Treadmill uses zero gravity to help runners train, recover from injuries
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 21:09
The Florida Gulf Coast University cross-country team has a secret weapon inside Marieb Hall. Inside the University’s Human Performance Lab is a device that makes them lighter. It’s a space-aged machine that can trim pounds and reduce the pounding of a workout at the same time.
This secret weapon is called AlterG – a zero-gravity treadmill.
The manufacturer’s website says, “The AlterG was originally conceived by Dr. Robert Whalen to design effective exercise regimens for NASA’s astronauts, Differential Air Pressure (DAP) technology has been adapted by AlterG for use in training and rehabilitation. Cleared by the FDA in 2008, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill is a medical device that can be used for rehabilitation of lower extremity injuries.”
The AlterG allows you to run in a zipper-sealed bubble at 20 to 80 percent of your body weight, which reduces the injuries involved in running like shin splints and stress fractures.
FGCU cross-country runner Gilbert Chemaoi has utilized the AlterG technology for the past year and a half as a cross-training exercise. The redshirt junior from Kenya uses it to reduce the frequency of stress fractures in his shins from an extreme amount of land running. Gilbert is currently 143 pounds, but when he runs at 80 percent of his body weight he is a mere 114 pounds, which is a much easier weight on a runner’s joints.
“He (Gilbert) ran a lot in Kenya before coming to the States. Once he came to America and attended EKU (Eastern Kentucky University), his body began to wear down from all the stress on his legs,” FGCU cross- country head coach Cassandra Goodson said.
Coach Goodson’s favorite aspects of the AlterG is that her runners recovery time from soreness and injury is cut down.
“I don’t make my runners come run on the AlterG, but it has done great things for Gilbert that if someone feels soreness, they use it” Goodson said.
When Chemaoi transferred to FGCU, his injuries continued, and he wasn’t healthy untill last spring season. To rehab his injuries, Chemaoi ran consistently on the AlterG to relieve soreness, but now Chemaoi does only 20 percent of his running on the AlterG compared to an 80 percent workload on land.
Chemaoi has not been alone in his effort to get in shape. FGCU human performance student Lindsey DiLeonardo has been there to plot and track Chemaoi’s progress. DiLeonardo tracks his heart rate and his RPE (Rating Perceived Exertion), which is a scale from 6 to 20, ranging from light to hard in the amount of exertion.
“I remember when I first worked with Gilbert on the AlterG, and he walked at 3.5 mph and 40 percent of his body weight. Then we slowly moved to 6.5 mph and 50 percent of his body weight all the way to where we are today. It has been great to see him progress to this point in which he now runs at a much quicker pace and [more] of his body weight,” DiLeonardo said.
When Chemaoi runs on the AlterG these days, he now runs at a five-minute mile pace and a total of twelve miles at 80 percent his body weight. Chemaoi, a year and a half later, now makes the five-minute mile on the AlterG look extremely easy
The AlterG has been a game-changer for Chemaoi.
“My performance has been much better, my times are improving and my workouts are great,” he said.