The Connection Runners + [workout]

Running on the Moon

A week or so ago I received an email with the subject line of “Running on the Moon”. “Finally!” I thought, a destination run. Eager to see who was financing this particular dream of mine I opened the email. Turns out I wasn’t getting an all expense paid trip to the moon. Bugger. Once I got over my disappointment I looked into what WAS being offered was a chance to test

I was given the opportunity to test out the “anti-gravity” treadmill known as the Alter-G. I’m such a run nerd that this was almost as exciting as actually going to the moon. I had seen Paula Radcliffe using it in Runners World and turned green with envy. As a semi-injury prone athlete, aka an average runner, I LUSTED after the opportunity to use such a fabulous tool.

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The Alter-G basically uses air in a pressure controlled chamber,built around a Woodway treadmill, to lift the person up or “unweight” them. You can adjust it in tiny increments depending on your goals. Originally conceived to design exercise regimens for astronauts, it is now used for:

  • Rehabilitation of lower extremity injuries
  • Treatment of neurological conditions
  • Weight reduction
  • Aerobic conditioning
  • General training to combat the diseases of aging

When I showed up at CATZ, my local sports performance and rehabilitation center, I was handed a pair of the strangest shorts I’ve ever tried on.

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These shorts create the necessary seal in the “cockpit” and are oh so flattering. After receiving some heckling from the local athletes I crossed the facility and was zipped into the Alter-G.

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I stepped on the treadmill and waited as it weighed me and set the custom calibrations. I spent a couple of minutes tinkering with it at a walk. The first minute or so the “floating” feeling was a bit disconcerting. I had to remind myself I wasn’t “actually” on the moon, so I suppressed my urge to leap along and got down to business.

I had a brief 8 min/mile warm up at 50% body weight. For comparison, my warm ups are usually 10 or 10:30min/miles. I didn’t stay at 8min/mile too long the urge to crank it up was just too hard to resist. So I adjusted my speed and started cruising along. “So…THIS is what a 6 minute miles feels like”. (on the moon)

A 6 minute miles was painless. PAINLESS I tell you. Again, for comparison, my tempo runs lately have been in the 9 or 9:15min/mile range. My legs, and usually protesting feet, felt great! Interestingly enough, I still felt like I was getting a workout. (duh) My heart was pumping and my little legs were flying along, I just didn’t have all the normal pounding. I had my music on and I was cruising along.

I soon realized a 6 minute mile just wasn’t super challenging so I bumped it up again. I decided I needed to see a 5 minute mile because odds are, unless I turn into Kara Goucher I’ll never have that experience again. I won’t say it was easy. I had to pay attention to getting my legs to turn over fast, but oh the joy.

Sheer joy. In my dreams this is how running is. Heart pounding, arms pumping, zipping along without all the pain.

I eventually brought myself back to reality and decided to play around with the body weight percentage, slowly ticking it back to my real weight. I didn’t get too far before being reminded I can’t run a 5 min/mile anywhere close to my real body weight. I slowed down, tinkering along the way.

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(why yes,those are my current shoe love,the Pearl iZUMi Streak II)

An 8minute mile running at 90% of my body weight felt like work, but not terrible, whereas normally I’d be gasping along. Of course that got me thinking about how unloading a few pounds off my frame would benefit me speed wise. Furthermore, I spent time thinking about the countless hours I spent running in a pool while rehabbing injuries, longing for the feeling of “real running”. I also thought back to when I was 278 pounds and just starting out exercising. It hurt. Even walking was painful while carrying around that much weight. The idea that an obese patient could get in the Alter-G and feel the benefits of weight loss is pretty astounding.

I chatted up the owner/physical therapist. Interestingly, the Alter-G is approved by many insurances as part of a treatment plan. I wish I had known about my local Alter-G when I was out with my last issue. I’ll be keeping it in mind for the future.

For those of us that are uninjured (take a moment to knock on wood) we can benefit by using the Alter G for speed work, getting the muscle memory of a quick turnover, and to just increase our overall mileage without increasing the wear and tear on our bodies. You can find out more about it, including where to find one near you, and how to purchase one of your own, HERE.

disclaimer:I was given the opportunity to test out the Alter-G.However,the review and sheer joy experienced was 100% my own.