That Time I Defied Gravity

This morning, I defied the laws of gravity while running.

If you are a runner who has been injured and gone through PT, you probably know what I’m talking about.

If you are currently thinking that I woke up and smoked some crack this morning and then went running, allow me to explain.

Last week, I went to the doctor for some running-related knee pain I’ve been having. She diagnosed me with patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee, and prescribed physical therapy twice a week for the next few weeks.

Updated to add: I’m going to Finish Line Physical Therapy because it’s relatively close to me, and I know they work with a lot of runners. The runner’s boot camp I took in the winter was held there, and my friend Katie has had amazing results working with them.

They emailed me after this post went up and wanted to let you all know that they are offering a free 30-minute trial for any non-patient who wants to go in and try it out. 

I went Friday and yesterday and have been working on exercises that will strengthen basically everything from my hips down to my feet since the knee will absorb any imbalances anywhere from your foot to your hip in an attempt to stabilize your leg. On Friday, when I made my appointments for this week, they told me to also make an appointment for the Alter-G treadmill.


That would be this contraption right here.

Originally designed for astronauts, the Differential Air Pressure technology was adapted by Alter-G for training and rehabilitation and cleared by the FDA in 2008. The air in the anti-gravity chamber is used to gently lift you to take the pressure of anywhere from 100%-20% of your weight off of your bones and joints to help you still run while recovering from an injury.


First, they have you put these very awkward shorts on.


Then, you hop (or, um, step gingerly) into the chamber and are zipped in. You program how much “un-weighting” will be done. I ran at 75%, so only 25% was taken off. You’re supposed to cross your arms like this as the chamber does its anti-gravity thing–I think so that you don’t mess up the balance?



Then it does its thing, and off you go. I had five miles on my plan today, and I ran one mile there, ran on this for twenty-five minutes, and then planned on running 1.5 miles home. They told me to put it at a pace of around 3-4mph–whatever felt like a jog to me. They also told me not to worry about pace, since it’s very different in there compared to outside.

It felt really weird running in here at first–I could feel my feet hitting the treadmill, but I couldn’t really feel my legs. My upper body, of course, felt normal, since it was outside of the chamber. I got used to it after just a few minutes, and quickly got into a groove. Much more quickly than I ever do on a regular treadmill–but perhaps that’s just because of the novelty of the anti-gravity. Once my 25 minutes was up, I unzipped and nearly fell out. My legs felt so heavy–which makes sense, since they’d basically just gained back about 35 pounds.

I tried to run the mile and a half back home, but got across one avenue and my legs felt so heavy, I thought I was going to topple over. I ended up speed-walking the rest of the way home.

Have you ever run on an Alter-G? If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

18 comments on “That Time I Defied Gravity

  1. Jess

    I’m dying to try one of these! Sorry about your injury.

    Sorry to hear about your runner’s knee issues. I hope it’s a “mild” case.

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Jess: It was pretty cool! And it is a pretty mild case. If I weren’t training for a marathon, I probably would have been more likely to just cut back and let it heal on its own, but I don’t want to ruin months of training with one pesky little knee injury. I. Will. Show. It.

  2. Laura @ Watch Laura Go

    One of my friends on the cross country used an Alter-G during recovery and said it was the weirdest experience. I would love to try one some time! If I had any super power, I’d want to be invisible or be able to fly… original, right? haha

  3. Michael Conlon

    Great blog Theodora… everyone is more than welcome to come by Finish Line and check it out. Just let the office know Theodora sent you… 🙂
    If you are a runner, the Alter G is a great way to safely increase volume to your training program without overdoing it, or if injured, allow you to stay up with your current training program. If you are not a runner, it’s a great way to start. The Alter G will enable you to build your base without incurring all those minor setbacks beginner runners tend to deal with.
    Michael Conlon, PT

  4. Kristina

    So sorry to hear about the knee pain. I hope that you recover soon!
    I’ve learned to accept knee issues as a constant (torn meniscus from skiing, torn ACL from ultimate..), but PT is so awesome!
    When I was recovering from surgery, I started out running on the Alter-G. After not being able to walk post-surgery, it was SO exciting to be able to run again!


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