Coordinator of the Exercise and Sport Physiology Program Ryanne Carmichael played lacrosse while studying psychology years ago as an undergraduate, but didn’t get heavily into competition until she was in a graduate program in exercise science over a decade later. “I became really interested in the physiological changes that take place that not only make someone healthier but also improve performance,” she says.
Nowadays, Carmichael is a master athlete who competes in cycling competitions, and her fascination with exercise science remains at the center of her work and play. She joined PSU in 2012 after earning her doctorate, and while she writes and speaks on performance enhancement in endurance sports, the focus of her personal research has been on sex differences in performance.
“Female athletic performance, across the board, is under-researched,” Carmichael says. “It’s a problem in our field. People are trying to right it now by including more females in their studies. We can’t just say, ‘This is true of men, so it’s also true of women.’”
After her daughter’s birth in 2017, Carmichael expanded her interest to pregnancy and endurance athletes. “When I became pregnant, I was actively competing in cyclocross,” she recalls. “I asked myself, ‘Do I need to stop?’” Even her physicians did not have the answers to her questions, beyond the basic truism that exercise is good. Carmichael’s question was, “How much is too much?”
Carmichael’s article on the topic, “Considerations for the Pregnant Endurance Athlete,” was recently published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal and discussed on its podcast. “I wrote the article with practitioners and coaches of endurance athletes in mind, so they could guide the pregnant athletes they’re training,” she says. She also offered a related presentation on the health of pregnant athletes for the American College of Sports Medicine.
Carmichael hopes her research will inspire and engage her students to begin investigating their own areas of interest. “It’s a pleasure to teach in the exercise and sport physiology major,” she says. “Our students are so motivated and interested, and they step up to each and every challenge. Working with these students is the best part of my job—seeing them work hard and gain confidence in themselves and their professional potential is very rewarding.”
The University’s addition of program options has added new dimensions to Carmichael’s work. The MS in applied exercise physiology and human performance is offered to current students in the form of a 3+2 program. For non-PSU students and PSU alumni, a two-year program is available.
“The 3+2 program is fairly novel and well-designed,” Carmichael says, explaining that students earn a bachelor’s and a master’s in five years. This year marked the start of the new program with the first cohort of five students, two of whom are alumni.
Carmichael’s energy and spirit, and those of her colleagues, are among the program’s many drawing cards. “We all want our graduates to become confident and competent professionals,” she says.