Wednesday, October 7, 2009

J Fit Weight Vest

I don’t hike nearly as much as I’d like principally because there are bills to be paid and mouths to feed. With that said, I often find myself not being in the physical condition I’d like to enable me to hike with ease. Usually somewhere around mile 10, my calves and quads start to burn and the bottom of my feet get fatigued. From that point on my level of enjoyment starts to decrease dramatically.

As much as I’d like to say the remedy for this is merely to hike more, the reality is that I simply don’t have the time right now. Therefore to build leg strength and endurance, my only choice is to exercise the necessary muscle groups when I have the time. Leg lifts, leg presses, dips, lunges, and calf raises are all part of my weight routine, but they haven’t given me as much result as I had hoped. Running, cycling, and elliptical cardio efforts have helped with endurance, but not much with leg strength.

To supplement my leg exercises, I decided to buy a weight vest. The first thing I noticed when looking around was how expensive the vests were and then how much more they were when shipping was included. Since weight generally determines the cost of shipping, this drove the prices up dramatically and made purchasing most vests unrealistic.

One vest I liked in particular was from J Fit. It was a 30 pound neoprene vest which seemed about right for the amount of weight I want my body to get used to carrying. It had padded shoulder straps, adjustable chest straps, and a pocket for a music device. It also came with a highly visible reflective tape which allowed the user to be more visible when wearing it outside. Although I didn’t like the increased “dork” factor, the reality is that reflective tape is a good idea being that if a car was bearing down on me, the weight of the vest itself would definitely slow my lackluster cat-like reflexes and thereby the shimmering of the vest itself may be the only thing saving me from becoming a permanent hood ornament.

Ultimately I found the J Fit vest for $57 and only $15 shipping. The seller used the new U.S. Postal Service boxes to his benefit as the slogan of “if it fits, it ships” meant that he could stuff 30+ pounds in a small box and ship it for a fraction of the cost other vendors were pushing. Granted, when I received the box it was completely demolished, but I got it safe and sound otherwise. I’ve worn it several times for everything from short-term hiking to 3+ mile runs and it works great for its intended purpose. Over time I hope it will help me become a better backpacker.


Ted said...

Sounds like the right idea, but I wonder about the extra punishment you're subjecting your knees and ankles to by running around with an extra 30 lbs.

Jolly Green Giant said...

Hey Ted, thanks for stopping by.

I couldn't agree more with your assessment. Genuine running around with an extra 30 pounds probably isn't a good idea unless you're one of those super fit guys who regularly train with that kind of stuff.

For me, the vest is principally to aid with backpacking training which I've principally used to run bleachers and hills as those are the types of ups and downs I find to be more helpful. At 30 pounds, this is just about the right amount of weight for me and I think more would make me susceptable to damage. I have run with it before and it was indeed a mildly uncomfortable process, but it was one of those things that I simply had in my mind I'd like to accomplish to see how it would work out. When it was over, my knees did hurt a bit as did my back. But, it was fine after a day or so. I'd like to think that if I kept it up that I'd develop stronger muscles to handle the workouts as I do want to stress my muscles to some extent.

Oddly enough, and something that doesn't get said enough, many people count ounces in their packs and are otherwise reluctant to take a harder look at the one thing they carry 100% of the time - themselves. If I'm being honest, I have 30 pounds of merely ME that I need to lose which is where I'd like to really start cutting weight. As I wear my vest it helps remind me how much 30 pounds really weighs and how nice it would be to take some unnecessary body weight off my knees and back.