Using the AlterG in preparation for the Ironman World Championships

For starters, what is the AlterG? The AlterG is an anti gravity treadmill. It functions as a normal treadmill: speed and incline can be adjusted, but so can the body weight at which you’re running or walking. Specific neoprene shorts are used that zip into a liner incased within the machine. I would describe it as being in a bubble from the waist down. The upper body is free to move and normal arm reciprocation occurs.  The machine uses unweighting technology to make you feel up to 80% lighter! Therefore, if an individual is 125lb they can feel as light as 25lb on the AlterG, wow! As you can see this would help with mobility, injury recovery and prevention.

How have I used the AlterG? This year I have suffered from two stress fractures in my femur and one fracture in my fibula. I have a common bone condition that has hindered my run training this year.  My two femur stress fractures healed in 4-6 weeks. I was able to unload a significant amount of body weight and keep my training time and distance high while recovering. This allowed me to maintain a great deal of fitness.

My fibula fracture was a type of impact fracture. It occurred while running on a gym treadmill. I got distracted, my phone went flying and instead of letting it shoot off the back I decided I would try and catch it. Not a good idea! My foot rolled onto the outside and I heard a loud pop! My thinking at the time was that I pulled a muscle, when in actuality, that terrifying sound was the bone fracturing. Within a week I started to use the AlterG in continued preparation for Ironman Boulder. I started at 20% body weight and could only run for 1 to 2 hours. As soon as there was no pain at 20% I, with the guidance of the therapists at SPT, bumped up the percentage slightly until I was able to progress to 85% of my body weight. Due to the slow healing nature of my injury, I wasn’t able to run over 85% body weight in the 5 months leading up the Ironman, but because of my use of the AlterG, I was able to continue healing while maintaining run fitness. Additionally, I was able to use the same stride mechanics and form as I do running 100% on land.

While the Boulder run was a struggle, my performance was still good enough to earn me a spot in the Ironman World Championships.  Leading up to the World Championships I had a strict running regimen that was built around using the AlterG. I ran 1-2 times a week 1-1.5 hours and 1 time a week 2:15-3 hours. All of my run training was standard marathon training at 85%-88% body weight with switching of the incline periodically to simulate hill training. I completed the Championships in a time of 10:31 placing 11th in the 30-34 age group and 5th American! 

Without SPT none of that would have been possible, so I own a big thanks to SPT for their guidance and use of the AlterG! 

By Morgan Chaffin
Professional Triathlete

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