19 In run

returning to running + the AlterG.

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!

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  • Reply
    03/14/2014 at 3:44 pm

    That is the coolest treadmill ever! I’m so happy you’re pain-free again. I know how great it feels to be back-I’ve never been so excited to run :)

  • Reply
    03/14/2014 at 5:24 pm

    Hey there – I follow your blog from OZ and have never seen one of these before, super cool! I took a running hiatus – lazy after last marathon – and would have loved one of these when building back up the km’s. Good luck getting back out there. Gill

    • Reply
      04/16/2014 at 2:26 pm

      HI, Gill! Thanks much for stopping by! Adding your blog to my reading list :) The AlterG helped immensely during my build back to running… hopefully they make an appearance in OZ soon!

  • Reply
    Kendra Krueger
    03/14/2014 at 9:00 pm

    So cool! Awesome that you are getting to use that in your rehab! I’ve been wondering how back to running was going for you so happy to see an update :).

  • Reply
    03/15/2014 at 5:30 pm

    Would love to try that! And great to hear you’re back at it!

  • Reply
    03/15/2014 at 5:43 pm

    I am so glad you are back on the run!! Congratulations ;)

  • Reply
    03/15/2014 at 8:02 pm

    It looks like you are running in a spaceship! How cool is that? I can’t imagine having to start from scratch in a recovery process like that, but it sounds like things are progressing well. So glad you are back at it – you’ve got a strong mind – your body will follow.

  • Reply
    03/16/2014 at 6:49 pm

    I entirely agree with you! Getting back to running after down time/off season/or injury is a tough, but well worth it. So glad you are back to running!

  • Reply
    meghan @ little girl in the big world
    03/16/2014 at 9:10 pm

    Very cool that you did this! When I had my issues last spring they suggested it, but I couldn’t think about the price. I did a lot of pool running. You’re smart to start back slow! Will you let me know if you feel exactly the same as you did pre-injury? I still feel “something”, though it isn’t painful at all. It’s just a something. I just wonder if it’ll always be like that. Mine was a calcaneal stress fracture.

    • Reply
      04/16/2014 at 2:37 pm

      Mine was a calcaneal stress fracture as well, Meghan, and yes, there’s still occasionally a twinge there. It’s not painful at all, but like you said, it’s “something.” I notice it a bit more when it’s super cold outside. But, other than that something, my foot feels great, and I’m starting to feel strong running again. How are your running + training going? I hope well!

  • Reply
    Luv What You Do
    03/16/2014 at 9:34 pm

    We have an Alter G at work and there are always runners, injured and not, coming in to use it. I haven’t tried it out but I should!

  • Reply
    03/17/2014 at 6:08 am

    Awesome! I was already sad my new PT down here doesn’t have one, but after reading this I’m even more disappointed. But what a great way to bring you back into running safely! You’ll be ready for Ironman WI without a doubt!

  • Reply
    03/17/2014 at 8:52 am

    That’s so great that you are back to running! After knee surgery, when I got the okay to start running again, I started on the Alter G and it felt so science-fictiony!

  • Reply
    03/17/2014 at 10:43 am

    That alter G is the shiz. We have a few different options to use them here and I haven’t had to yet during injury but I totally think it’s worth it. especially for when said training injury makes you a little grumpy. lol! glad to see you getting it back in.

  • Reply
    03/17/2014 at 10:47 am

    SO fantastic you’re able to run again, and great you have the Alter-G to do it safely!
    I’d love to try it one day.
    Have you run on a regular treadmill or the road yet? I wonder if you’ll be nervous? (I think I would be!)

  • Reply
    Kristen L
    03/17/2014 at 12:25 pm

    As someone interested in biomechanics, I always think the AlterG is so awesome, and would like to try one, even without an injury just to see what it’s like. Glad you have had access to it, and that it has improved your running comeback following your heel injury! I hope your improvements continue.

  • Reply
    03/17/2014 at 1:19 pm

    Oh, I LOVE the AlterG! It was my best friend when I was recovering from my stress fracture this past January / February. If I had $75,000 to blow, I would totally have one in my house.

  • Reply
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