Running With Weights From A Coach’s Perspective

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There are a multitude of reasons why a person might consider running with weights. Perhaps you are looking for a new challenge. Sometimes people are gearing up for a challenging hike and want to practice carrying a pack on their back. Some proponents of running with weights do so for the added caloric burn that carrying around additional weight will give to the athlete.

Is Running With Weights Good?

There are certainly some positive aspects to running with weights. First, running with weights makes you work harder. Statistically, your heart will beat five to ten more times per minute when you are using weights than in a run without weights. If you are trying to get your heart rate up into a higher zone, this might be an advantage you are looking for.

Due to the weight you are carrying, you will also burn more calories. Check out the calorie calculators on smartwatches. A person weighing 180 pounds will burn more calories on the same run, at the same pace, as a person weighing 120 pounds.

It could help you improve your balance if you run with weights and, lastly, it can also improve bone health. Any type of weight-bearing exercise has the potential to help you build stronger, healthier bones.

Cons To Running With Weights

On the flip side, there are things to consider before deciding that you are going to run with weights. First of all, most runners do not require the added burden of weights in order to get the old heart rate elevated. Most coaches would say that adding speed work or fartleks to your running regiment is a better way to get your heart rate up.

Second, just like running with weights could improve balance, it can also throw off your balance. Throwing off your balance is a way that an athlete could get injured.

running with hand weights
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Weights can also throw your load balance off which can also lead to injury. An increased load index on your spine, knees, etc. can be a disadvantage.  Are you noticing that the benefits for some people can also be a negative aspect for others?

Depending on your goals, adding weight may not have that much of a benefit whether you are talking about calorie burn, balance improvement or building strength. In fact, many coaches feel that the strength-building part is negligible and would instead advise a standard weight lifting protocol.

Types of Weights For Running

There are many different ways a runner can add weights to his or her running workout.

✓ Wrist Weights – Wrist weights are small weights that adhere to your wrists. Typically they have velcro straps. Wrist weights are usually fairly light. This strap on style makes running with weights easy.

✓ Ankle Weights – Fashioned very similarly to wrist weights, ankle weights are small, pliable weights that wrap around your ankles. Like wrist weights, they usually weigh between one and three pounds.

✓ Weighted Vest – A weighted vest is a popular choice among Crossfit athletes and those training for entry into the military. Read up on the Murph below.

✓ Backpack – People training for ultramarathons often run with a backpack so they can carry their own supplies. Although you can count on aid stations during races, this is not true of extensive, double-digit training runs. A backpack full of food and fluids are a necessity.

✓ Small Dumbbells – Instead of weights attached to the wrist some people prefer to run or walk carrying small dumbbells. Running with hand weights is more comfortable for some people.

Should I Run With A Weighted Backpack?

In the military, it’s called rucking: when you run or walk carrying a heavy backpack. In training soldiers often ruck packs weighing up to 200 pounds. For military men and women, the ability to travel long distances carrying all of these supplies can mean simple survival. For laymen, it equals an awesome workout. 

running with ankle weights
What Is The Murph

But should you do it? Honestly, a weighted vest distributes the weight more evenly across your body than a backpack will. Given an option, if you are determined to start running with weight, I recommend the vest over a backpack. 

Lt. Michael Murph

Many people who are into CrossFit have tried the Murph. Even if you are not a CrossFit enthusiast, you have likely heard of The Murph. This is one tradition where running with weights is not only encouraged, it is expected.

LT. Michael Murphy was an officer leading Navy Seals in an operation in Afghanistan when he was killed in action. Posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, he is also honored by those who participate in The Murph. Murphy’s favorite workout which he called Body Armor, has become an annual Memorial Day tradition across the world.

What Is The Murph?

The Murph has five steps to it:

  • 1 Mile run
  • 100 Pull Ups
  • 200 Push Ups
  • 300 Squats
  • 1 Mile run
  • ALL WHILE WEARING A 20 LB WEIGHTED VEST OR BODY ARMOR

Although some people complete The Murph in pieces across the course of a day, those completing to be on the leaderboard do it in one quick workout. You can mix up the pull ups, push ups and squats, as long as you start and end with the mile runs.

For your average layperson looking to do The Murph, a weighted vest is a preferred way to add weight. Imagine doing pull ups and push ups wearing a backpack!

Preparing For Hiking

If you are heading off on a very long day hike or planning to go on a hiking trip where you will be point to point hiking, camping at rest stops and continuing on, adding weight to your workout is a great idea. A friend of mine signed up for a 6-day hiking and camping trip. Although she walked and run a lot, she was ill prepared to carry everything she needed to survive the trip.

hiking
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If you are getting ready for this type of “vacation,” you should for sure get some workouts in while carrying the actual pack you will need to carry on your trip. One friend did bleacher workouts in boots while carrying a giant backpack in preparation to scale Mount Rainier.

Should Us Mere Mortals Run With Weights?

As someone who has coached for roughly 25 years, I would say that the average runner does not need weights while running. However, if you are looking for a new challenge or training for something specific, it wouldn’t hurt to try it.  Just be sure you are making good decisions that work for you and to take it slow.

If you’re easily running double digits in your workouts, don’t try to add a 25-pound pack to one of those long runs. Just like anything, ease into weighted workouts. Your body will thank you.