University of Vermont

Training the Heart

“When I was first asked to write for a popular men’s magazine, I thought ‘I’m not gonna do this. I’m a high-flying scientist!’” recounts professor and exercise physiologist Declan Connolly. “Well, after receiving more feedback than I had from all my previous scientific journal articles combined, it made me think about where people get information.”

Connolly's sports science columns in Runner’s World, Prevention Magazine, Health magazine, SELF and other high-profile publications have attracted the attention of professional hockey, soccer and football players and Olympic-caliber runners, bikers, swimmers and rowers seeking training advice and evaluation at UVM's Human Performance Lab.

Connolly draws on his 20-plus years of experience working with these athletes in his new book Heart Rate Training, co-written with world-renowned running coach and exercise scientist Roy Benson, who coached 1972 USA Olympic team members Frank Shorter, winner of the gold medal in the marathon, ninth-place marathon finisher Jack Batchelor, and legendary runners Jeff Galloway and Ron Jourdan.

The book is designed to provide recreational athletes with the same heart-rate training information as elite athletes in a way that is easily accessible and applicable to their own training needs. “Roy Benson has more specific coaching experience for every age and competitive level than anyone I know,” writes Jonathan Beverly, editor and chief of Running Times magazine. “Combining that practical knowledge with the scientific expertise of Declan Connolly, this book is an unparalleled guide to maximizing your training using a heart rate monitor, providing both the how and why for each element, and putting it all together in an accessible easy-to-apply package.”

Connolly’s heart rate training techniques have been proven on both collegiate and professional levels. In 1994, the New York Rangers sought help from Connolly, who determined that many of the players were too aerobically fit but not strong enough from a strength and speed perspective. The team altered its training methods accordingly and won the Stanley Cup that season.

“Since my arrival at the University of Vermont, Dr. Connolly has had a major impact on the resurgence of our hockey program, both from a strength and conditioning perspective as well as educating our student-athletes on sports nutrition," says Kevin Sneddon, head coach of the UVM men’s hockey team. Jesse Cormier, UVM men’s soccer coach, says Connolly’s “unique gift to deliver this level of understanding and scientific data with such clarity and ease” has allowed his players to utilize information that has played a major role in the success of his team.

During their collaboration Connolly and Benson, who also serves as president and executive director of the world-famous Florida Track Club, learned they had something else in common.

“It turns out that we were both influenced by a legendary professor and exercise physiologist named Christian Zauner, albeit 30 years apart at different universities,” says Connolly, who dedicated the book along with Benson to Zauner. “I’m honored to have been able to collaborate with someone as well respected and knowledgeable as Roy Benson. It gives the book instant credibility.”