Friday, May 4, 2012

Homo Erectus and the Alter-G

Injury rehab in the modern era is a very different thing than it was in the Pleistocene.  I would guess that 12,000 years ago I would be dead by now: my lame foot and I hapless victims of a cave lion, a woolly rhinoceros, a glyptodon; or less dramatically, fallen prey to starvation or exposure.  In contrast, in the 21st century if I chose to I could live my entire life hardly moving my limbs at all, these very real fears of our evolutionary past completely foreign and abstract.  While this state of affairs wreaks havoc on the coronary arteries, abdominal circumferences, and general existential authenticity of our species one nice side benefit is the availability of Alter-G treadmills.

These $75,000 NASA-designed treadmills use air pressure to allow one to select the percentage of body weight you want to run at.  If you want to feel what it's like running 10 lbs lighter you adjust the machine and let fly.  Or you can do what I've been doing over the past week and dial it down to an airy 25% of body weight to unload a fractured foot.  

Entering the contraption is no small feat.  You first slip on a skirt that looks like a white-water kayak skirt with leggings and then zip yourself into an airtight inflatable chamber, calibrating the machine then adjusting the relative air pressure to your liking.  I imagine running at 80% of body weight would be a relatively comfortable affair.  At 25% however, the vectors of force suspending you concentrate directly on your neoprene-encased groin.  I must have been a funny sight for the other gimpy patrons of the University of Utah Orthopedics Center Physical Therapy Dept: legs spinning wildly underneath me as my face vacillated between expressions of blissed-out gratification and wincing discomfort.

Today I ran for 30 minutes at 6min/mile pace. My heart rate hardly cracked 140.  Add to this an interval workout in the pool, a bike ride up Emigration and Big Mountain, some time with Ada, and an IPA and it was a pretty good day for this modern hominid.  

What does any of this have to do, you ask, with the specific aerobic, muscular, and metabolic demands of moving slowly and consistently over vast amounts of technical vertical terrain with cumulative eccentric muscle damage?  Probably very little.   But it's likely better than doing nothing.

In other news, Bethany races the Miwok 100k tomorrow.  Amazingly, in what must be a first, she actually read up on the course and her competition before the start.  I'll try and convince her to write a race report on this site when she gets home but I can't make any promises.

-Current maximum pullups: 20 (improvement of 4 in a month, weak sauce).
-Estimated total miles 'run' in the pool: 24

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