The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill and How it May Help You
Being injured stinks. Whether it’s a strain, a sprain or a tear – being sidelined from running is frustrating and can be a drain on both your mental and physical state.
I was injured throughout the 2013 and 2014 seasons with a high hamstring tear; an injury that took nearly 2 years to properly heal! I was willing to try anything and everything I could (rest, doctors, physical therapists, pool running, gait analysis/retraining, weekly massages and even injections) to help me return to running.
Then one thing I didn’t try? The AlterG Anti-Gravity treadmill. That was until a few weeks ago when the awesome staff (Jenny and John) at the Institute for Athletic Medicine (IAM) were kind enough to allow me to test it out.
What is the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill?
Without getting too technical, the AlterG Anti-Gravity treadmill uses air pressure to create a state of anti-gravity enabling a user to reduce their body weight while running or walking. It’s often used by:
- runners recovering from injury (knee pain, IT band, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, etc.) or surgery
- runners who may want to offload their mileage to reduce overall muscle and joint stress (think ultra distance runners)
- those looking to build strength and endurance while reducing joint stress (particularly older or overweight adults)
How AlterG Works
When I arrived at IAM, Jenny Remitz (PT, DPT, OCS) and I sat down to discuss my overall health and running history; including my current/past injuries and what I was looking to improve. After the initial discussion, it was time to run!
Jenny gave me a pair of special compression shorts to put on over my running clothes. I then stepped onto the treadmill, lifted the air chamber to my waist and zipped the shorts to the air chamber. My weight was calibrated and the chamber began to fill. As it filled, I could feel my lower body become somewhat weightless, feeling very similar to standing in the shallow end of a pool.
How the AlterG Feels
After a brief orientation on how to use the onboard display – which also showed a live feed of my lower body – I was ready to run. I used the display controls to reduce my body weight from 90% down to 20% of my original weight. The rest of the display was similar to a typical treadmill including speed and incline controls.
While I was somewhat weightless, the feeling was pretty similar to running on a typical treadmill. However, there were two differences I noticed.
First, I got rather warm. Admittedly, I was dressed for winter running (tights and a long sleeve tech shirt), but with my entire lower body in a non-ventilated air chamber it didn’t take much for me to warm up.
Second, I noticed I had to adjust my arm swing. The point where the chamber was zipped to my waist impeded my typical arm swing so I had to adjust them slightly as I was unable to keep them at a 90’ angle.
How the AlterG Helps
Jenny explained that runners coming back from injury or surgery typically start at 60% of their body weight. Once they are pain free with good running stride (usually within 1-2 weeks) they’ll increase load 10% until they’re at the point where they can run pain free with good form at 90-100% weight load.
In addition to the reduction in weight load, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill helps by allowing runners to see a live feed of their lower body in action providing instant feedback on running mechanics. I instantly noticed that I was landing mid-foot (something I’ve worked on) but I was also overstriding slightly, landing a bit further ahead of my hip than I’d like.
Having my lower body somewhat weightless made it a lot easier to adjust and play with my stride throughout the demo. So, if you’re working on your running mechanics (even if you’re not injured), the AlterG treadmill can help!
How to Get On an AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill
Sessions can be reserved at any one of the four IAM locations throughout the Minneapolis area. Locations include Burnsville, Edina, Plymouth and Minneapolis (on the U of M campus). The program is flexible; you can pay by session:
- Five 15 minute sessions: $90
- Five 25 minute sessions: $125
- Ten 40 minute sessions: $350
Or, you can purchase a monthly membership:
- Three minute sessions per week: $100/month
- Five minute sessions per week: $150/month
How IAM Can Help You Become a Stronger Runner
In addition to Alter-G, IAM also offers a Running Program that includes a wide range of assessments (video analysis of run gait, injury assessments, muscle imbalance assessments, foot wear analysis and a running-specific exercise prescription) that can help runners through an injury (and avoid overcompensation injuries) or for those just looking to improve their running mechanics.
You can learn more by calling IAM or by talking with a physical therapist at their monthly footwear screenings at Run-n-Fun in St. Paul (first Saturday of the month from 10-11:30) or at Start Line in Minnetonka (second Saturday of the month – call for timing).
Hind sight being 20/20, had I leveraged the AltraG treadmill during my 2-year recovery roller coaster, I imagine my recovery would have been a lot faster and less frustrating!