I have already shared with the masses (also know as my husband and mother, the two people who actually read my blog :-P) the various struggles I experienced at the beginning of my injury recovery. I struggled to receive proper care from my primary care provider and then, once I got in with physical therapy, I was placed with a physical therapist who was basically anti-running. Um, not a good fit. After weeks of advocating for myself and being the squeaky wheel, I had my care transferred to another military treatment facility where I was paired with an active duty physical therapist who has experience with special warfare and other athletic populations! YAY! As a bonus, he is actually rather cute (sorry, hubby, it’s the truth – but I’m sure you can still run faster). Many military treatment facilities have Alter G treadmills available in their physical therapy centers. Many of these treadmills go mostly unused. I asked if I could use one. The PT weighed the pros and cons with me regarding getting back into running, though at lower body weight, as early as the 8th week after my injury. I explained to him my racing plans for the Spring and my need to start moving in the direction of full recovery as soon as is SAFELY possible. We came up with a rather conservation plan for my return to activity… and it involved the Alter G.
I had never been on an Alter G treadmill before and it was a unique experience, especially the first time when I was as only 30% of my body weight. For those who don’t know what an Alter G does, it essentially seals your lower half into a giant bubble and alters your weight by filling up with air and lifting you gently off the treadmill belt to find the requested weight percentage. In order to seal you in, you wear a special pair of shorts that zip into the rest of the “bubble.” I think these shorts may best be described as a sort of S&M tutu.
“I may be bad but I’m perfectly good at it…”
As I said, my PT was very conservation and so I was started out at only 30% body weight on the Alter G. I don’t have particularly vivid memories from infancy but the sensation of being lifted by the pants and running lightly on my feet gave me the distinct feeling that I was an infant, toeing around the house, in one of those little wheeled walkers with the little crotch sling for a seat. I described this sensation and the purpose of the Alter G to my current supervisor. He promptly began referring to the Alter G as my “astronaut diaper.” Truly, I think astronauts very likely wear REALY diapers but I promise I’m not soiling the Alter G.
Here is a picture of the Alter G from the size. You can see where my Astronaut Diaper has been zipped into the rest of the bubble.
Here is a neat video taken from behind. You can see the rest of the “bubble” over the treadmill and you can see how I appear to be running like normal, though I am only experiencing a percentage of the impact that my whole body weight would normally result in.
I feel extremely lucky to be able to recover on such expensive equipment and it is really a shame that this machine is not utilized more frequently by physical therapists. This week I’ve been in Maryland attending training for work. Obviously, there are no Alter G treadmills in the hotel but I decided to go ahead and try out my foot on the regular treadmill. I was able to run a total of 27 minutes with 3x1min walk breaks interspersed. I have had no pain or discomfort! I’m almost disappointed to go back to the Alter G for my PT session on Monday, however, I know that being able to train at low impact is quite valuable and I will not throw that away just because my recovery is progressing!
For those of you who don’t have access to military treatment facility with an Alter G, there may be some available for use in your community. In San Diego, there are several available Alter G at PT businesses that rent them out for segments of time. You can visit alterg.com and find the Alter G closest to you! I’m seriously considering supplementing my training with periodic alter G runs even after my recovery… or maybe I’ll go the cheap route and just use the elliptical. I’m definitely going to be doing something new to avoid another injury! I’ll keep you posted on that adventure. The Astronaut Diaper Escapades are quite enough for one night.;-)
Btw, it’s friggin’ freezing (literally at times) here in Maryland. Take me back to the Left Coast!!
Don’t forget to visit Betty Designs and check out the bad@ss gear she is coming out with to spice up your 2015 race season! Order now so you can have your new gear for your next race!