October 9, 2014

Moon walking on an Alter-G

A while back I got an email inviting me to go try out an anti gravity treadmill by Alter-G.  Being that I like the convenience factor of running in that it is something I can do right out my front door with zero commute time to get to my workout it took me a while to accept the offer of trying one of these fancy machines.  But I figured that, although I like to be generally simplistic when it comes to my running, it would be fun to have a go on an Alter-G so yesterday I headed off to Burrard Physiotherapy in downtown Vancouver, the closest location to me where an Alter-G is available.  No doubt due to the expense of these fancy treadmills, I don't think we'll be finding them in our local rec centre gyms any time soon but I would guess that most decent sized cities have a few locations (likely at physiotherpists) where they are available.

I had expected the procedure to be somewhat complicated but in fact it was amazingly quick and simple.  I pulled on a pair of what looked like neoprene shorts with a skirt at the top, rather like a kayaking skirt.  The 'skirt' portion then zips onto the machine, the body of which comes up to around your hips. 

What I hadn't realised is that although you can remove 100% of your body weight (for zero gravity) it is also possible to easily adjust the setting to allow you to run on a certain percentage of body weight.  This makes the Alter-G great as a rehab tool as a recovering runner (or anyone recovering from an injury which is aggravated by impact) can start at 0% body weight and gradually add a percentage of their body weight as they can tolerate more impact, until ultimately they can start walking/ running outside (100% body weight).  Yesterday I set the Alter-G up at 40% of my body weight and although at first I felt slightly like I was floating (even though in reality your feet are running on the Alter-G belt just like on a regular treadmill running belt) I soon got used to the feeling of it.  The oddest thing was running at a speed and for a duration that I knew should feel somewhat hard (my legs were turning over pretty good afterall) and yet I wasn't breathing as hard as I would normally be as of my muscles weren't pounding away quite as much as they would normally be.

I soon felt relaxed and ran just like I normally would, and was comfortable enough to play around with the incline setting (just like on a normal treadmill) and ran up to a pace of 14km/ hr and soon pretty much forgot that I was on anything other than a normal treadmill.

I can definitely see that using an Alter-G treadmill could be invaluable for injured or recovering runners or walkers.  The owner was telling me how some people use it to walk/ run on when they are waiting for say knee surgery, so can't run outside, or how they can be great for runners to help maintain fitness when unable to run outside due to a stress fracture, and let's be honest - it's a great addition/ variety to add to pool running!  In addition, the advantage of training on an Alter-G compared to pool running is that there is not the resistance of the water and so it is easy to maintain a normal running cadence/ turnover.

Thank you to Alter-G and Burrard Physiotherapy for letting me have a go on the Alter-G treadmill, I can certainly see that it is something I will add to my list of training tools when wanting to cut back on full impact running whilst still maintaining fitness.

Finished my workout on the Alter-G!