Per-Olof Åstrand Remembered: My First Inspiration for Applied Sport Science

It was with great sadness that we noted the recent passing of legendary physiologist, professor Per-Olof Åstrand of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, one of the pioneers of modern exercise physiology.

Our co-founder Mårten Fredriksson, an olympic coach focusing on strength and conditioning for ice hockey, had the privilege of meeting professor Åstrand many times, developing a warm friendship. Here are his personal memories.


Per-Olof Åstrand and Mårten FredrikssonI met P-O Åstrand for the first time during my first semester at the coaching program at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Science (GIH). It was the autumn 1998 and he held a lecture about the emergence of exercise physiology from the 1960s onwards. I remember him mentioning that in the mid 1960s and early 70s…

  • human skeletal muscle biopsy had just been introduced
  • the first studies related to diet and physical performance were yet to be published
  • there were no discussions of fiber types or the effects of training and deconditioning on the enzyme systems, capillary density, and myoglobin concentration
  • there where no papers dealing with the relationships among exercise, fitness or osteoporosis
  • the terms anabolic steroids and strength training were not combined
  • the first report of blood doping appeared in 1972
  • etcetera

The first “lecture” I held myself in P-O’s presence was when the ice hockey team Toronto Maple Leafs visited Stockholm for a training camp and their strength & conditioning staff came to GIH. I talked about applied sport science for ice hockey and the topics were concurrent traning, cross traning and hybrid training. Afterwards P-O told me that he had held a lecture in Toronto about exercise physiology at the Third International Conference on the Coaching Aspects of Ice Hockey in 1976, when the Canada Cup was played. Later he gave me cufflinks in gold with red maple leaves on which he had been given as a specially invited guest. As a fan of ice hockey I keep these along with my medals from different world championships and the Olympics 2006 when Sweden had both gold and silver for men and women respectively. I appreciate the cufflinks as valuable as the medals! Later, in the summer of 2011, P-O gave me a signed ice hockey stick from the players in “the big red machine” – CCCP – from the 1970s. I could just say wooow!

During his long and rich life P-O traveled around the whole world and contributed tremendously to the progress of sport and health science. As late as the week before Christmas 2014, he visited GIH and attended the closing dinner with students who took their exams.

Many many thanks and rest in peace P-O Åstrand! You have always been an inspiration!

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Mårten studied Sports Science at the Swedish School of Sports and Health Science in Stockholm (GIH) with focus on ice hockey. He has worked as an ice hockey coach for over 15 years with teams on the highest level and also participated at eight world championships and two olympics (juniors/seniors/male/female) as strength & conditioning and video (tactical) coach.

Mårten is now a lecturer at the Swedish School Of Sport & Health Science (GIH) and a laboratory instructor at the laboratory of applied sport science at GIH, as well as a co-founder of Exxentric.

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