You should not run with ankle weights when training for cross country.
When training for cross country, many wonder what they can do to improve endurance. While running with ankle weights may seem to promise added strength and stamina, this practice can also cause injury and interfere with your natural running stride. But this doesn't mean you can't incorporate ankle weights into your cross country training routine. Isolated muscle exercises can be done while wearing them to build muscle and endurance.
Dangers of Running With Ankle Weights
Running while wearing ankle weights may seem like a good idea, but this practice can result in injury. Carrying extra weight on your ankles puts more strain on your hip, knee and ankle joints, and can lead to damage. The swinging motion of your legs with each stride can become overextended when wearing ankle weights, which can result in injury to your muscles and tendons. Furthermore, when you run with ankle weights, you have to adjust your stride to stabilize each step and control the extra force from the weights. When you take the weights off, it will be difficult to readjust to a natural running stride, and this can interfere with your performance.
Building Quad Endurance
Your quadriceps are one of the primary muscle groups used in running. For cross country running, they give you strength to climb hills and handle uneven terrain. You can exercise your quads for cross country running by wearing ankle weights while doing seated leg lifts, lying leg lifts, lying leg lifts with scissor kicks, lying side leg raises and leg extensions. The goal is to go for stamina rather than bulk, so using lighter ankle weights that allow you to complete 15 to 20 reps per set will help develop the muscle endurance needed for cross country.
Hams and Glutes for Stronger Strides
Your hamstrings and glutes are also primary muscle groups used in running. They work together to drive your legs forward with each stride. To exercise the glutes, wear ankle weights and do glute kick backs while on all fours by lifting your heels to the air one leg at a time. To exercise your hamstrings, wear ankle weights while doing standing hamstring curls by bringing your heels to your butt one leg at a time. Adjust the ankle weight amount for each exercise so you can complete 15 to 20 reps to build endurance.
Stay on Your Toes
Your calves are engaged when you run, and developed calf muscles help make each step more efficient when running. You can use ankle weights to train your calves for muscular endurance by doing calf raises and toe raises. Widening or narrowing your stance, as well as turning your toes in and out, focuses the resistance on different parts of the muscle and can help you develop stronger calves.
A Strong Core for Cross Country
Core muscles are used as supporting muscle groups when you run. A developed core can benefit a cross country runner by stabilizing his stride, especially when running over uneven terrain, and by helping him maintain proper running posture. To tone your abs with ankle weights, strap them on and do bicycle crunches, reverse crunches and leg raises. Leg raises can be done one leg at a time or with both legs at once. Start with lighter ankle weights and gradually add more weight as your abs get stronger.