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How Running Parachutes Work

Overall Running Parachute Success
The mental toughness you gain from running with a parachute may help you on race day.
The mental toughness you gain from running with a parachute may help you on race day.

Though running parachutes haven't been studied very extensively, one study at Human Performance Laboratory at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso found no solid evidence that running parachutes increased overall speed. Two running groups between the ages of 15 and 18 of comparable speed were studied. With all variables the same, the group training with the chutes ran no faster than the group training without the chutes. But the study also found that the chutes did no harm and they didn't cause any higher instance of injury in runners [source: Peak Performance]. It should be noted that this is just one small study that included only 14 runners.

As with many varieties of interval training, the benefits of running parachutes aren't always black and white. For example, success in training means maintaining runner motivation. And part of maintaining motivation is keeping it interesting. Running parachutes add a bit of flavor to your workout. They provide interval training by less traditional means. Instead of hitting the hills or adding in sprints, a runner can simply strap on the harness and find a resistance workout built right in.

Another benefit to the chutes is versatility. Train by yourself whenever you like, and all you need is a 1-pound (0.4 kg) piece of nylon. It's easy to put on and easy to break down. It's also inexpensive.

Wind resistance training can also play an important role in developing strength, especially when a person is recovering from an injury. Parachute training lessens the impact of a motion when compared to training in the weight room.

Running parachutes also endow runners with a mental edge. If you're training during the difficult, windy conditions provided through a speed chute, when race day or game day comes you're prepared even if the wind is whipping at 40 mph (64.3 kph.) The human body adapts to whatever it faces if properly trained. This newfound mental toughness also comes into play at the end of a race when everyone else is tired. Wind resistance builds extra stamina, endurance and technique so you're still on track when everyone else has run out of steam.