Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How to Run on Air

Running on air.

That is exactly how it felt when I ran on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill at Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, Inc. in Portsmouth, New Hampshire last week.

I climbed into the neoprene shorts, stepped on what felt like any other treadmill, and zipped myself into the pressurized air chamber made with technology straight from NASA. These shorts were provided, but clients who frequently use the AlterG often purchase their own.

In front of me the control panel had the familiar buttons of my own treadmill at home; display options, speed, incline, but on one side additional plus and minus buttons allowed me to adjust my body weight in 1% increments.

Dr. Chris Campbell, physical therapist and owner of Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, pressed the start button and the chamber began to fill with air while the machine lifted me up to my tiptoes as it calibrated my body weight.

In a matter of seconds of pushing the button to reduce my body weight to just 20%, I was ready to run as effortlessly as when I was a young soccer player dashing around the field. But that's not all this machine can do. In the stationary position you can easily do painless squats and jumps. It also has a reverse mode.

Originally designed for NASA by engineer Robert Whalen to maintain astronaut fitness, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill became a commercialized prototype in 2005 after Robert's son Sean, an engineering student at the time, reached out to Alberto Salazar, coach to the elite Nike runners, for feedback. After fine-tuning the machine, the first AlterG was sold to a pro basketball team and Nike made a purchase of six. Manufactured in the USA, AlterG is now classified as a medical device and used in more than 1000 facilities for low impact patient rehabilitation, weight loss, and athletes training through injuries.

Recreational and competitive athletes can also use the AlterG to supplement training without risk of stress related injuries. In fact at Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, it can be rented in 30 minute workout sessions for $15 or less if you purchase a punch card.

If there was an AlterG in the Manchester area, I would consider using it to replace those days when I would have sat out because of pain in my calf or hamstring.

Would you use the AlterG as part of your training?

Special thanks to Outside PR for setting up my demo at Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, Inc. and to Dr. Chris Campbell for his time and expertise.

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