Thursday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit Finish Line Physical Therapy to run on their AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill and get a peak performance analysis. Both Jess and Abby absolutely rave about these guys, so I was pumped!
When I first walked in, my reaction was Whoa—this place is huge! Oooo, look at all those tri bikes! I didn’t take any pictures, but here’s a snapshot from their website:
This is only about half of the facility, and the treadmill in the back by the TV is the AlterG Anti-Gravity, which I tested out at the beginning of my appointment. First, Tim had me put on neoprene shorts that effectively zipped me into the ‘mill’s airtight chamber.
Not me, obviously, but this is what the setup looked like.
Like standard treadmills, this state-of-the-art one had buttons to adjust incline and speed, but what sets the AlterG apart is its “differential air pressure technology” that “generate[s] a powerful lifting force.” This basically means it provides “unweighting” in 1-percent increments from 20 percent of your body weight up to 100 percent (or full weight).
I took it slow, warming up for 10 minutes at 75 percent of my body weight, and I couldn’t believe how the AlterG essentially lifted me up and relieved my lower body of pressure. Even though I warmed up at my standard ‘mill pace, I felt like I didn’t have to work at all. Case in point: When running on a normal dreadmill, I usually become a sweaty mess after five minutes (I sweat very easily), but I didn’t start to perspire until the 17-minute mark on the AlterG. Anyway, after getting used to running on air, I had some fun and played around with the settings. It was absolutely crazy when I set the body weight percentage at 65 and increased my pace to 6:30/miles. (I know this pace is normal for some runners, but normally, I can probably sustain this for one mile and change—maybe. And not off the bike.) Suspended in the antigravity chamber, the pace felt manageable, and I thought to myself, I could BQ on this thing! Yes, the thought actually crossed my mind, which is hilarious on so many levels.
While running, I also talked to Tim a bit about the AlterG, and he said athletes who are just coming back from injury or rehabbing from surgery use it, as do people who need a low-impact workout. Friends, you know how much I despise the dreadmill, but I would actually welcome the opportunity to run on the AlterG regularly. I also wonder how running on this anti-gravity ‘mill compares to aqua jogging …
After running for 30 minutes—and rejoining the earth at 100 percent body weight—I had a peak performance analysis with Alison.
First, we briefly talked about my athletic background and current training, and then I ran on a seemingly normal treadmill for two minutes at a comfortable pace. What I didn’t realize, though, were cameras rolling from all angles and devices measuring my stride length, airtime, etc. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from this part of the appointment. As I’m learning from training with Full Throttle Endurance, I know my stride needs work, so I wasn’t sure what running quirks would surface.
But plenty of things made themselves known.
For starters, I basically don’t swing my right arm when I run, so making that single adjustment will help increase my cadence. Alison also pointed out that I’m a heel striker, and the data she collected revealed that I spend more time in the air on my right leg (as opposed to my left), and I take longer strides with my left leg. (And my stride length is generally longer than it should be, so here’s to embracing “shorter, shorter, quicker, quicker.”) She also noticed my hips are very tight—aka I don’t engage my glutes, which can probably be attributed to not stretching after biking. My bad.
Alison’s most important observation? She pointblank asked me if I have tight calves. Uh, YES. If you’ve been reading a while, then you know my calves absolutely killed me during longer races this summer, and they’re always the first part of my lower body to feel distressed when I run off the bike (like during Wednesday’s brick). And backtracking a bit, during the pre-Fitness and Frozen Grapes days, my calves gave me so much trouble during college basketball. I constantly had to stretch them out during drills, and our team trainer would wrap them for games, practices, and lifting sessions; everyone thought I suffered from perpetual shin splints. However, based on this analysis, Alison concluded that I lift my heels too early when running. This prognosis, taken into consideration with the whole heel-striker thing, makes so much sense. I guess I always thought my calves were weak and would eventually get used to running off the bike/longer distances, but now that I actually know the source of the problem, I can fix it. Friends, this is so exciting!
Finally, after reviewing the data, Alison showed me some stretches that will help open up my hip flexors and stretch my calves, both of which I did after yesterday’s indoor bike trainer ride. And you better believe I’ll do regularly. Thankfully, I’ve been very lucky in terms of injuries—aside from my meniscus and ACL surgery in high school—so now, it’s all about prevention. Although I’m relatively young, I know making these changes and doing these exercises can help prevent future injuries and prolong my triathloning career, so 10, 20, 30 years down the road, I don’t have any serious problems. Thanks again, Finish Line Physical Therapy, for an incredibly helpful appointment!
Full Disclosure: Jess hosted a giveaway for a complimentary appointment at Finish Line Physical Therapy, which I entered. She later announced that everyone who entered the giveaway won, so I was contacted by a member of the Finish Line Physical Therapy team. I was not asked to write a blog post, but I figured you would enjoy reading about my experience. (And I was also super excited to learn about my calf issue!) As always, all opinions expressed are my own.