Very often, training with nothing but the weight of your own body can already feel like a challenge. However, there are times when we want to up the intensity by adding in a weighted vest. Even a simple run can feel like 10 times the workout when you carry a heavier load. Specifically, what are the benefits of running with a weighted vest?
6 Benefits of Running With a Weighted Vest
Important note: Before we get into it, we want to remind you that more isn’t always better. While adding a weighted vest to your run absolutely offers benefits, take care to listen to your body. If your upper body is starting to feel the stress of the extra weight, give yourself a break from it. Baby steps are key!
Now, let’s get into the many benefits.
1. The Cardiovascular Gains are Endless
Run half a mile as you normally would, and you might be a little winded. Run half a mile with a weighted vest, and your heart might be beating out of your chest.
Because there’s extra resistance (meaning the vest), your body has to work harder. Your lungs will be stronger, as will your VO2 max (which represents how well your body is able to use oxygen). Sure enough, one study found that endurance athletes who wore a vest ended up with an “improved running time to exhaustion.”
Don’t forget that once you take the vest off, you’ll be able to run faster and farther than you would’ve before. Your body has been conditioned to do more, and this will extend beyond running with a weighted vest.
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2. Your Strength and Endurance Will Improve
Along with your heart health and capacity improving, your strength and endurance will too. Because your body is having to adapt to running with more weight, your muscles are going to have to work harder. And the really cool part here is that you can expect these benefits to carry over into other aspects of your training.
For example, aside from running, you might also notice improvements in your sprinting, jumping (hello, box jumps), and explosiveness — like your Olympic lifts feeling a little easier to manage.
That’s what’s so awesome about running with a weighted vest. It won’t only impact your running. Pretty cool, huh?
3. A Weighted Vest Offers Much-Needed Versatility
If you’re a CrossFit athlete, then you already know the overall idea of the sport: It’s constantly varied. Instead of being amazing at one thing, you train your body to try to be good at many different things. This means that you need to be forever switching up your exercises and workouts.
However, it’s all too easy for your body to become accustomed to certain movements, at which point they stop being challenging. The gains slow down and you might even hit a fitness plateau. Maybe you go for the same two-mile run you’ve always done, but when you return, you just feel… meh. It didn’t tax your body like it used to.
Wearing a weighted vest is a simple way to add a twist to your run and also give your body a surprise. It’s not used to this extra weight. It’s not conditioned to be able to handle it. This means that your system is going to have to work harder, getting you out of that fitness funk and teaching your body to adapt to new things. And that’s what CrossFit is all about.
4. Your Bones Will be Stronger and Healthier
You’re probably noticing a pattern here, but we’ll repeat it again anyway. Your body is having to work harder due to the extra weight, and this means that your bones have to carry a heavier load. Over time, this can make them stronger and denser — which is especially important as we age and our bone health takes a hit.
5. You’ll Have Better Balance
Running with a weighted vest means that you’re carrying more weight toward the top of your body. This means that you’re going to have to fight harder to stay upright and in the proper position.
While more research is needed on this, training with a weighted vest seems to offer benefits when it comes to helping you find and maintain your center of gravity.
6. Your Posture Might Improve
It’s hard to get away with slouching when you’re running with a weighted vest. Your body isn’t going to like it, and you’re going to experience discomfort and even pain setting in early on.
A weighted vest almost forces you to improve your posture, which is a huge gift for the average human who spends most of their day slouching at a desk.
Psst! Learn more about the health risks of sitting too much.
And we want to reiterate that you’ll continue to enjoy this benefit — all of these benefits, truthfully — long after you take the vest off. These benefits aren’t limited to your running. There is undeniable carry-over, and many other aspects of your training will reap the rewards, as well.
When choosing a weighted vest, remember to experiment with different weights. Many allow you to adjust the weight so that it’s better suited for you.
And again, don’t go from zero to 100 and start doing 10-mile runs with a weighted vest out of nowhere. Like most other things in training, you need to work your way up. If you’re ever unsure of your approach (which is totally okay!), talk to your coach first. They’ll be able to offer you extra guidance to keep you safe and healthy.