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Product Review: Running on the Moon, Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Posted Jun 10 2011 10:56am

Yesterday I felt like part astronaut, part elite marathon runner and part Bubble Boy. The reason? Well, I was invited to the Equinox on 63rd and Lexington in New York City to test out the Alter-G Anti Gravity Treadmill and boy was it a fun test.  I am sure you have heard about elites using them, from Paul Radcliffe to coaching great Alberto Salazar.

The Science of the Alter-G: Originally conceived by Dr. Robert Whalen for effective exercise regimens for NASA’s astronauts by Differential Air Pressure (DAP) technology, which has been adapted by the AlterG. Unweighting is achieved in the Alter-G by using air in a pressure-controlled chamber to gently lift the user. Precise calibration using the patented technology allows for very specific unweighting from 100-20% of the users body weight in 1% increments.

Clinical studies show that the Alter-G can help decrease ground reaction forces in walking and running. The restoration of normal gait mechanics is paramount to optimal recovery and can be accelerated by the Alter-G’s patented unweighting technology. The Alter-G was cleared by the FDA in 2008

Why Unload?

  • Allow for the protection of healing tissue
  • Encourage range of motion
  • Earlier initiation of closed-kinetic chain activity.
  • Prevent disuse atrophy
  • Encourages more rapid return of motor control

The Test Run: I met Eugene, my Alter-G expert trainer for the evening, at the Equinox.  I was happy to learn that he is a also a runner and like all of us has had injuries in the past.  He has logged many training runs on the Alter-G so I felt confident in my instructor.  He first gave me what looked like a pair of spandex sewn to a tutu to slide over my running shorts.  Feeling silly walking across a bank of busy treadmills, I made my way the the Alter-G machine.  At first glace it is a bit intimidating, not your normal looking treadmill- it looks like a tent after you dump it out of a box. I was told to step in the middle so we could lift the chamber around my waist and zip into my tutu, I mean special Alter-G compression shorts.

Once zipped in the Alter-G takes about 40 seconds to calibrate to a new user by filling the chamber with air, almost lifting you off the ground the decompressing again. Eugene got the treadmill going for a walk then a brisk pace and decreased the Alter-G to 80% body-weight- within a few seconds the pressure in the bubble below my waist increased until I felt 30 lbs lighter.

I can only say the sensation was brilliant, especially as I am coming off an injury which has just allowed me to start running again after a four week layoff.  There was noticeable less impact on my knees, hips and legs.  I had the light floating like feeling which helped to create a more efficient stride.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable or abnormal, in fact the Alter-G helped me with keeping a consistent arm carriage, foot turnover and posture. It was as if an elite had jumped into my body.

After a few minutes at a brisk warm-up pace Eugene started to increase the speed and decrease the body-weight setting.  After a few seconds of getting lighter and lighter, I was hammering away at a 5:30 pace.  This is what elites must feel like when they are running.  It was incredible.  My legs were moving quick enough to keep up with the pace, my lungs were working hard, my arms were cranking me along but I didn’t feel the pounding and impact on my lower body.  I was cranking along at this crazy pace and I got this giggling feeling, not because of the pace but because I had no pain or any issues with my lower body, especially paying attention to my recent injury.

After 30 hard working minutes of playing around with speed, body-weight settings and incline the test came to an end.  The Alter-G began its decompression and I soon felt each pound of my 160 falling back on my frame as I came back down to earth. It was an odd sensation and one that took me a few minutes to get comfortable again with.

When reflecting on the Alter-G I was absolutely giddy about it, I started dreaming up ways to get one of these badboys into my apartment.  I also thought how amazing this machine would be for the elderly who want to stay active but can’t because of aging issues.  I instantly emailed Coach Jerry who owns Senior Care Homes to tell him about it.  I also thought it was an amazing tool for people that were coming off major injuries or surgeries not related to running as a way to encourage a more efficient rehab. The ideas and ways to use the Alter-G went way beyond runners.

The Alter-G, in my opinion, is a game changer for runners. Imagine doing speed workouts at half your body weight! That is what this treadmill accomplishes.  Gyms across the country as well as rehab facilities are starting to buck-up the $40,000-$75,000 cost of  the Alter-G.  You can visit their website to find one near you.

Or maybe we can get Alter-G to sponsor a #runchat and give one away…..which I will rig so I can win.

Here is a video of me running on the Alter-G:

What are your thoughts about the Alter-G? Have you ever tried an Alter-G or pool running to simulate reduced body-weight? If your gym had one would you use it to train? What other ways could the Alter-G be used to benefit people?

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