We all know why this occurs: even if you steadily increase the length, speed, and intensity of your regular jogs, you are simply not introducing enough of a ‘shock’ to the system. This results in an athletic plateau, which entails stagnant muscle mass and weight gain.
This is why, as a runner, you constantly have to mix it up, and running with weights around your legs might be just what the doctor ordered.
There are several things you need to know first
Since you are reading these lines, you have probably heard that doing strength exercises as a secondary workout for your runs may be a good way to bolster your muscle development. As a matter of fact, if you lifted weights – or more specifically did squats with weights in your hands and on your shoulders – it is almost a guarantee that you’ll develop your legs drastically.
This further feeds into longer, more intense runs that boost your endurance. It is a wonderful and rewarding feedback loop that many people practice. Now, if you combine this with relaxing, stretching exercises that engage your whole body – for example, Pilates or yoga – then you’re practically hitting the jackpot.
However, humans are nothing if not inventive beings, and we have devised innumerable kinds of weights, some of which are easily attached to your body if that is something that rocks your boat. As it has been mentioned in the introduction, it’s all about shocking your system into strengthening itself.
Most runners practice this by diversifying their runs: running uphill, downhill, over obstacles and unevenly distributing sudden sprints during their run. As an accessory, weights added to the jogger’s outfit are what, for lack of a better phrase, spices things up a bit. Beyond that, running with weights is a well-worn, reliable method to lose more weight by jogging.
Now, how does that work?
As an accessory for jogging, weight can take several forms. Naturally, you will not bring dumbbells on the run even though, theoretically and logically – you could. The point is to free yourself up as seamlessly as possible, while still settling yourself with proper resistance during the run. In that regard, your best bets are ankle weights, hand or wrist weights, and weighted vests.
Wrist weights usually sound like the most non-committal variant of this. As such, it is a good way to ‘test the waters’ of using weights during your runs. 1 lb to 3 lb should be a nice ballpark.
The last thing you need is to add too much weight since it can easily lead to unnecessary inflammation and injury. Heavier hand weights also put needless stress on your shoulders, which can end up with fairly serious sprains.
Clasping hand or wrist weights on your hands will speed up your heart rate by up to 10 beats per minute, and boost your calorie burning by 5% to 15%, depending on the effort.
The rest is mostly up to the form. The more you raise your hands while running the more engaged your hand muscles become. You will not only lose weight but further sculpt your arms. Also, raising your arms higher in front of you, with hand/wrist weights on, contributes to your overall running speed.
Ankle weights are typically designed to be fixed above your ankle or around your Achilles’ tendon. When it comes to running, it is a no-brainer that adding these weights makes your leg muscles work harder.
Overall, they contribute up to a 10% increase in calorie burning when compared to running without weights. Just think about it: you are not only losing weight but also gaining a pair of knock-off legs, and yes this concerns both men and women and everyone else. We all love to see a pair of nice meaty calves and strong thighs, let’s not mince words about it.
Beyond toning and shaping your legs, ankle weights also benefit your abdominal muscles. If you have a type of build that accrues all the unnecessary weight around the waist, this is a godsend for you.
By engaging your abdominal muscles, ankle weights will contribute to faster fat-burning around the waist and sculpting your stomach as well. If this sounds like a win-win scenario, you are absolutely right!
Even if you are not particularly proficient at running, ankle weights might feel like a bit too much, but they are an invaluable asset that will force you to spend more energy, burn more calories and develop strength.
After you’ve completely gotten used to running with ankle weights, just test your newly acquired strength and endurance in the field without donning them. You will literally feel as if you are able to fly.
Weighted vests pretty much work under the same principle as the type mentioned above, with few caveats. At the end of the day, they put direct pressure on your legs, which forces them to develop further and burn calories faster in order to keep you running.
Athletes that are interested in bodyweight exercises, as well as explosive power exercises, will benefit greatly for weighted vests. However, if you personally have never used them before, you should definitely measure your weight before proceeding to purchase one. Don’t commit to vest weights that are greater than 5% of your overall contemporary body weight.
That being said, you should also keep in mind that there are modular variants of weighted vests that allow you a framework for weight expansion, which means that you’ll get more mileage out of them. This, in turn, ensures that your weight will be easily regulated as you grow stronger.
Now, it is true that there are some risks involved in this particular type of weight. Simply speaking, if your posture is not on point, if your back arches too much and you haven’t developed abdominal (but predominantly back) muscles, there is a chance you will hurt yourself.
Weighted vests can lead to chronic pain in the region of your lower back, and it can complicate your postural disorders such as scoliosis and kyphosis.
Additionally, your cardio health also has to be top-notch before you take on the added weight on your back.
In other words, unless you have built your entire body pretty solidly over several years of consistent workout, be careful with weighted vests!
What are the benefits of running with weights?
Naturally, the leading two benefits of running with weights, two perks that go hand in hand almost inseparable, are fat burning and strength building.
Adding these accessories to your jogging attire can lead your body to burn circa 10% more, which is actually a significant percentage when you think about it. If you really put any effort into it, you can ramp up that number to about 15% stronger calorie burn up per session. Over time – let’s say a quarter of a year – this will lead to drastic weight loss.
You should also take into account that you are losing a lot of weight through profuse sweating, and forcing yourself to face difficulties and challenges – i.e. running uphill with weights – is bound to make you sweat buckets!
Finally, we need to discuss the element of endurance, which has been mentioned, but not delved into. Body weights as accessories will practically force your body to ‘get used to them’ over time, and if you start forgetting that they’re even on you during the more intense runs – especially during explosive sprints – it means that your strength and endurance have reached new heights.
The level of your endurance dictates how long you can keep up the pace, which directly ties into your abilities to face new challenges regularly and regulate your weight. The stronger the endurance, the better your prospect becomes to maintain reasonable weight in the foreseeable future.
The thing about muscles is that they will require more energy as your ‘bombard’ them with a steep curve of difficulty. Our bodies generally tend to follow the path of least resistance, so your muscles will leech of ingested carbs instead of using up all the supple, juicy fat that presses against them.
With a few dietary modifications (fewer carbohydrates, more fruits, veggies, and lean protein), you can practically force your muscles to start burning the surrounding fat for energy as you punch through your jog limit with weights around your ankles, your wrists and/or on your back.
In conclusion, your honor!
Sacrifice and consistency are integral to your athletic goals, for sure. However, now you know that they only work to a point. When faced with challenges, perseverance to overcome obstacles won’t be enough, especially as you get further down the line. The longer you run, the harder you’ll progress, and at a certain point, plateaus become inevitable – that is, unless you start thinking outside the box.
At the end of the day, it is all about ‘shocking’ your body into further development. You need to devise inventive methods to challenge your musculature. Muscles have a tendency to ‘get used to’ certain type of exercise and certain progress of sets, which is why mix-ups bode so well for your muscle mass. Adding weights to the equation of running counts as a sure-fire way of jolting your body into further development.