If you’re looking to add an extra challenge to your training rotation, you might consider wearing a running weight vest. It’s a typical military training technique, designed to replicate the additional pack loads a soldier can be expected to carry. Carrying the extra weight may show interesting results as it increases the intensity of your workout.
A study recently conducted by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research tested young college aged men and women under a series of weighted and unweighted running trials. To establish a baseline, participants ran 3 miles outside unloaded.
Participants in the study were tested under various loads, including a 22lb (10kg) vest, 22lb vest with additional 22lb backpack and 22lb vest with 44lb (20kg) backpack. They were tested on a treadmill in 3 minute intervals at various speeds and gradients to exhaustion.
What did the study show and what can you take from it?
Larger participants were better able to bear the heaviest load of 66lb (30kg). Simply put, larger people typically have stronger frames and increased body mass which supports carrying the heavier loads. People with smaller frames saw a noticeable dip in performance in the heavier weighted tests. The takeaway for runners is this: start with a smaller weight and increase slowly until you see a significant drop in performance. You want to challenge your body, not cause a loss of form due to exhaustion.
It was also speculated that while people with larger frames tolerated heavier loads better, they were more likely to see slower times overall when tested without a running weight vest.
When the weights were increased, the researchers observed a correlated decrease in lung performance. The additional weights increased anaerobic demands and unsurprisingly reduced the time it took to reach exhaustion. Pulmonary capacity may also have been reduced due to the physical weights being borne on the back and chest. For runners, choose a running weight vest that distributes weight evenly on the chest, or consider a weighted belt.
If you want to challenge yourself or see how you measure up against military training techniques, try using a weighted vest. Make sure it’s fitted well to reduce chafing, and don’t wear it for every run.
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