The science behind the Olympics |

The science behind the Olympics

Jillian Rudar
Special to the Daily

Summer is slowly beginning to wane here in the High Country, but there’s still one thing ahead to help us hang on to the sunshine and excitement of the season: the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, held this year in London.

With sports ranging from soccer to water polo to cycling, the Olympics has something to capture the interest of just about everyone (they even have a trampoline competition!). It’s truly awe-inspiring to watch the strength, determination and endurance of these elite athletes. Watching these people compete, it’s hard not to wonder … given the right training, drive, and circumstances, could we, too, learn to be that fast and strong?

I’ve always loved to watch Olympic swimming events, which are a major draw for many spectators. Swimming is fun, and these races are quick, intense and exciting! At Keystone Science School, we bring a little of that excitement to our campers in our Splash Camp session, where we help kids learn not just basic swimming skills, but also how to build their confidence as they try – and succeed at – new things and be encouraged by their peers. It’s wonderful to watch a child transform from nervously avoiding the diving board at the beginning of the week to joyfully cannon-balling off at the end. These small successes set the stage for taking chances and building confidence in other areas of their lives.

Did you know Summit County is ranked the fourth-most active county in Colorado? We’re proud to be part of such a healthy community and want to encourage a continued passion for the outdoors and activity in our campers. We’re trying something new this summer: a special “Camp Olympics” day camp session where we plan to dig down into science as it relates to athletes. We figure this is a great time to investigate how our bodies respond to exercise and nutrition. Next week, we’re going to literally tear apart our food to learn about the nutrition within it – try it yourself sometime by holding a powerful magnet over a pile of crushed cornflakes and see if you can pull the iron right out of your cereal!

We’ll also talk about how the food we eat is converted to calories by our body, and how to calculate the number of calories it takes to do the things we like to do by measuring our heart rates. On average, a swimmer like world-record holder Michael Phelps will burn 800 calories or more in one vigorous hour of freestyle swimming (see the chart to see how the average number of calories our bodies burn during your favorite activity). Phelps will also more than likely swim 6-7 miles in a week: that’s more than 112 laps in an Olympic size pool – or the length of our own Dillon Reservoir from Farmer’s Korner to Dillon.

This Olympic season, be your own record breaker and think about your health and fitness. When you accept the challenge to push yourself and learn about the science behind exercise, imagine the possibilities – maybe one day YOU could represent the U.S. in the Olympics.

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Jillian Rudar is a Keystone Science School Summer Camp intern from Winona State University. For more information about our programs, call us at (970) 468-2068 or visit our website,

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