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Though rare, you might have come across a few athletes who run with weights. However, bumping into hardcore runners sprinting while wearing weighted vests is slightly more likely.
So you are left to wonder: Why do some athletes run with weights? Might it be some secret ingredient to becoming a faster and more durable runner? That is actually not the case. Nonetheless, it has some advantages, including providing you with the capacity to burn extra calories, improving your bone health and posture, speed gains, and increased physical strength. We will discuss some of these known advantages of running with weights in the article below.
On the flip side, we also explore a few shortcomings associated with running with weights. These include altered gait and running form, greater joint strain on ankles and knees, and an increased probability of injury. Whether running with a weighted vest or ankle weights, it is essential that you keep it light. By running with too heavy of a weight, you place additional strain on the body, get fatigued more easily, and then potentially increase the risk of injury.
In this article, we will discuss the added benefits of running with weights. The most significant one is attributed to enhanced cardiovascular health. Good heart health is a critical factor in your overall well-being. Incorporating challenging work-outs into your fitness routine makes your heart pump blood more efficiently. Let us take a look at the other benefits below.
Benefits of Running With Weights
Some of the benefits you will realize from running with weights include, but are not limited to the following.
Burning Off More Calories
As you run with the added weights on your body, it translates to your body being required to exert more energy than usual to run the same distance and at that same speed. This implies that the body will burn more calories in the process.
Carrying your body weight through a particular distance at a given speed requires a certain degree of energy utilization. By attaching the extra amount of added weight on top of our body weight, the energy requirements are increased. Participating in aerobic activities while wearing one to three-pound hand or arm weights can lead to burning approximately between 5-15% of additional calories.
Increased Speed and Endurance
It might not be possible to run quicker with added weights; however, your stamina and strength will be built up by making this small adjustment. Eventually, improved stamina will also lead to improved speed and endurance. Doing a few runs or laps with added weight can help you boost your overall strength.
Increasing the frequency of your runs by using lighter weights will help build more endurance. Higher levels of physical strength and endurance will make your day-to-day activities much more enjoyable.
Better Cardiovascular Performance
As you run with the weights, there is an increased demand on your body energy-wise. Over time, that can boost your cardiovascular performance.
Nonetheless, the most significant advantage will be your enhanced ability to run with a weighted vest, which is essential to participate in specific sporting events like Spartan races. In these events, one might be challenged to undergo activities that are extremely physically demanding like completing in heavy gear or carrying hydration packs.
Improvement of Muscle Fibers
Various forms of training have varying kinds of benefits for your muscle fibers. For instance, steady-state endurance training such as mid-intense runs with minimum to no extra weights can help strengthen your slow-twitch muscle fibers. Muscle fibers are integral for sustainable running.
Running with added weight is not an ideal means to improve the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Bear in mind that these muscles are associated with higher-intensity force or explosive power.
Better Bone Density
Exercising can help improve and prevent the degradation of bone density, the factor that determines the strength of your bones.
The way various body parts perform is that if you challenge them enough you trigger a response that leads to the strengthening of those body parts. A similar thing happens with the bones. You exert extra pressure on the bones as you run with weights on as compared to when you run without the weights. As a result, your bone density will improve with time.
One way you can measure the intensity levels of an exercise is by examining your heart rate. Running with ankle or wrist weights of about one to three pounds can fasten your heart rate by up to 10 beats per minute.
A faster heart rate can be a positive or negative thing as you run, according to your set objectives. If you are just getting started, you will likely encounter no challenges as you try to realize a sufficiently high heart rate. However, a seasoned runner might need to add extra weight to enhance the intensity of the exercise.
It is possible to calculate the optimal heart rate for your objectives using various calculators available online, though field testing your resting and optimum heart rates has a higher degree of accuracy.
Routine runs with some weights can boost your strength, more so with trail runs on steep slopes and in difficult terrains. Nonetheless, it would be wise to take it easy as overextending yourself can make you more accident-prone and lead to a higher risk of injury.
Healthline implies that weighted running might not be an ideal means of improving the fast-twitch muscle fibers that facilitate faster sprints and the ability to jump higher.
In the case of weighted running, you should consider hiking or taking walks once or twice per week with increased resistance, such as ankle weights, weighted vests, or in-hand light dumbbells. This reduces your probability of becoming injured while still enabling you to experience the advantages associated with weighted running.
What are the Downsides of Running with Weights?
You will not realize any advantages if you fail to do it correctly. In addition, running with weights also has some disadvantages associated with it.
Running is usually hard on certain bones and joints, such as shins, ankles, back, and knees. Adding extra weight on top of your body weight, especially when pushed to the limit, can introduce a lot of strain and can lead to higher chances of getting injured.
Not every running weight is the same. External weights such as weighted vests typically only focus on adding extra pressure on specific muscles used while ‘normal’ running.
On the flip side, for instance, ankle weights will engage the muscles in varying degrees. This may lead to muscular imbalances and thereby causing a shift in gait that is usually not optimal for normal day-to-day functioning or running races.
By running with the correct weights, some groups of individuals will certainly benefit from it. However, for others, the smarter move might be adhering to your regular running routine. Provided that you do not exceed your limits as you increase the intensity of your exercise, the exercise can be advantageous to your overall health. The issue is having the ability to do this without pushing too much and injuring yourself.
The recommendation is that you would rather be safe than sorry. More so, if your body is prone to injuries or you are not a very inactive person, you might want to begin with gentler workouts and then gradually advance to weighted running.