In an average week, University of Toledo cross-country and track coach Samantha Bluske might run as far as 120 miles. For Bluske, running isn’t just a health-and-fitness endeavor, but also a spiritual experience. So when a recent injury threatened to sideline her running activity, she knew she had to do something to get back on track.
“In the last week of March, I was on a run and experienced a severe shooting pain right above my ankle bone, and knew I’d really messed something up,” she recalls. “I took a few days off and saw an athletic trainer at UT. I thought it was tendonitis, but he wasn’t so sure. So I got an MRI and found out I had a pretty bad stress reaction, which is the step right before a stress fracture.”
Concerned about losing ground in her conditioning and endurance, and knowing that a prolonged recovery period without running would make her “stir crazy,” she sought out a state-of-the-art therapeutic tool that helped her overcome a prior running-related injury—the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill®.
The AlterG was developed by NASA engineers while studying the biomechanics of exercise in space. This advanced therapeutic modality uses differential air pressure technology to “unweight” patients—or, as in Bluske’s case, athletes—up to 80 percent so they can exercise using normal mechanics but with significantly reduced impact on the body. As a result, they can train or rehabilitate with less pain and lower risk of injury, leading to faster healing and a shorter recovery time.
Bluske’s previous injury occurred in mid-September of her senior year at Iowa State University. Scheduled to compete in the Big 12 Conference which was slated for the last Saturday in October, she had minimal time to recover. However, training on the AlterG made it possible for her to compete in the conference—after only two days of actually running on the ground.
Following her latest injury, Bluske went to the AlterG website to determine where she could find one of these units. She was pleased to discover that there’s one right here in our community at The Laurels of Toledo. “I thought if I could find an AlterG nearby, I could get better a lot quicker,” she says. “Initially I took three and a half to four weeks off running. After that, I spent a week and a half using the AlterG and then another one and a half to two weeks alternating between running on the ground and running on the AlterG.” Currently, Bluske is very pleased with her progress in recovery. She’s not yet back to running 120 miles per week, but she is up to a very respectable 50 to 60 miles.
As a coach, Bluske sees unlimited potential in the AlterG. “I could use one every day to help keep our athletes healthy, especially those who are injury-prone. Staying healthier longer means more consistent training, which leads to faster running,” she says. “I would encourage other area athletes to take advantage of the fact that we have this technology right here in our community. The AlterG allows you to train at a completely different level with less impact on the body.”❦