3 ways you can incorporate the Alter-G into your training
The Alter-G Treadmill is a relatively new technology enabling reducing loading during walking and running. The treadmill uses differential air pressure to reduce percentage of body weight, enabling walking or running at anywhere from 20% to 100% bodyweight. Therefore you can run faster, lighter and longer with reduced respiratory and muscular demands. This can be used for numerous conditions to help ensure safe, yet quick from return from injury or surgery whilst maintaining cardiovascular fitness (more on these benefits are explored HERE). Since the establishment of the Alter-G in our practice, runners using the Alter-G have experienced the benefits of running on it. For injured runners, first time (in a long time) runners or post-surgical runners it may be the only way to run outside of the pool. For the un-injured athlete the common question is ‘how do I best incorporate it into my training?’Run faster, lighter and longer with reduced respiratory and muscular demands. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
So if you are injury free and looking to keep it that way here’s how you can incorporate it into your training or routine. A quick note before we jump in, every runner is different. This goes without saying, however individual characteristics, your training routine, weekly load/volume, current goals and upcoming events will all influence where the Alter-G may best fit into routine. Individualised is always best. Overarching principles however may remain the same. Looking at research around the Alter-G and comparing it alongside the practicality of everyday clinical use, there are three key options for implementing the Alter-G into your training routine.
Easy Easy Run
That’s not a typo. The first way that the Alter-G can be incorporated is to make an ‘easy run’ even easier. People are often found guilty of doing easy runs too fast, and then coming up short on faster speed sessions. The 80/20 rule is a widely held concept in the running community, highlighting that 80% of runs should be of a low intensity, staying below anaerobic threshold to build a good aerobic base. The remaining 20% should include higher intensity to help raise anaerobic threshold. So if you a doing an easy run, keep it an easy run and make it even easier. Utilising the Alter-G you can perform the same easy run with lower metabolic cost (lower oxygen consumption) and thus lower perceived exertion and heart rate (1, 2). This enables you to not only keep at a low intensity but also reduce lower limb ground reaction forces to reduce chances of aggravating any niggles (1). Additionally because of the lower metabolic demand, you will be able to run the easy run at a faster speed whilst still keeping yourself at a low heart rate or in a particular heart rate zone. There’s option one, making an easy run easier (and slightly quicker) and helping recovery by decreasing impact forces.Make an ‘easy run’ even easier.#performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
Tempo: Faster and/or Easier
Option 2, tackling the Tempo run. A Tempo run is a fast paced run, done close to one’s lactate (or anaerobic) threshold. During these runs you are aiming to stay at a pace which is often close to race pace, to train systems involved in managing fatigue. Often these runs are difficult and speed is lost before the desired duration or distance of the training run due to fatigue (mental or physical). Utilising the Alter-G with body weight support metabolic demand is reduced, therefore the intended tempo speed can be maintained with less physical fatigue for the same run distance/duration. Alternatively the same fatigue levels and demand on the anaerobic system can be reached if the run on the Alter-G is done faster than usually feasible without body weight support (3). This can then aid your ability to maintain faster tempo speeds on road (off the treadmill).
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
High Intensity Interval Training sessions often make up 20% of a runner’s training. As mentioned previously the other 80% is at a lower intensity. HIIT is used to improve capacity of our anaerobic system, and has been shown to improve maximal oxygen uptake (VO2Max), running speed at VO2Max, running speed at lactate threshold and running performance (4).High Intensity Interval Training sessions often make up 20% of a runner’s training. #performbetter @pogophysio Click To Tweet
Lower-body positive pressure (LBPP) treadmills offer the unique possibility to partially unload runners and reach supramaximal speeds during a HIIT session. A 2015 study of LBPP tested an overspeed (faster than maximal overground speed) HIIT protocol in trained runners. A 4-wk HIIT protocol improved field performance, vVO2max, VO2max and submaximal HR in trained runners. Improvements are similar if intervals are run on a regular treadmill or at higher speeds on a LBPP treadmill with 10% body weight reduction. The authors concluded that LBPP could provide an alternative for taxing HIIT sessions (5). Option 3, using the Alter-G with HIIT to reach supra-maximal speeds and still see the benefits of HIIT.
There you have it, three ways that you can incorporate the Alter-G into your training; Easy easy run, Tempo or HIIT. Trialling the Alter-G and discussing with your therapist and running coach will help find the best fit for you. Happy anti-gravity running.
Lewis Craig (APAM)
Masters of Physiotherapy
- Raffalt PC, Hovgaard-Hansen L, Jensen BR Running on a lower-body positive pressure treadmill: VO2max, respiratory response, and vertical ground reaction force. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2013 Jun; 84(2):213-22
- Soucy, Michael Thomas, “Examining the Effects of Body Weight Support and Speed on Physiological Measures and Lower Leg Muscular Activity” (2016). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. Paper 2808.
- Gojanovic, B., Cutti, P., Shultz, R., & Matheson, G. O. (2012). Maximal physiological parameters during partial body-weight support treadmill testing.Med Sci Sports Exerc, 44(10), 1935-1941.
- Esfarjani, F., & Laursen, P. B. (2007). Manipulating high-intensity interval training: Effects on, the lactate threshold and 3000m running performance in moderately trained males. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 10(1), 27-35.
- Gojanovic B, Shultz R, Feihl F, Matheson G. Overspeed HIIT in lower body positive pressure treadmill improves running performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Dec;47(12):2571-8.