The Machine that Just Changed My Life: The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill

M320_AlterGOH. MY. GOD.



My running life…as I know it…was changed today.  Changed in such a good way.  In a confidence boosting…pain-free…really freakin’ cool way today.

Over a year ago, just before heading out to my first (and currently only) Boston Marathon, I was diagnosed with a small tear in my right hip labrum.  For over a year, I have been working hard with physical therapists and at home to alleviate the pain and rework my body mechanics to get me back out on the road…safely…without other problems popping up like the stress fracture in my leg that I got last year three days before I was to leave for Hawaii to run a marathon.  I had one hell of a bad year last year.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know my orthopedic doctor opted not to consider me for surgery as my labrum tear is small and in, naturally, a strange spot.  This meant physical therapy, which, for the longest time, I didn’t think was doing one single damn thing.  Following the stress fracture, I told my doctor that I was DONE!  D-O-N-E.  Something had to be done because I was a long distance runner.  I must run.  And I currently was still not able to without pain.  Lots and lots of pain.

This was when he sent me back to physical therapy…initially for dry needling.  The therapist at Kort Physical Therapy, Steven, who does the dry needling talked to me about the issues I was having and ran me through some basic strength tests.  I had none.  I had been forced into a year off…of course I was weak.  Since dry needling didn’t give me any relief prior to Boston, he said he was opting not to do it on me again…and instead introduced me to the amazing Katie, the new running specialist they hired.  My life in physical therapy truly started there…and every week…every time I saw her, I was getting stronger and reworking my body mechanics to make it possible for me to run.  I ran on the treadmill…I changed my form…I did exercises for balance and strength at home…I went out in the snow, rain, and cold weather to do the warm-ups and the plyometric exercises she assigned me.  I still do them to this very day, even though I never want to because they do take up to 30 minutes to complete.  I know they are important…so I take the time to do them…even on the rainy days…and the days I just want to go out my door and run.  And soon, I was back out and running.  Slowly.  And not always pain-free.  But I was out there, being cautious, but working on endurance, building up mileage, getting stronger by running hills…even if I hurt for three days afterwards…I did it.  And the reward has been being able to run and even race again…virtually (not always completely) pain free.

But something happened very recently at Kort Physical Therapy…

You see, my physical therapist office just acquired an AlterG Treadmill!!  I have been ogling and wanting to try an AlterG for AGES!  I follow a lot of professional runners, and they utilize the AlterG for recovery and while they are injured.  And, trust me, when I was down and out of the count last year…how I longed to see if something like this would help me out.

Me running in the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Today, I was given the opportunity to try it out.  I had spotted this amazing machine at the expo for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and Mini Marathon.  I also spotted  my physical therapist in it. HA!  So, she contacted me about coming in and testing it out.  Today was an ideal day to do so…so at 9 am…I left work in my running clothes and turned up at my my physical therapist office for the first time in months…and…was greeted by Katie, where we discussed races and plans…and then…she got me ready to try out the AlterG.

My training plan had me at 3 miles today, so instead of running them in the cold drizzle this morning, I was able to do them on the AlterG.  So, the first thing we had to do was pick out the size of shorts I would have to wear.  The shorts have a lip on them (like a tutu), that has a zipper all around it.  These shorts are similar to compression shorts that athletes wear and are actually specially designed to help create an airtight environment around the lower body.  Then, you step up onto the machine platform and then into the “cockpit.”  From there, the little cockpit is raised up to about waist level and you get zipped in.  The machine then ready to be used.  Stand on the surface of the treadmill belt and allow the system to weigh you prior to exercise.  Your FULL body weight is necessary here.  Once the calibration is complete, the pressure in the bag around your lower body will begin to pressurize.  The weight control starts at 100%…Katie took me down to 70% and got me started.  I went right up to a 8:34 minute mile (7.0 mph) and let that go for about 5 minutes…just getting used to the equipment.  Then I bumped it to an 8:00 mile (7.5 mph)…and soon I was up to a 7:30 minute mile (8.0 mph)…and then it was a 7:19 minute mile (8.2 mph)…and then a 7:03 minute mile (8.5 mph)…and for the last 5 minutes…I rocked out a 6:53 minute mile (aka: the fastest I have run a mile…or 8.7 mph) and it felt amazing.  No pain.  No twinges.  Nothing.  It felt easy…but I was totally working up a sweat at the same time.  This was, honestly, life changing to me.  Here I was, running along at a super-fast clip for these little legs and I felt unstoppable.  I felt like Meb at the Boston Marathon in 2014.  I could have run all day at that speed and felt amazing at the end of it.  My hip, my leg, my knee…nothing twinged at any point, even when I was really pushing the pace.  As my session came to an end, I slowed down the speed…got down to a walk…and then slowly boosted the pressure back up to 100% body weight.  My physical therapist said this was important because if you go from the anti-gravity bubble to land without readjusting the pressure…you basically get sea legs.  Good to know.

8.7 mph feeling easy and amazing!

So, how does it work?  The AlterG’s technology was originally conceived as part of an effort to help NASA’s astronauts maintain fitness during prolonged space flight.  The machine basically uses an advanced pressure regulation system with a treadmill to provide the most effective and comfortable body weight support system available today.  This means all the work and reduced impact to your body and joints.  WINNING.  All that I had heard about the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill lived up to the reputation.  I am all set to invest into the packages that they are offering to spend time on this treadmill.  Oh yeah…its happening.  Because this just made it more possible for me to train without putting all the pressure that niggles at my hip injury (which isn’t going to heal…ever) and/or causing other injuries in the process.  Especially, for me, speed work.  Speed work is always where I get hurt thanks to my tilted pelvis and tight hamstrings.  YAY body mechanics.

Anyway, I was so happy to be able to run 3 miles in this machine today.  With some upcoming races in the works, it was nice to push myself without all the pounding on my joints and body.  Kort is doing amazing things with this new technology.  This is going to help so many people and athletes…and it’s here…in New Albany, Indiana.

Have any of you ever tried out or run in an AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill??  I encourage anyone and everyone to give it a try.  I swear…it will change your running life forever.  Especially you injury prone (um…me!)…because this machine will change the way you tackle some training forever.

I’m already looking forward to scheduling another session on the AlterG.

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