Anti-Gravity Running

Fast Track Physical Therapy where I’m doing my PT just got a new Alter G anti-gravity treadmill that I’ve gotten to run on as part of my last two sessions. I’ve only put in five to 10 minutes each session at 60 – 75 percent of my body weight, but it’s got me even more excited to get running again after having a little taste.

Anti-gravity running…Tell me more!

I had only recently learned about an anti-gravity treadmill so I was very excited to get to test one out, but for those that aren’t familiar, here’s how it works: You put on some pretty cool (read with sarcasm!)  neoprene shorts that allow you to zip into the machine at hip height. Check out the link above for a pic. The machine calibrates to your weight and pressurizes the compartment so you can adjust it to feel like you’re not running on your full body weight.

My boyfriend keeps asking me to try it on the moonwalk setting (about 17 percent of your body weight), but that seems a bit counter productive to trying to get better and run on more weight! You can bring the Alter G down to 20 percent of your body weight. I started out in the 60 percent range and have already bumped it up to running on 75 percent of my weight – completely pain free!

This is such a great tool for injured runners. Yes you can do the elliptical or aqua running, but except for the amount of weight you’re putting on your legs, the Alter G is exactly like running. You can work on your form and get back to running earlier than you would be able to on a regular treadmill or on the road.

You can also use it for recovery runs when you’re looking to give your legs a bit of a break or for adding mileage without all the impact. According to Inside Triathlon, elite athletes will use it to practice at a pace unmanageable at full body weight so their bodies experience neuromuscular firing patterns they couldn’t otherwise. One warning – your legs seriously feel like they weigh 500 pounds as they bring you back to full body weight. I can imagine your first run back on the road after running on this would seem pretty difficult.

If you live in the D.C./NoVa area, Fast Track is having an open house with free trials on December 1 if you want to try it out. You can also rent out 30-60 minute running sessions on it.

With this being the only form of running I can get in right now, I’m looking forward to another go at it in my session tonight, and maybe will work my way up to running on 80 percent of my weight this time. Getting closer to being back on the road!

Cross Training

Without being able to run I’ve had to resort to a lot of cross training to keep in shape. I’m not great at fitting in time for other fitness activities other than core strengthening when I’m running a lot since I like running so much, and tend to subscribe to the more is better line of thinking. Seeing as this might have a little bit to do with how I got myself injured in the first place, I’m going to make an effort to add in more cross training when I do get back to a run-specific plan.

My go-to cross training activity that I absolutely love is spinning. It’s indoors so weather is never an issue, it’s quick – usually less than an hour, and it’s an awesome, intense workout. However, spinning is still off limits for me, so I’ve had to look elsewhere. I’ve spent a lot of time on the elliptical listening to tunes or catching up on Hulu on my phone to stave off the boredom. I do the same on the recumbent bike at the gym. I get a little frustrated with how much longer I have to spend on these activities to burn the same amount of calories I do running, and just don’t feel the same cardio gains I do from running, but at least it’s something active.

I love to swim, but am not a big fan of the pool situation in this area. I’m used to most gyms being able to have pools, but get that there just isn’t the space for that here. I finally got myself back to the pool up at Washington & Lee though this weekend and it felt great. I love the exhausted but feeling great feeling I get after a hard swim workout.

W&L has a nice, relatively new facility, but it’s usually a bit too crowded for my tastes. I’m not a great swimmer so I much prefer when I can just split a lane with one other person rather than circle swim, which usually doesn’t happen here. I know I’m too slow for the fast lanes so I stay out of them, but when the slow lanes are filled with older folks doing the backstroke, that doesn’t work well for me either. I just purchased a deal for a month at the Crystal City Sport & Health, which recently renovated its pool, so I’m going to check that out soon to see if it works better for me. I’d love to fit swimming back into my exercise routine on a regular basis if I can find the right pool for it.

I’ve also gotten back to biking and am remembering why I used to love riding. I didn’t ride much my first few years down here as I got very nervous in areas I had to ride through traffic and eventually just stopped getting the bike out altogether. Capital Bikeshare rekindled my love of biking – especially the convenience of using it to avoid the metro. Now I’m getting back on my road bike a bit and really enjoying it. I’ve done a couple 90-minute to 2-hour weekend rides along the Custis and W&OD trails over the last two weeks and am getting back in the swing of things. As I continue to get more comfortable on my bike, I hope to join some group rides – something I’ve never done – to keep me motivated and out there riding through the cold winter months.

Tell me how you like to cross train or if you stick with just one primary fitness activity in the comments.

Time to Get Healthy

After an injury consult from Fast Track physical therapy at the Run for the Parks 10k, I set an appointment with their office so I could figure out what was going on. I’d been ignoring pain for much too long (I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me), and it turns out I’d done quite a number on my legs, especially my hip flexors.

My mobility is limited and my hamstrings, IT band, quads and calves are all extremely tight. I also had an appointment with Dr. Ochiai, an orthopedist, for X-Rays that showed a small build-up of excess bone on my left hip, which could cause torn cartilage in the hip joint. We agreed that surgery would be a last resort so we decided to hold off on an MRI at this point and see how I’m feeling after a few weeks of physical therapy.

I’ve gotten several physical therapy sessions under my belt now and it seems like things are going in the right direction. Liz, my physical therapist at Fast Track, is excellent. She’s given me a series of exercises and lots of stretches to do everyday to help get my flexibility back to where it should be. It apparently takes about 10 weeks to really have an effect, so I’m going to have to have some patience, which isn’t exactly one of my stronger qualities. I’m also foam rolling and icing everyday to help with the pain and hopefully loosen things up. After using my rolling pin as a roller for the past year, I finally broke down and got a real one from Amazon!

Watching the Marine Corps Marathon instead of running it was a bit of a bummer last week, but it’s also hard not to get excited seeing so many people out there running such an awesome race. I was able to defer my entry, so I’ll have an automatic entry into next year’s race. I’m going to really work these next couple months to get myself healthy again and then be smart enough to stay that way this time – mostly because I want to get back to my goal of qualifying for Boston, but also because I’m going a bit insane not being able to run!

MCM Training Check-In

With Labor Day weekend over and the fall fast approaching that means the Marine Corps Marathon will be here in less than two months. Less humidity will be nice, but less daylight hours usually means more runs on the treadmill for me.

The first five weeks of training went according to plan. I was getting in six runs a week even while traveling all over the place. It was fun to run some of my old routes in my hometown and to get to take in some nice views on runs up in Alex Bay.

I have a tendency to always go my hardest even on days that are supposed to be even days, and it seems that that has finally come back to bite me. My training once August hit has not been going the way I planned at all. I started noticing tightness in my hips that was really slowing me down as I tried to run, especially when I got up over five or six miles. It’s very frustrating when conditioning-wise you feel like you can keep going, but your legs don’t agree.

For the rest of August I cut down on my number of runs drastically and also haven’t done a long run of more than 10 miles. I’ve done lots of cross training in hopes of keeping up my fitness including aqua jogging, the elliptical and the stepper. This week I’m adding in spinning and body pump classes.

Unfortunately the pain seems to be increasing instead of getting better, so I might have to (gasp) have a doctor check things out. For those that know me, you know that going to a doctor is not something I readily do – but I suppose it is likely the smart thing to do so I can get back to running! In the meantime I plan to keep cross training, so as I’ll be in best shape I can when I’m able to start adding miles again.

I’m still shooting for a sub-3:35 at Marine Corps this October so I can qualify for Boston in 2014, and will do what I can to make that happen! I have 5k, 10k and 20 miler races between then and now as well that I’ve worked into my training plan. Next up is the September 11 Memorial 5k that loops by the Pentagon and is one of my favorite races – incredibly moving! Check out some pics below from last year’s race.