Running With A Weight Vest: Go Heavy or Go Home?

You gotta know…it is one thing to run but another to run weighted! And for little ol’ me, this could not be more true. I am just a hair over 5 feet tall, and I weigh about 120 lbs. I am a small person. To think about adding weight makes my body revolt before I even start. But…last winter, I participated, without any training, in an event: One Heavy Mile. The idea is meet the criteria for Clydesdale or Athena running wherein men must run one mile weighing in at 220lbs and women must weigh at least 165lbs. For me, this meant I added thirty five pounds (I was heavier last winter) to my weight vest. Then, when the gun went off, I took off. Well, not really. Surprisingly, I did finish the mile, without stopping, and actually did so respectably.

Was I hooked on weight vest running after that? No.

But… I’m doing it anyway.

Running weighted does present some amazing benefits, as you might imagine. For one, I now easily realize how being overweight makes running, working out, and just getting through a day that much more challenging. That weight IS a drag. 10 years ago, I lost about twenty pounds. I truly had forgotten what that extra bulk felt like. It makes a significant difference. Without that extra, nothing on my body jiggles in discomfort. I don’t get winded. But, with the weight vest, I instantly remembered exactly how I felt back then.


Obviously, running with weight builds strength and endurance – that is the point. It is slow going in ramping up, increasing the pounds, with the weight bricks. And, then there is time, how long can I hold up to running with varying amounts of weight? At what point does it become too much? And, weight vest are HOT, not alluring hot, but rather, I am so hot I am getting irrational hot. Someone get this off of me – hot. That is called adjusting one’s heat tolerance: just another benefit 🙂

Running heavy is a physical and mental test of stamina. It takes everything I have to keep moving forward. But, I do. The payoff is that running without the weight vest is light and free. Even on a hard day, I can be thankful that I don’t have on the damn vest. Perverse? I know.

I am not going for the extra calorie burn or the improved core strength, although these are great perks. I am donning the vest as a fun and challenging alternative to traditional speed work, with an extra emphasis on strength and power. It is a way to change things up, get out of my routine, and once per week is enough for me. Plus, in a weird way, running weighted is a confidence booster and an escape. When you have an extra 20 or 30 pounds on your back, you no longer think about what pace you should be running; you simply focus on the struggle, and on overcoming it. At the end of the day, no matter how fast you were, you can still say you ran X number of miles with your torso enveloped in iron – like a knight in armor or a spartan carrying his shield – and that feels pretty badass.

One Heavy Mile

Photo: me running with 35 pounds at the 2015 event.

So, if you see me on the trails with a black vest that looks like it could be filled with explosives, don’t call the police. I only intend to torture myself. And, if you see me splayed out, looking like a burnt noodle, well, let’s just say: the vest won.

The event, One Heavy Mile, that was the impetus for running heavy, in the first place, is around the corner again, in January. This year, I will be ready!

Happy Running.

Click here for more information about One Heavy Mile. You can compete in the Atlanta event on January 23rd, 2016, or compete virtually. There are prizes for both.


Photo: this year’s female winner, Brenna Calvert.

Melanie Blenis

Melanie Blenis plays as often as possible. When she is not working, you can find her running in the woods or attempting a move at Crossfit. She is the mom to two 20-something guys and a gal that joined the family at 18 years of age. Melanie dreams, daily, of living near water – an ocean, a lake, anything that will hold a boat. Melanie practices ACIM. She will do almost anything for a good story! In the kitchen, it is clean eating with an occasional cheat—Melanie does not aspire to perfection.

Life is meant to be fun, and happiness is a decision away.

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  1. Great article, Melanie. As she said, the event, One Heavy Mile, should not be missed. It’s painful but short and a LOT of fun, in part, because the results are so unpredictable. Don’t miss it!

  2. Oh gosh , what the hell is going on ? 😀
    That is a really heavy mile..
    no need in vest ,you may just put on lots of other things, unless you by any reason need a real vest 🙂

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