Thursday, March 3, 2016

High-Tech Rehab

During my recovery from my posterior tibial tendon strain, I remembered a Groupon I’d noticed months ago for an AlterG treadmill session package at a local rehab facility.  At the time I was intrigued by it, but had no reason to purchase it (although I did consider it as a way to add more miles with less impact, but since it’s still a treadmill I was not too excited about it)!  A quick search on Groupon showed me that the deal was still available, and it was on sale for a bit.  I kept it in the back of my mind, but I didn’t think I could yet run on an AlterG since at that point I couldn’t do the elliptical without shooting pain.  A week or so later, I got a “20% off a local deal” coupon from Groupon, AND it was still on sale, so I decided it was God telling me to buy the AlterG package!
Having never run on an AlterG before, I did a little research prior to my first session.  I learned that I could run at anywhere from 20% to 100% of my body weight (of course, why would I use it to run at 100%?) and that I should wear spandex shorts to go under the rubbery shorts that zip into the machine.  I was a little scared of the unknown when I went to my first session, but I was excited to try!
This is what the AlterG looks like!
After a quick orientation, slipping into the rubbery shorts, zipping myself into the machine, and calibrating the machine, I was off!  Before the session, I thought I would run at 20% body weight for the first time, then gradually increase the weight across the 12 sessions.  However, once I got on the treadmill and started decreasing the weight percentage, I realized that 50% was already pretty extreme and I didn’t need to go any lower.  I completed my first session of 5 miles at 50% body weight.  I ran 10 mph (6:00 pace) for the majority of the session, but sped up to 11 mph for 3 minutes (mainly so I could get in exactly 5 miles during my 30-minute session, as I had to make up for the time at the beginning that it took for the belt to speed up to 10 mph).  Put in perspective, I ran at about my in-shape 5K race pace for 5 miles and it was easy!  It was an interesting feeling because the leg turnover felt fast, but the effort and breathing were easy.  I guess if there is ever a way to lose half my body weight yet maintain all of my muscle, I will set some huge PRs.  Ha! 
This is where you "zip in"
I had quite a high after that first session, because it was my first run after 4.5 weeks off.  Almost as good as the run was that a lady working asked if I was on a local university’s cross-country and track teams.  At age 35, that is sure a nice question to be asked!
The day after and two days after my first session, my core was super sore!  It was from the way the machine "held" me, and I was told it wouldn't hurt like that once I got up to 60%+ body weight.
For my second AlterG run, I started at 60% body weight for the first bit, but the shorts were pulling in an uncomfortable manner so I changed it to 70% and ran for 6.5 miles (I was going to run 6, but had the display covered because I hate staring at it, and when I uncovered it I was at 6.18 so had to go the additional 0.32!).  This run was at 6:15 pace - which is a tad slower than my 10K PR pace for comparison – and still easy.
My third run on it (today!) was all done at 75% body weight, and was 8 miles at an average pace of 6:25.  I started at 6:31 pace, then upped it gradually (maxing at 6:00 pace) until decreasing it to cool down on the last half mile.  I now understand why the professional runners who weigh 90 lbs are so darn fast!  Following the run, I helped an athlete who is on a local university’s cross-country and track teams get set up on it for the first time.
The most amusing part of my AlterG experience has been the rubbery shorts.  I’ve been wearing my spandex race shorts under them, and even during mid-summer 80 degrees humid runs I have never seem the spandex so sweaty as when I finish on the AlterG.  Gross!
These are the rubbery shorts -
& clearly this isn't me but a stock photo I found online!
The most amazing part of the my AlterG experience is how much easier it is to run when supporting less than your full body weight.  My weight generally stays somewhere in the 120's at 5'7", so I don’t consider myself a heavy runner (although when I see the 95 lb professional ladies I may feel like it!), but without holding all of my weight it’s sure easy to run fast.  I figure it has to be good for my leg turn-over even though it isn’t real.
I’m currently easing into running outside and at 100% body weight, but plan to use the AlterG to supplement until my 12 sessions run out.  I think it will help me ease back in and get in more miles with less impact.  If I ever win the lottery, I may even buy one to put in more miles with less impact!  For now, I sure love Groupon!

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