Before bootcamps, spin, and yoga set to hip-hop music, there was running—AKA the oldest form of exercise there is. While the payoffs of putting one foot in front of the other at a clip pace have long been proven beneficial to health, lately research is pointing to strength training as a more effective way to firm up. It's why many trainers preach balancing out cardio with weights.
After doing a deep dive into the latest fitness studies and talking with a variety of trainers, I can't deny there's something to this logic. But here's the thing: Cardio is basically the only form of exercise I like—especially running. So when I heard there was such a thing as weighted leggings, I was intrigued.
They come courtesy of a new brand called Physiclo, which was founded by Olympic silver medalist Keeth Smart and a team of NYU medical students who designed the strength-training tights. Their concept seems simple enough: "Functional fitness wear that allows you to add resistance to any workout," according to their website.
Like a lot of people, I'm drawn to the sheer therapy of running; the chance to be alone with my thoughts for a while, the personal goal of continually going faster and farther than I thought possible, and the endorphin high at the end. But because I'm a human being, I of course want the physical benefits, too. Could weighted leggings be the way to crush two fitness goals in a single cardio sesh? I decided to find out.
Here's what happened when I took Physiclo's weighted leggings for a test run.
Getting them on
For my fitness experiment, I ordered the Pro Resistance Capris for Women compression legging, which retail for $110—on par with what many leggings sell for sans weights. When they arrive a few days later, my first thought is that they look like something football players would wear. Even though Physiclo's site describes them as breathable and the material appears that way, the weights are evenly distributed throughout making them super thick.
Getting them on was a workout in itself and literally took me 15 minutes. I ordered a small pair based on the site's sizing chart, but pulling them on took aerobic moves I hadn't even mastered in Pilates. You know how regular leggings have a lot of "give" to them? Weighted, compression leggings have none of that. You can't pinch the material to adjust things into place, and elastic bands going around the bottoms—right under the kneecap—make pulling them up hard. ("The inner elastic layers act like resistance bands around your legs, helping you get stronger, fitter, faster," Physiclo ensures. Okay, okay.)
You know how regular leggings have a lot of "give" to them? Weighted, compression leggings have none of that.
The material was also really scratchy—I actually cut two of my fingers pulling them up. (The next week at work, I asked my size-two coworker to try them on to see if she had the same problem. She had trouble tugging them on, though not nearly as much as I did. Word to the wise: Go up a size.)
After a lot of pulling and bouncing, they were finally on. Spoiler alert: Weighted leggings aren't the kind of workout clothing that doubles as loungewear. They felt bulky and not at all stretchy. They were also very tight around my inner left thigh and down my left leg. In other words, I wasn't comfortable. But at least they were on and I was ready to run.
Normally, I like to run outside, but I honestly wasn't sure how long I could last in the leggings, so I went to the gym to log some treadmill time instead. My typical running workout is three, eight-minute miles. I wondered how being weighed down would affect my time.
As far as giving you a tougher workout, the leggings definitely performed as advertised.
During my run, I never stopped being aware of the leggings, but I did get used to them. After easing into a jog, they became less bothersome, and I was able to lose myself the way I usually do. Wearing them definitely made my workout harder. (I was still able to put in my regular distance at the same speed, but it was a challenge.) I noticed my fatigue the most when I was walking to cool down—my muscles felt more taxed, which makes sense because they were. As far as giving you a tougher workout, the leggings definitely performed as advertised.
After my run, I pulled out a mat to do some ab moves. Since I wasn't using my legs much, the pants very minimally affected my circuit. I'm glad—I was ready for a break. When I got home, I couldn't wait to take them off because I was all sweaty and, like I mentioned, the material is scratchy. Fortunately, they were a lot easier to get off than on.
Even though the weighted leggings weren't exactly comfy, they did their job: providing a more intense workout. Physiclo says they were designed to make you work harder with every step—the brand delivers on that promise. And to be fair, they never said anything about comfort.
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