Testing the physiological profiling of swimmers with PhD student, Karla Bulte

The Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) is the premier destination for students pursuing a career in sports science, according to VIS PhD Student – Swimming Physiology, Karla Bulte.

Bulte, who joined the VIS on a performance science traineeship in 2019 as a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science student at Deakin University, said the VIS was a standout organisation in its field.

“The high-level opportunities and demands at the VIS are not present in many other sporting organisations,” said Bulte, a sentiment she attributed to the organisations high-performance culture.

“The VIS demands excellence, and excellence demands hard work backed by knowledge.”

“[Working at] the VIS has pushed the boundaries of my physiological knowledge and practical skills, pushing me to work hard for everything I have achieved," said Bulte.

Under the direct supervision of performance scientists, Bulte’s traineeship looked at the physiological performance of swimmers in preparation for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

At the completion of her undergrad, Bulte decided to pursue her honours in sport science and extended her traineeship with the VIS a further 12 months.

“I was learning a tremendous amount from the VIS that I was able to put into practice. As my internship came to an end, it was a smooth transition into an honours research year which allowed me to continue my development as a sports physiologist,” she said.

With access to the VIS’ elite level facilities and staffing resources, Bulte’s honours research assessed the utility of heart rate variability as a measure of an athlete's readiness to perform.

Following the end of her traineeship in 2021, Bulte decided to postpone the commencement of her PhD for 12 months, instead opting to diversify her practical development as a sports physiologist. 

She landed a role with Carlton’s AFLW team as a sports science coordinator, further developing her capabilities as a sports physiologist in a new environment.

It was during this time that a return to the VIS to undertake her PhD study presented as the logical next step in Bulte’s professional development.

“To continue to develop myself into a well-rounded practitioner, the VIS was the obvious environment to return to and commence my PhD journey,” she said.

Bulte said she was confident that undertaking her PhD at the VIS would set her up for a prosperous career in the sports science industry.

“My PhD research is going to boost my career development significantly in challenging my time and project management skills, as well as developing my discipline specific physiological knowledge into the physiological testing of elite athletes. I am very excited for what lies ahead, and I thank the VIS for their continued support in my career development,” she said.

Building on the work of her traineeship, Bulte’s PhD research looks at developing the physiological profile of swimmers by enhancing testing methods to monitor their performance.

“Whilst swimming is recognised as a highly aerobic sport with a great demand on an athlete’s energetic pathways, testing methodologies to measure progress, identify talent, and inform training in swimmers are either not sufficiently backed by research, or inconsistently implemented across the nation,”

Bulte’s PhD project aims to change this by identifying an accurate, reliable and valid method of assessing each physiological determinant of swimming performance, and ultimately improve the talent identification process and training specificity across elite and pathways swimming programs.

Testing has commenced, looking at validating the 12 x 25 metre 3-minute all out test, proposed by VIS Swimming Physiology Lead, Dr Lachlan Mitchell.

Her research was on display at the VIS Open Day on September 20, where Bulte conducted live demonstrations of her performance testing to members of the public. 

View the full program here 

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