Sweat dripping, thighs aching, feet tingling—these are only some of the things an elite runner, and really all runners, experience from the time, effort, and energy they put into their training. In addition to their raw talent, their high-level performance requires hours of practice, proper nutrition and certainly the right mentality. However, there are a few other things that elite runners do that may seem strange to the average runner.
- Hypoxic chamber. A hypoxic chamber is a sealed room where oxygen is reduced in order to imitate altitude change. Many elite runners believe that breathing in oxygen-reduced air helps improve their performance. Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D., the Director of Exercise Science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, agrees, saying that altitude training enhances performance particularly in runners and swimmers. Elite runners like Meb Keflezighi and Paula Radcliffe also believe that altitude training is effective. They usually travel to “higher grounds” before a competition. Hypoxic chambers might seem unusual, but they improve the body’s ability to take in and carry oxygen, which in return may lead to a better performance.
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- Alter G treadmill. An alter G (Anti Gravity) treadmill is a high-tech machine that reduces your body weight to as little as 20 percent of what it really is. It serves a great purpose for athletes who wish to improve their mobility and strength and rehabilitate injuries. This unique treadmill uses air pressure as a lifting force, allowing for an athlete to run normally without additional forces. According to Scott Morris from Balance Performance Physiotherapy in Clapham, London, the Alter G treadmill “prevents other tissues deconditioning during injury or rehabilitation and helps you retain good form and function, minimizing the impact of the problem.” He also says it “allows them to boost performance factors, such as leg speed and increase their training volume—running faster, further or more frequently—without overstressing their bodies.”
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- 3D gait analysis. Although this may sound a bit technological, it’s essentially a high-end system of measuring the way you run. Runners are watched with 12 cameras that observe from the side, front, back and above. It captures 200 frames per second. Jessica Leitch from Oxford-based Run3D, the UK’s first three-dimensional motion analysis service, says “It’s a diagnostic tool that provides another piece of the puzzle when it comes to solving injury issues.” Many elite runners use the 3D gait analysis to detect any injuries or abnormalities. It particularly looks at the way a runner moves and collects data based on that. For example, Olympic runner Jo Pavey noticed that the foot she once had a stress fracture on was detected from the foot biomechanics. Many runners usually do this for rehabilitation or to prevent injury.
To the average runner, such methods of training seem very high-tech and a bit odd. However, elite runners take what’s odd to us and make it part of their normal routine.