The saying goes, “the hardest thing to do is get to the starting line healthy,” and I’m a big believer in that. I started really training for triathlon racing back in 2007 and have been competing since. I’ve accumulated quite a few miles since then and definitely feel it. Every year a new niggle pops up that needs more focus. One year it was my knees, another my calves, another my shoulder; the list goes on. For the last four years, my back has been my struggle- traveling for work, working part time at the desk and the rest of the time at a shop vise has left my back prone to injury.
I’ve found that I can swim and bike just fine, but when it comes to running, it’s best I run once a week or just save it for the race and suffer the week after. I regularly go to a massage therapist and chiropractor, and stretch almost every night ,but the problem still persists. The lower back gets tight, then locks up, and then progresses to some nerve pain for the next few days after.
Earlier this year I started looking for options I thought could help me get back to running more volume with less pain. We’ve already invested in some great tools- Roll Recovery, Normatec boots, Hyperice Hypervolt, yoga roller wheels and the list goes on. There doesn’t seem to be many back specific running aids. It’s a high impact sport and injuries come with running. I've seen the AlterG but have no interest in buying a $30,000+ tool and don’t have the schedule for PT run sessions. Aqua jogging is a nice alternative but again, without access to a pool at all hours, just doesn’t fit.
I came across LEVER Movement’s Up earlier this summer, and wound up reaching out to them directly. The guys at LEVER Movement were great to talk to. They were runners at a D1 school – one with a business background, and the other was an engineer. After doing some research they saw there was a gap in the running world they could fill – helping runners reduce weight bearing during the injury recovery process. They’ve gone through a few iterations of the product over the years. The biggest evolution has been in the shorts. They used to be neoprene but the latest version is a thicker spandex. The lower part of the leg is stitched with a Velcro section to help support your body weight, while the hips have low friction wheels. I’m typically a 30-31 waist, so a medium fit well.
I’ve had mine for a little over a month now. It was very straightforward to put together. The Up System came in a small duffle size fabric bag with the components wrapped inside. We have a Woodway treadmill that required an adapter. It’s a 3D printed plastic adapter with two straps and a level already built inside. Just set it on the bar, put the bubble in the middle and strap it down.
On top of each adapter were the base bars. Each had two straps that wrapped around the adapter and Woodway bar.
The total setup time was only around 10 minutes. The running shorts are like a thicker spandex with straps at the bottom of the quads to help the shorts from riding up and supporting your weight. The bungee cord is threaded through one side, around the two pulleys in the back and then through the other side of the short and into either a retainer or a Bluetooth scale.
The placement points for the bungee can be adjusted with an allen wrench, which are provided and nicely built into each retainer. I found the bungee didn’t interfere with my arm swing and left them where they were. The scale is tied to the LEVER App where you can start a session and see how much weight is being taken off. I went with what was comfortable, but over time I can see adjusting more or less depending on what type of workout I’m doing. From that point on it’s just running.
The whole concept is pretty simple but very effective. I was able to run with less impact on my legs and back. It didn’t take any time getting used to the shorts. The quads felt like if you were wearing a little bit of compression but no impact on running form or soreness afterwards. Overall my form really didn’t change. I can see using this useful in quite a few different areas of training- injury recovery, injury prevention, more miles with less impact, speed sessions where I’d like to keep better form at a faster pace, breaking in shoes, and more.
This past weekend I ran a half marathon with my wife and felt fine the next day. Less tightness in my back and no immediate sciatic issue. I feel like the LEVER Up contributed to that. I’ll continue to use the Up to build a base in the offseason.
LEVER has also just released a travel version, with a smaller package. According to LEVER, it should be even easier to set up and take down.