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Defying Gravity on the AlterG Treadmill

30 Nov , 2014,
Heidi Kumm
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This post comes with two disclaimers. First, I was given the opportunity to run on an AlterG Treadmill free of charge in exchange for an honest blog review/recap. I was not compensated and all thoughts and opinions are my very own. Second, I will never be the best at describing technical things or explaining the specific science behind things so instead I’m sticking to my experience. If you’re looking for the nitty gritty details check out the AlterG site or shoot me an email/comment with specific questions and I’ll get you legit answers!

About a week after I ran the Run Rabbit Run 100 Miler a PR agency reached out to me offering a chance to “run on the moon”. At first I wasn’t sure…mostly because just thinking about running made my very crank Achilles tendon have a panic attack. But who says no to a chance to try out technology!? It took nearly six weeks to get an appointment scheduled but that was no fault of the physical therapist I visited – my life was stupidly busy! Last week I finally got the chance to try out the AlterG Treadmill at Windsor Spine & Wellness.

I showed up in running clothes and got paired up with Alison, the PT that would be helping me. She set me up on a Power Plate to do some stretching. Have you ever been on a Power Plate?! It’s basically a big vibrating platform that you stand/sit/lay on to do stretches. Alison explained the vibrations provide low frequency stimulation to the muscles as you stretch which “warms up” and stretches the muscles more efficiently. My thought? Well…I need to stretch more! And it tickled if you just stood on it, which was good because it kept me stretching!

After 5 minutes of stretching we moved over to the AlterG Treadmill, a rather large treadmill contraption in the corner. Alison handed me pair of tight wetsuit-like shorts with a wide zippered waist to pull on over my capris. These shorts would zip me into the large air tight bubble that encased the treadmill. I had two immediate thoughts to this: “oh crap, I’m literally attached to a treadmill” and “well…at least I can’t fly off the end!”.

I stepped into the “chamber” on the AlterG treadmill, pulled it up to waist level and go zipped in. Alison started up the treadmill and the chamber inflated and deflated as it calibrated itself for my body weight. Once it was set to go I took over the controls as if it were a regular treadmill. Well, a regular treadmill with an extra option to adjust my body weight from 100% to 20%. Oh, and there was a reverse option! I spent about 35 minutes playing with all of the options and chatting with Alison.

It is kind of a given that running at a lower percentage of your body weight will make running easier but I didn’t consider how much of an affect it would have on my heart and lungs. My legs were cruising along at a 7:53 pace and I was chatting with Alison like we were just power walking through the park. I wasn’t out of breath and my heartbeat was completely under control while my legs were getting a legitimate workout. And yea, it was a legit workout – as soon as I got home I realized I had just done some intense speed work with a very dehydrated body. My stomach was NOT happy about that. Oops.

The big “window” in the chamber allows PTs to help you correct your form if needed!

When I got off the treadmill my legs felt heavy and tingly – almost confused to be bearing all of my weight even though I spend a few minutes running at 80-100% of my body weight before stopping the treadmill. Overall, the AlterG treadmill was kind of awesome! I can definitely see how it would be a game changer if you need to get training in while nursing an injury. Heck, it probably would have come in VERY handy in the weeks leading up to RRR100 when I was nursing a cranky tendon [granted, double digit miles on a treadmill still sounds daunting at even 20% of my body weight!].

Turns out there are a TON of perks to using the AlterG treadmill and it’s not all about recovering from an injury. Members of this wellness club will stop in to do regular training runs and speed work with the AlterG treadmill. Alison talked about everything from speed work at a lower body weight [thus reducing joint impact but still getting fast muscle turn over] to actually doing body weight intervals where you keep the speed the same but adjust your body weight. On top of all that the compression shorts combined with the reduced weight on your lower body increases blood flow which aids in recovery.

But the moral of this story!? If you get the chance to run on an AlterG treadmill…DO IT! It’s an awesome experience and the people who work with these treadmills know them [and their benefits] in and out. And if I run into any issues or annoying niggles with upcoming training run + races I’ll be making a trip back to Windsor for some quality time on this treadmill!

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