USC Clinical Exercise Research Center Sponsors First Athlete


By Jennifer Bandich
Photo: Nic Lundberg

Long before applying to the doctor of physical therapy program at USC, Jordan Perry had set a personal goal to compete in the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. 

Little did the 27-year-old marathon runner realize his studies at the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy—and an association with faculty member Todd Schroeder—would bring his triathlon dreams to vivid life on the shores of Hawaii’s big island.

His journey to triathlete began during the spring 2013 semester when Perry, who was working on an ongoing research project that happened to share space with Schroeder’s Clinical Exercise Research Center, wore a triathlon T-shirt to the lab.

Seeing the shirt, Schroeder jokingly asked, “So you do triathlons? Do you want to go to Kona?”

“Yes!” Perry responded, surprising Schroeder.

The two began discussing Perry’s IRONMAN aspirations and weighing the steps Perry would need to take to qualify for the World Championships. Nothing came of the conversations at first. Perry had been a marathon runner, but did he really have what it takes to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a full 26- mile marathon as part of the full IRONMAN?

The answer came during Schroeder's exercise physiology course. As part of their second-year course work, students get the opportunity to perform a maximal oxygen consumption test (or VO2 max test). The test measures the maximum amount of oxygen that the body consumes during exercise and shows an individual’s physical fitness level and how he or she might perform during an endurance event.

Perry volunteered to perform the test and ended up getting a score of just below 72 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body mass per minute. Male elite athletes typically score between 70 and 85 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body mass per minute.

These results showed Schroeder that Jordan was not only serious about competing in triathlons, but that he had the physiological potential to succeed as well.

During the next few months, Perry and Schroeder worked out the details of what a sponsorship from the Clinical Exercise Research Center would entail. And Jordan began training hard to compete in the half-IRONMAN as the Clinical Exercise Research Center’s first sponsored athlete.

After swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 and then running 13.1 in early July, Perry had some great news to share with Schroeder and the Clinical Exercise Research Center.

“Won my first race sponsored by Dr. Todd Schroeder and the @USCCERC. Thanks for everything! #70.3 #triathlon,” Perry posted to his Instagram account on July 13 after completing the triathlon in 4 hours and 35 minutes.

With a win under his belt, the emboldened Perry is now looking ahead to the Toughman Half Championship in New York and ultimately qualifying for the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona Hawaii.

He also aims to utilize his triathlon experience to the benefit of physical therapy research, retesting his maximal oxygen consumption test to see how five months of triathlon-specific training has affected his cardiovascular fitness. There is also potential for a partnership with outside companies and to conduct various research projects utilizing the Clinical Exercise Research Center and triathlon-specific training equipment.

Track Jordan’s journey by following him on Twitter @jord_perry