Virtually everyone who runs regularly - whether competitively, for fitness or for fun -- has gotten injured at some point. Running is stressful on your body, period. And thanks to some, ahem, recent events, I've been looking for ways to reduce that stress and work on my stride.
Enter the anti-gravity treadmill. Originally built for NASA to train astronauts, the Alter-G M300 treadmill encases your lower body in an anti-gravity chamber, allowing you to reduce the percentage of your body weight you carry in your steps. I worked with a trainer at Equinox Gym on Lexington Avenue in New York to check out this high-tech way to run.
First, I stepped into some super-stylish neoprene shorts with a waist-zipper to hook me into the machine.
I then climbed into the machine and zipped myself in around my hips. After cranking the machine up to a warm-up pace of around 4.0 mph, I dropped the pressure down to be 75 percent of my body weight. The feeling was what I imagine it might be like to be trapped inside a cooking bag of popcorn - as the percentage of my body weight decreased, the chamber I was strapped into filled with air, puffing up the chamber and making each stride much easier. The trainer explained to me that because of the reduction in gravity, my usual walking warm-up of a 3.5 mph should be cranked up by about 0.6 mph to feel the same cardio effects.
Using the tricks of the machine, I was able to complete treadmill feats I never thought possible (six and a half minute miles? Sure! Walking in reverse? Bring it on! Hopping on one foot along the belt? Okay!) without thinking twice. My favorite part of running on the anti-gravity treadmill was the way it really let me focus on my foot movements and my stride-- all the other variables are removed (joint stress, the risk of falling off, etc.) so it was easy to concentrate solely on my movements. It was also just plain fun - when I set my body weight down to 20 percent, it felt like running (smoothly, at that!) on a moonwalk.
I loved the anti-gravity treadmill. It's probably not ideal for every day use, but especially if you're hurt or training for a high-intensity distance race, using the Alter-G M300 is a great way to work out without worrying about aggravating an injury or causing a new one. To find one near you, visit alter-g.com .