Thursday, May 3, 2012

Not Just Another Day at the Beach - By Jim Duggan

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on November 2, 2006

About a year ago, I purchased a weighted vest in the hope that it would add a new wrinkle in my training. The vest weighs 84 pounds. When I purchased the vest, I thought that the benefits I would reap from using it would not only help me in my training, but would also carry over to my job. I am a NYC Firefighter, and a large part of my job is operating while wearing about 75 Lbs. of equipment- climbing, crawling, ascending flights of stairs.

On the first workout with the vest, I decided to go to the boardwalk at Jones Beach in Long Island, New York. The beach has about four miles of boardwalk, although my initial goal was much more modest. I thought I would try to do about a mile. The weather was brisk and cool- about fifty degrees and windy. I decided to to my "vest walk" after my regular weight workout. Even thought it is considered an aerobic workout, I felt that because of the weight that I should do it after I lifted weights ( rather than on my cardio days, which entail thirty minute workouts on a Stairmaster Gauntlet.)

The first thing I noticed about using the vest is the fact that because it is tight around my upper body, just taking deep breaths was a challenge. I tried to walk at a vigorous pace, and concentrate on my breathing, but because of the tightness of the vest, I found that it was more difficult than I had anticipated. Another thing that I had not counted on was the fact that the shoulder straps dug very deeply into my shoulders and traps. This was a minor inconvenience, and I quickly shrugged it off, trying instead to focus on the benefits that would accrue from this type of training. I usually did this workout twice per week ( usually Mondays and Fridays.) I limited myself to doing this in the Fall and Spring- during the Summer months the boardwalk is just too crowded.

I've had the vest for about a year now, and I recently came up with a new wrinkle to my workouts. Instead of walking on the boardwalk, I've started to walk on the beach itself. Walking on the boardwalk was challenging, but walking on the soft sand added a whole new dimension. My feet and ankles, in addition to my hamstrings, were much more involved. It was quite a challenge to keep "picking 'em up and putting 'em down." What I've done lately is to do about 3/4 mile walking on the sand, while doing about 1/2 mile on the boardwalk. I wear low-cut boots ( not for any fashion statement,but to simply keep sand out of my shoes.) Incidentally, I usually wear a light windbreaker-type jacket over the vest. Again, not so much as a nod to fashion, but in today's day and age, people might mistake the vest for something else!)

"Vest walking" has been a nice addition to my training. Steve Justa's book "Rock, Iron Steel" has a nice chapter on carrying weight. Although I could not imagine carrying two-hundred pounds on my back and walking two miles ( at least not yet, anyway,) my twice-weekly workouts walking in sand with 84 Lbs. on my back have proven very beneficial not only aerobically, but to my strength training as well. I've even thought about using my ankle and wrist weights in conjunction with the vest to make it even more difficult, but instead I'll just focus on increasing the distance for now.


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