Often, runners find themselves feeling a little stuck. One of the beauties of running is it’s simplicity – you don’t really need anything but a good pair of shoes, and even that is debatable. But this also means that it can be difficult for runners to make advancement, particularly in the areas od strength and power. Runners also typically struggle with finding a way to include strength training in to their workouts. Weighted vests, although they may look a little goofy, offer an interesting and useful training tool for runners who face this challenge.
Weighted vests are exactly what their name describes. Generally, the exact weight of the vest is adjustable within a certain range. For example, you might find a vest that can reach any weight between 1 and 40 pounds. On paper, the concept seems straightforward enough: Go throw your regular workout while carting around an extra 40 pounds. Then, when you take the vest off and instantly shed 40 pounds, the workout will be that much easier.
But does it work? And are there things that you should know about using a weighted vest in your training?
The simple answer is: Yes, it works. The reason why, and the logic behind weighted vests, is the same thought-process behind all resistance training. Simply put, challenging your body forces it to adapt. These adaptations, in turn, make related forms of activity easier.
So, if you run with an extra 40 pounds strapped to your torso, what happens? First of all, your cardiovascular system will have to work harder than normal to meet the now increased oxygen needs of your muscles.
Of course, your muscles will also be working more than normal. Your core will struggle to keep you upright and balanced under the added weight. Your legs will have to work extra hard to continually move your bodyweight plus the weight of the vest.
As mentioned, all of this will force your body to adapt.
Putting It To Work
So, what’s the best way to use a weighted vest to improve your runs? Well, you could start by wearing one while your run. Begin with a low weight and gradually work your way up. The exact progression will depend on your goals, though. If, for instance, you’re working to build your endurance, it would be better for you to keep the weight light and focus on increasing the duration of your runs until you reach your goal. Once you reach your goal distance, you can start adding more weight.
Or, you could just use the weighted vest as part of your warm-up. A 2013 study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that performing strides with a weighted vest before the actual run improved speed, range of motion and overall running economy.
Things To Consider
Keep in mind, though, that running with a weighted vest is really an advanced training technique. The added stress of running with a weighted vest could also make it harder for people who struggle with high-impact exercises to begin with. This is especially true if you have a preexisting knee or ankle condition.
Have you been able to use weighted vests in your training? Share your tips in the comments!