After a three-month hiatus to let my heel heal, returning to running has been a slow process… think five-minute intervals at 5.9 mph on the treadmill. Not fast and not far by any means, but it’s been pain-free, and that.is.awesome. Funny how you don’t realize just how much you miss something until it’s suddenly back in your life. So glad that runner’s high is returning.
Helping my return to running is an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill. Lucky me, there’s one where I do physical therapy, and running on it has been a great way to ease back into it without crazy load on my heel.
AlterG running feels how I imagine hanging out in baby bouncer would feel. After putting on a pair of knee-length neoprene shorts with a zipper circling the top waistband (they are hideous), you step on the treadmill, lift up and lock the collapsible air chamber into place, and zip the shorts into it. The chamber then fills with air, lifting your feet off the belt a bit. A quick calibration and body weight percentage adjustment later, you start walking or running. The lower the percentage of your body weight, the less impact and load on your feet. I started with 15 minutes at 70 percent of my body weight and built up to 30 minutes at 85 percent of my body weight.
While it’s not cheap – I’m dreading this insurance bill – it’s been worth 1-2 sessions per week the past month. It’s allowed me to run continuously (vs. run-walk intervals) and helped me transition back up from zero.
A couple AlterG running tips:
- Wear shorts. The air chamber is HOT, and even after just 20 minutes, sweat is running down my calves.
- Run normally. It’s easy to just run on your toes given that you’re being held up by the AlterG. Try to keep your normal running gait.
- Watch your speed. Again, since the AlterG is supporting you, it’s easy to run faster than normal. Keep it in check and run your comfortable pace, even slower if you’re coming back from an injury.
From the physical therapist…
A bit more about this fancy ‘mill from my PT, Ryan K. Smith PT, DPT, OCS, site coordinator of Courage Kenny Sports & Physical Therapy in Apple Valley.
The AlterG is an exciting rehabilitation tool that uses differential air pressure technology to allow an individual to stand, walk and run at reduced body weight. Body weight can be controlled in 1 percent increments from full body weight down to 20 percent. Within the machine lies a treadmill similar to what you would see in a health club or fitness facility.
The advantage is it allows earlier return to weight bearing walking and running. Pain and force through the musculoskeletal system is reduced using the machine. The AlterG is speeding up and improving outcomes after surgery and with individuals who present with overuse/overload syndromes. Collegiate and professional sports organizations are investing the $30,000 to $75,000 to help their athletes rehabilitate and maintain their performance.
Some common applications with endurance athletes include:
- Building confidence after injury
- Cadence modification
- Increasing the demands of training with less risk of injury
- Maintaining cardiopulmonary training adaptations
- Returning to competition sooner
- Working on technique
We have been in Apple Valley since January 2012. The AlterG has been used thousands of times since with patient populations ranging from generalized deconditioning to high level endurance athletes. If you have not run at reduced body weight, I would encourage you to stop by to give it a try!