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Injury, Training

Running On A Cloud

Sorry, kids. I’ve been on vacation. Sitting on the beach/dock > blog reading/writing/commenting. Now I have to regain motivation to train and then inform you all on how it’s going. I’m trying, I promise.

Despite how it appears, I was productive while I was home last weekend. If you’ve been around for awhile, you know I’m a huge advocate for pool running. I somehow managed to train for Boston — and kick ass — doing only bike rides on the trainer and interval work in the water. What injury?

In any case, there’s another way to keep up that whole running thing when you can’t actually have any impact on your legs. Enter the Alter-G.

[The neon Newtons look cool, huh?]

This spaceship-looking machine is actually a treadmill, but the user can adjust the amount of weight at which they run using a pressure-controlled chamber. If you can only have minimal impact on your bones due to a stress fracture, no problem. Run at 65 percent and feel like  you’re floating on a cloud with your feet barely touching the belt. Working your way back from injury? Do intervals alternating between 85 and 90 percent. You get the motion and the aerobic workout without the pounding.

Here’s how it works: You wear special shorts that resemble very tight bike shorts but have a zippered waistband attached to them. Step into the machine, raise the sides to waist level and zip yourself in (see picture above). At this point, everything feels normal. When you turn the machine on, you have to stand very still on the belt as it calibrates your weight. From there, it operates like a normal treadmill — speed, incline, etc — but with the added setting of % weight. If you run at less than 100 percent, the machine fills with air and more or less raises you off the belt. As you adjust the percentage, you can feel the change in impact. It’s incredibly strange at first, but then you realize that you’re running without beating up your legs. Yeah.

The catch to these machines is that they’re very expensive and therefore rare. PT practices are starting to invest in them for rehab purposes, but even those are few and far between.  When I first got injured, I did some research on using one to train for Boston. Not a single one in D.C. To date, there is a place in Falls Church and another in Colesville that own Alter-Gs, but neither of those are convenient nor was I a patient at those clinics.

Oddly enough, there’s a PT clinic in little ol’ Savannah that has three. THREE! My mom has been a patient there for several months following some back surgery (she’s a badass runner) and gets on the Alter-G four times a week. Thanks to a structured program and lots of attention from Ernie, the clinic’s owner, she’s about ready to get back on the road and train for our family showing at the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll 13.1 in November. Ernie was nice enough to let me come in and play around on it and then talk IM training, career paths, etc. He’s been so successful with the Alter-G that he recently added the third machine and has punchcard memberships for anyone wanting to use them outside of rehab. He also works with the owner of my favorite running store and employs a trainer that consults on running programs, etc.

So. Add this tool to your arsenal if it’s available to you. I imagine that more and more will appear in the coming months, and some upscale gyms might even invest in them. Like pool running, they’re a commonly-used tool for pro athletes — I’ve seen pictures of marathon elites like Deena Kastor, Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher using the Alter-G post-injury, during pregnancy, etc. You sweat like hell thanks to all the hot air blowing around in there and it looks like a spaceship, but if it works, yes please!



4 thoughts on “Running On A Cloud

  1. That looks so awesome for running injuries! I have never heard of that before

    Posted by Shannon | June 7, 2011, 5:06 PM
  2. I need one of these in my basement. If we all chipped in $10….

    Posted by katie | June 7, 2011, 5:07 PM
  3. Yep……..the Alter-G clearly saved my sanity and Blake’s life. The inability to run was creating an unsafe situation in my house!!! Love, love, love the Alter-G!

    Posted by Jenny | June 7, 2011, 11:02 PM
  4. WOW, that is SO cool that you got to use an Alter-G!! I am all for Katie’s plan! We can charge people much $$ to use it and it will totally pay for itself;) That is so cool that that PT practice has three and punch card memberships! So. Cool.

    Posted by Erin @ untilyoutri | June 8, 2011, 9:15 AM

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