Just when you thought every idea had been exploited to help running performance along comes the least expected of them all – the anti-gravity treadmill.
Actually, it’s not fantasy and it’s not at all a bad idea. Say you have an injury and need to run to maintain cardio performance but your calf muscle is knackered. You can’t put weight on it but you need to exercise it and you need to maintain a fitness regime while it heals. A short hop to the moon is a little unfeasible but a travelcard to Clapham North is not.
Balance Physio were one of the first to install this amazing equipment originally invented to help astronauts get used to reduced gravity conditions. Dion Harrison, multiple Ironman winner, all-round good egg and yorkshireman was one of the first to try it here. Running at 60% bodyweight, it turns out is very good for your speed.
But I was asked to visit Balance to see Dion use it and film him as part of a programme to help heal a torn achilles. If all goes to plan in less than a month from now he’ll be back on the competitive Ironman circuit thanks to the guys from Balance Physio.
You step into what is best described as a “canoe skirt” the sort of thing you might use if you were hitting the surf in Llangennith. Onto the tready in your tutu and zip it up so you are immersed from the waist down in an airtight inflatable bag on the treadmill. It weighs you, calibrates your settings and pumps itself up to rasie your weight off the mat to a prespecified level – anything up to (or rather down to) 20% of your actual bodyweight.
I watched Dion bash out a 10k run and barely break sweat. I filmed his feet as they struck the treadmill and sure enough his Sauconys were striking mid-foot and with all the force of an eight-year old.
Wierdly, I found myself wondering if there were other devices that could re-calibrate other biological processes such as aging. OK, off now to book my session in the time-warping machine to become 21 again for just one saturday night.