Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Alter-G, take two

Went to Kirkland before work today for my second session in the Alter-G. I was a little worried that I would forget how to operate the machine. My anxiety was heightened when I walked in, checked in at the front desk, and was asked if I knew how to turn the machine on. I said, "Ummm... I know how to start it..." and the woman said, "Oh, it's probably not 'ON' yet -- there's a little switch on the back of the treadmill, just switch it on."

Cute me spending at least two minutes staring at the machine and trying to decide what side is the "back". Is the the side behind the instrument panel? Is if at the foot of the treadmill? Is it on the side farthest from the door? For future reference, it's at what I might call the front -- the farthest forward part of the treadmill, behind the instrument panel. Okay then.

So I turned that on (figuring that perhaps it would need to "warm up" or something, and then struggled my way into the shorts. See, to use the treadmill, you have to put on these special shorts that I "rented" (really, just put down a deposit on). They're made of neoprene like a super-tight wetsuit, but with an attached rubberized... flange. I think flange is the only possible word for it. Sorta like a spray-skirt on a kayak, except attached to a pair of shorts. Anyway, they're cut very small, I guess so that they keep the "flange" from moving.

Once encased, you step in to the machine, which looks like this:

You step in to the "black hole" (trying desperately not to step on the tent part), and then pull the sides up by lifting the blue handles.

When you have it at hip level (lucky 13 in my case), you slide the red lever halfway across, and then the frame will "click in" to the locked position.

Then the fun begins -- you have to zip yourself into the tent. I remembered the advice I received on the first night: tuck the flange in first, then start zipping. So I tucked myself in, then started the big zipper. It goes all the way around -- which went fine until I was just past the halfway point. Zipped in enough that I couldn't turn far enough to see what was wrong, but not zipped in enough to see it by turning the other way. As I blindly tried to free the zipper pull, part of my brain started to imagine the call I would place to the front desk. "Umm, hi there. I'm back on the Alter-G treadmill in room 9.... and I'm stuck..."

Anyway, I got the zipper pull unstuck and zipped myself all the way in. Did I say the fun had already begun? Nope, this is the real fun.

You press the "calibrate" button and the "tent" starts to inflate. It's noisy and blowy and a little bit weird as the machine works out how much you weigh by inflating the tent until you're lifted off your feet for a second or two. It then settles right down, and you're on the belt again, but the sensation of being lifted up is a little disturbing.

You then select the weight (by percent) you'd like to run as. When the machine was demonstrated to me, he chose 80%. Now, I don't even know if you can choose a lower percentage... but I suspect you can because people who are injured use these. Heck, I can't even figure out why anyone who isn't recovering from an injury would ever run on one.... other than just idle curiosity, like me. So I set it at 80%.

Then I set the incline at "2", even if I'm not sure what that means. Two percent grade? Two inches? Who knows?!?

And then I set the treadmill rolling. I started with a 5-minute warmup walk -- I sometimes overstride on a treadmill so I wanted to make sure and get very warm before I started running. And after that was done, I let it loose. I started with a 10-minute mile pace, which I ran at for 5 minutes. That seemed a little too easy at only 80% of my body weight, so I sped up pretty rapidly until I was running at 7:30 miles. Woot.

I ran for 30 minutes, then cooled down for 5 minutes while gradually increasing the percentage back to 100%. (I had been told that if you didn't increase the percentage back to normal, your legs would feel like lead...)

When I finished my workout, I stopped the machine, which deflates the tent. Then you unzip, lift the flange out of the opening, and then (while holding the handle on one side) release the lock lever and lower the frame down before stepping back out of the tent.

I wriggled out of the shorts (soaking wet -- ew ew ew) and then cleaned up the machine... and then headed out.

I have eight more sessions left -- looking forward for more! (And perhaps next time I will play with the percentage more...)

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