What running with a weighted vest did for me

There has been a lot written this year about the value of running with a weighted vest or rucksack. I have been using weighted vests since January, so here’s my take on the option…

It should go without saying, that if you have joint problems then you should seek professional guidance before deciding to run carrying weight. That said, most ultramarathons and certainly most multi-day events require a minimum amount of standard kit to carry – so if you’re planning an ultra, you’re probably already well aware of your physical limits. If in doubt, get checked out.

So, having returned from injury in January, I found myself questioning whether I had enough training weeks to complete the race program I had planned for myself this season. Interestingly, I also found myself ready for a complete change in my training. I started intermittent fasting last Autumn and found it really improved many facets of how I felt, both physically and mentally. So, I was already open to new ideas and finding new ways to improve training.

Two strong influences in my approach to endurance running are Andy Mouncey and Neil Thrubron. Andy suggested that I focus on the quality of miles ran, rather than the quantity. He also reminded me that as a ‘big unit’ I should be stick with my cross-training in order to supplement some of the training miles and therefore reduce the potential risk of injury.

During my ten week lay-off last Autumn, I got a bike and a turbo and started spinning at home, plus I started one-to-one swimming lessons to learn front crawl. There is a triathlon within me somewhere! This cross-training has increased my strength and endurance and I continue with both today. Andy’s point was that if I was to increase the intensity of my runs by running with weight, I will be able to achieve more from fewer miles. Also, Neil trained by running whilst towing a tyre for the Yukon Arctic Ultra, so I decided to try it out.

Looking back at a previous DNF, a weak right hip was the apparent cause so I was pretty confident I would be on to a winner here! Being an all or nothing type of person, I started by buying a 20kg vest. To be honest, I struggled to lift it over my head. After one particular 7.5-mile trail run, I returned home with huge marks on my shoulders and decided to look for something better suited to running. I then bought a 10kg Adidas weighted vest. Initially I thought it might be a little light but I can honestly say – six weeks in – the vest is actually quite comfortable, even over longer runs.

I mentioned in a previous post that I felt strong during the latter half of the South Downs Way 50, and I attribute this success to training with the weighted vest – and, of course, the continued cross-training. I felt stronger in my quads and legs generally, and also throughout my core, so if any of you are interested in trying something a bit different then get some good advice and give it a go!

Happy training! Let me know if you try it out – leave a comment or drop me a line on andy@lifeisasinecurve.com

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