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Jason Lakritz blogs about his journey back from a season-ending injury in 2011.

Posted in Team Finish Line.

January 4th, 2013

My First AlterG Run

The comeback has officially begun! I ran on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill for the month of December and felt great. The first time on the treadmill was an interesting experience. I was a little tentative before getting in the treadmill (literally, you’re getting “in” it – not just hopping on), but I think that was more my fear of having pain while running rather than flying off into space as the treadmill blows up.

The treadmill works by creating air pressure that lifts you up to give you support while running. The lower the percentage, the more pressure and support the machine provides. So if you set it at 60%, that makes you relatively lighter than if you set it at 80%. You get lifted up by wearing spandex shorts that zip in to pressure-controlled chamber. As I reached for the medium shorts, our awesome PT aides told me it makes a big difference what size you wear and immediately handed me a small. I do not usually wear spandex and the small was very small! Finally I got into the machine, zipped myself in and set the weight control at 65%.

That initial feeling of being lifted took me a bit by surprise – it felt very uncomfortable. I felt like I was getting a huge weggie (as, ahem, other body parts were being compressed). I can only speak for gentlemen but placement is also important! Again, the aides came to my rescue and told me to lower the height of the machine down a level. Now I was finally ready to run! Running on the machine is a bit awkward. I’ve heard it described as “running on clouds”, and it’s true; you kind of float while you run, making it really easy to run fast. It’s also easy to stay on your toes while you run, and it causes an abnormally high arm swing. I got through that first run, though, and the others since then have felt more normal.

I did 8 runs on the AlterG over three weeks. Every week I raised the percentage by 10%. Just before Christmas, I ran outside for the first time, and it was great. I told myself I’d run outside no matter the weather, and despite the blustery conditions, I did it (and have since run 3x per week outside since then). Yes, the AlterG is not a perfect machine. It causes some stride changes and is a bit uncomfortable to run it, but it gave me the confidence to start running again safely, which is incredibly important.

What did I learn? A few things:

Tip #1: Don’t run faster on the AlterG than you would normally go outside. Believe me, when you feel like you’re running on clouds, it’s tempting. But this is counterproductive. If you are trying to decrease impact, speed is a factor. The impact running at 80% at 7 min pace is similar to the impact running on the ground at 8 min pace. It’s hard, but try and fight the urge!

Tip #2: Try not to stay on your toes while you run. Since the machine is giving a lot of support, it’s easy to just float along and tap the ground with your toes. Focus on taking a normal stride and feeling the treadmill underneath you.

Now it’s your turn: Have you run on the AlterG before? What’s your experience been like? Leave a comment below!

And since we’ve now closed the book on 2012, I wanted to reflect on my races over the last year (a good thing for everyone to do at the end of the year). Here is the list of NYRR races I participated in:

Scotland Run / April 7, 2012 (6.2 miles)
Net Time: 31:31
Pace per Mile: 5:05
Overall Place/ Total Finishers: 5 / 7924

Brooklyn Half Marathon / May 19, 2012 (13.1 miles)
Net Time: 1:09:49
Pace per Mile: 5:19
Overall Place/ Total Finishers: 11 / 14187

Portugal Day / June 17, 2012 (5 miles)
Net Time: 25:11
Pace per Mile: 5:02
Overall Place/ Total Finishers: 12 / 4425

CPC Run for Central Park / July 14, 2012 (4 miles)
Net Time: 20:04
Pace per Mile: 5:01
Overall Place/ Total Finishers: 12 / 5073

Men’s Club Championships / August 4, 2012 (5 miles)
Net Time: 25:39
Pace per Mile: 5:07
Overall Place/ Total Finishers: 14 / 1063

Also, add on the Red Hook Crit 5K at the beginning of March: 14:46, 5th overall. This was the coolest race of the year, and I highly recommend it. This was also my PR race (coincidence?!).

A few thoughts:

  • The Scotland Run was my 10K PR, which is good considering that the Central Park 6-mile loop is a very hard course.
  • I was on a high going into the Brooklyn Half after running two PRs in back-to-back races. I went out way too hard (14:50 for the first 3 miles) and painfully came back down to earth. The new course that started at the museum was awesome though.
  • I don’t remember much about Portugal Day or the CPC Run for Central Park except UA kicked butt and the men’s team moved into 3rd place, jumping CPTC in the standings.
  • The Men’s Club Championship was one of the hottest and most humid races I have ever run. Congrats to everyone who finished that race!

Overall I had a very consistent season with 2 PRs. Unfortunately my season ended too early, and I was not able to show my fitness in a fall marathon. This past season gives me confidence that I can still PR even in the shorter races. I’m hungry to run even better next year!

Congratulations to everybody for another year of running, and good luck this year. Let’s hope 2013 brings about even better results!

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