As an avid runner and weight lifter, I’m often faced with the question that leaves many confused and conflicted: Should I strength train or run first?
Well, I’m happy to report that after many years of research, education, and personal experience, I’ve reached a conclusion that might surprise you. And, it’s likely simpler than you’d expect. Truth is, the strength-train-or-cardio-first debate solely depends on one thing: your fitness goals.
Incorporating a combination of weight lifting and running into your fitness training is an idea called “cross-training.” Personally and professionally, I’m a huge fan of cross-training because it’s beneficial for more reasons than one, including: increased muscle mass, reduced risk of injury, improved performance, and more. So, the question is: how can you utilize cross-training to your physical benefit?
While there isn’t necessarily a wrong way to cross-train, there is most likely a routine that’s best suited for you and your goals! Are you training for a distance run? Is your primary goal to lose weight? Do you want to increase strength? Once you identify your top fitness goals, you can determine the best order for your cross-training routine.
Benefits of Strength Training First
While strength training first comes with it’s pros and cons, it’s most advantageous for the following fitness goals:
- Increasing strength
- Losing fat
- Building muscle
Additionally, strength training before doing cardio is a great way to prevent injury. When strength training first, your muscles won’t struggle with fatigue, leaving you prone and vulnerable to muscle strains, pulls, or worse. Better yet, your best energy and strength will be put to use during your strength training workout to improve muscle mass and increase strength.
In the case of most weight loss goals, performing strength training first is ideal. That said, if fat loss is your goal, it might not even be necessary to include long-distance, steady state cardio as a part of your training program. It’s likely more beneficial to stick with interval training for fat loss. However, if you’re looking for a more personalized approach to your fitness goals, click here.
Benefits of Running First
On the other hand, if you’re a devoted runner, it’s likely be better to participate in your running training before hitting the weights. The following running goals would elicit a run-before-train routine:
- Long distance runs
- Marathon training
- Speed sessions
- Hill sprints
For avid runners, strength training is undeniably essential, but it’s important to remember that running is your ultimate priority. When it comes to intense or long-distance runs, I would never recommend strength training beforehand. Instead, I recommend scheduling your main runs for the week, then plan your weight lifting sessions accordingly. To prevent overtraining and muscle fatigue, allow for at least 24 hours between long runs and strength training sessions (especially leg days). Adequate muscle recovery is a non-negotiable in cross-training!
While I’m frequently asked about this cross-training dilemma, every individual is different. At the end of the day, I always recommend working with a professional who knows you and your goals well. And, never take your self-intuition for granted. You know your body best. With professional guidance and deliberate trial-and-error, you’ll uncover the most effective cross-training routine works best for you!
If you’d like professional help in reaching your fitness goals, I offer various in-person and online training programs. Read more about the best option for you, here!