ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Tokyo Olympics are underway and there are nearly a dozen athletes from the University of New Mexico competing. One former Lobo track star even came home to prepare for the games in a unique research lab on campus. Josh Kerr ran for the Lobos from 2015 to 2018. He stopped by UNM to train before heading to Japan, but it wasn’t your average workout.
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Within UNM’s Exercise Science lab, there’s this environmental chamber. The unique room can simulate hot and humid conditions and it get can get very toasty and very muggy. “Up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit,” said UNM Associate Professor Fabiano Amorim. “We are also able to build up humidity up to 70, 80 percent.”
It was originally designed 13 years ago for a military research project testing out gear for soldiers in hot weather conditions. “We had people walking on the treadmill, with like full gear, body armor everything,” said Amorim.
But recently, this room was used for something else: an Olympian. “I’ve been working hard at this for a long time its been my sport of choice for a fair few years now,” said Josh Kerr.
Kerr qualified for the Olympics in the 1,500-meter race. But Kerr said running in New Mexico’s hot and dry weather is nothing like running in Tokyo’s humid weather. “Yeah it’s challenging, it’s a different challenge,” said Kerr.
So he turned to his alma mater for help. “Josh was able to be here running at the same conditions he’s going to be facing in Tokyo,” said Amorim. Running in the chamber set to 90 degrees Fahrenheit with a muggy humidity level of 70 to 80 percent, Kerr prepped his body for what it would feel like in Tokyo.
“It was very important for him to see what the conditions he’s going to face,” said Amorin. “More of a perceptual thing than a physiological change.” Kerr believes this type of training will make a difference and is even more confident going into his race. “It’s highly contested but I’m looking pretty good for my chances,” said Kerr.
Kerr will compete for the United Kingdom because he is from Scotland. His first race is set for Aug. 1. UNM is sending ten current and former athletes to the Olympics this year, which includes athletes in track, golf, and softball.