So yesterday I got to try something new to me and something that I think was pretty cool. I got to run on this:
This absolute beast of a machine is an Alter-G treadmill and this particular one is located at Cloud Running in Cottesloe.
What on earth is it I hear you ask? Well at a basic level it is a treadmill, but one with a very nifty trick. This treadmill can literally reduce your weight by up to 80%. Now I don't mean this will reduce your weight in the same way as most exercise will do. I mean this thing can hold you up so that you are landing on the treadmill with almost no weight.
Okay hard to describe but here goes. What is a bit hard to see in the above photo is a part of the treadmill that is made up of a big plastic bag. You stand with your legs inside this bag and it seals around your waist (you wear these funky neoprene shorts that look a bit like a kayaking skirt, the bags seals to this). The bag then fills up with air like a balloon and this lifts you by the waist. The machine weighs you during the calibration process, so you can program it to reduce your weight by any amount between 1% and 80%. Program in a bigger weight reduction and more air goes into the bag lifting you up a little bit more, less weight reduction, less air. Sounds complicated, but in practice it is quite simple and very effective.
So what was it like to use. I think it depends a bit on what you were using it for, but for me it was awesome. Actually I was surprised by my reaction, I was expecting to be technically impressed, but not all that bothered about it, but I found it much cooler than that. My session on it was doing two minute intervals at very high pace (for me) at 90% body weight and I was blown away by how good this machine made the session. The beauty of it is that you get to practice the high leg speed of running hard but without the physical load that comes with doing that sort of session on the road. This means the risk of injury is much lower. Don't get me wrong, it isn't easy. Your heart rate is lower than it would be to run the equivalent speed on the road, but at 90% body weight you are still working hard, my heart rate was up between 160bpm and 170bpm for all those intervals. For somebody who has a history of injury, being able to get this high speed practice with a reduced risk of injury is massively valuable. Of course the end goal is to be able to do this speed work on the road since the strength that you develop from doing so is essential, however, this treadmill allows me to approach that gradually.
Heading in I was wondering what it would be like to run on, but once I was up and going it felt no different to running on a good quality treadmill. I wasn't aware of making any changes to my stride to compensate for the reduced weight. Actually I wasn't even that aware of the reduced weight, it wasn't until I looked at heart rate that it became obvious that my body wasn't under as much strain as it usually would be. When I got off walking under my full weight did feel quite strange though.
Now, while I am using this for speed work, the other aspect of this is of course rehab from an injury. I would have loved to have access to this when I was recovering from a stress fracture back in 2012. Being able to run without worrying about the impact while I was working my way back to fitness would have been a massive relief.
All up a cool experience that I am very keen to repeat next week.