Ankle weights are small, weighted pouches that wrap around the ankles to add resistance for cardiovascular or weight training activities. Due to the increased resistance that they provide, using ankle weights might be not such a good idea for those with pre-existing joint problems or running form, however. If you are otherwise healthy, though, and don't have such problems, ankle weights could help you develop stronger leg muscles, therefore making you faster and more agile.
Precautions and Warnings
If you are a novice runner or have joint problems that make cardiovascular activity difficult, ankle weights can increase the potential of injury. Those who have weak hips, ankles, or knees should avoid using ankle weights to increase their speed, and instead walk or run faster, without weights, to push their abilities. Additionally, ankle weights have the potential to hinder your running speed if not used properly. Ankle weights may alter your natural stride in a way that can actually slow you down instead of making you faster. Pay close attention to your muscles during and after a workout with ankle weights to ensure that your body can handle the added stress, and consult your physician if you are concerned.
Walking with Ankle Weights
To prevent altering your natural running stride and joint damage, use a light ankle weight to start and securely attach it to your ankles to prevent injury. You should notice the increased weight, but your natural motions should still feel normal, albeit just a little more difficult. Begin by walking at a comfortable pace, rather than running, and ensure that your route is on a very flat surface to help you keep a consistent stride. Ensure that your walk doesn't feel stiff or compromised due to the added resistance of your ankle weights.
Running with Ankle Weights
Once you've accustomed yourself to the feeling of ankle weights while walking, try using them while you run. Again, use only a light ankle weight to keep chaffing, joint damage, and other injuries to a minimum. Run as you normally would, and pay very close attention to your stride and speed. Try to run as naturally and fluidly as possible to keep your stride as normal as possible. This will help your non-weighted runs become faster and easier, as your body will grow accustomed to the feeling of added resistance from the ankle weights while you train.
Alternate Your Running Routines
When using ankle weights for your runs, alternate between running with and without them. By doing so, you allow your joints to rest while gauging your personal progress and speed with natural, unweighted movement. Note how your body feels after using ankle weights to determine if they are having an adverse affect on your running form and the function of your hips, knees, or ankles.
Adriaan Noordzij has been a writer since 2009, specializing in fitness, gaming and technology. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, he has contributed to IGN and various fitness and health websites. Noordzij serves as the production and IT director for "CHAOS Magazine."