Weightless Running (My AlterG Treadmill Experience)

It has not been a secret that I have missed running the past ten weeks.  While I have been easing back into some slow, easy miles I have had time to think back over the past two and a half months.  Being “off” from running has forced me given me the opportunity to try things I would not normally experience. Some of these things have been tedious efforts to replace cardio (an hour on a rowing machine) and others have been things I started out strongly disliking but now think are not too bad (deep water aerobics). Needless to say, when my physical therapist said I was cleared to go try an AlterG Anti-Gravity treadmill, I was extremely excited! The AlterG essentially allows you to run while reducing gravity (i.e. weight bearing) to varying degrees.


(Photo courtesy of http://www.alterg.com)

I had no idea what to expect going into this experience. I booked an appointment at a local physical therapy facility that offered rentals in fifteen-minute increments.  When I arrived, they explained to me that I would have to wear special airtight shorts with a zipper around the top.  After changing into the shorts, I got on the machine and was zipped in, allowing the machine to unweight me.


This was a very strange feeling because as the machine starts calibrating it lifts your heels off the ground twice.  It weighs you so that it can make proper adjustments, but it feels like your entire lower body is in a balloon that is being inflated.


(Please disregard the sweat dripping down my neck! Should have taken my photos before the run!)

Once the machine is calibrated, it is off to the races. I set it at 60%, meaning I was running with the equivalent to 40% less weight on my body.  The AlterG is capable of being set anywhere between 20% to 100% in one percent increments, making it very versatile.  You can even change it mid-workout. They told me if I began to experience any pain to go ahead and lower the number. I started out slowly to get the feel of being partially “weightless.” I was told that feeling a little wobbly is normal the first time you experience this machine.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I heard it is very similar as far as a cardio workout – just less pounding on the body.  I have made a good effort to keep my cardio endurance through rowing, stair climbing and biking but was still a little worried to see how hard it would feel to run. According to AlterG, it provides the same aerobic output while placing less stress on the joints. I was pleasantly surprised with my run, but feel that it is definitely easier to be running with less weight.  I was running speeds I know I would have had trouble holding pre-injury so I am confident the anti-gravity effect made me faster than I really am.  But hey, it was fun while it lasted. It also gave me that “runners high” I have been craving for weeks!


I really liked just about everything about the AlterG, but one particularly useful feature was the camera.  It allows you to turn a camera on so that you can view your foot motion.  I have spent the last four weeks in physical therapy trying to “re-train” my right foot to land properly while walking.  This camera allowed me to monitor my landing throughout my run to insure I was not falling back into poor form.  The result for me was being pain free post run.

If you hadn’t already gathered this, I would definitely give the AlterG two thumbs up! In fact, I made my second appointment before leaving from the first!  I see so many potential uses for this machine.  I am sure the main reason we do not see more of these is the crazy high price tag of over $30,000 per machine!

What is the most unusual workout you have ever tried? What workout would you love to try if given the opportunity?




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