swimmers before they began tapering, when their body had endured extensive physical training.  She then tested one day before the championship meet, after the swimmers were well rested from tapering.

In conjunction with her hypothesis, she recorded increased levels of hemoglobin on the day before the meet. According to Walega, the more hemoglobin you have, the more oxygen is carried to your muscles, strengthening physical performance levels.

“I’ve always liked sports, but before coming here I didn’t know I could make a career out of it,” she said.

Walega, a Sports Coaching minor, has been interested in Exercise Science since she took an introductory course her freshman year. She hopes work in the clinical side of the field, rather than research. Her interest lies in Clinical Exercise Physiology, helping those recover who have had heart attacks and the like.

For the swim team, Walega starts practice in early September, with the season ending in February. Although, she says, the season never really ends.

“You have to cross-train and keep your fitness levels ups. It’s really easy to get out of shape in swimming,” she said. The team also spends their time outside of the pool together, frequently eating in the dining hall and going to movies with each other.

“It’s one of the few sports at McDaniel where the girls and guys practice together, so we are really close,” she said.

Despite her jam-packed schedule, she still finds time to work with Heroes Helping Hopkins, a group of students that takes meals and activities to the facility that houses families of children being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

After graduation, Walega hopes to attend graduate school at either George Washington University in D.C. or East Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania for a degree in Cardiac Rehabilitation. After that, she will either pursue a Ph.D. or go straight into the field at a hospital or outpatient center.

After interning at a corporate fitness center over the summer, she knows that she wants to work with people. “I want to help improve their lifestyle and see firsthand the changes they go through,” she said.

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