Should I Run Before or After Lifting Weights?

If you're a runner, there's a good chance you've heard both sides of the "run before or after lifting weights" debate. While there is merit to both sides, as there often is with fitness and nutrition-related information, deciding whether to run before or after lifting ultimately comes down to your training goals.

Hit the weights first if building strength is your goal. (Image: Mikolette/E+/GettyImages)

Tip

If endurance and running performance are your goals, then hit the pavement before lifting weights. But if power and strength are the priority, then plan on lifting weights before running.

Run Before Lifting Weights

Getting sweaty with a little cardio before lifting weights is a common occurrence in many gyms. And while some people have a specific reason for training in this order, such as a race or endurance event, others either believe this is the best way to train, or they prefer to structure their routine this way.

With so many theories circling, it's important to consider what the experts have to say about whether you should run before or after lifting weights. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing cardio first makes sense if you're looking to improve your endurance performance.

If you're training for a distance race, adhering to this theory will help you move forward with your running performance while still giving you time and energy to participate in some resistance training.

In fact, several popular training plans taper weight lifting in favor of running when getting ready for a half-marathon or marathon. For example, on running coach Hal Higdon's website, he recommends strength training after you run on a Tuesday and Thursday.

Another reason to consider lifting weights after running says the Mayo Clinic, has to do with your glycogen stores, which provide you with energy for activity. When these get depleted from a weight training session, you may feel too tired to lace up your running shoes and head out for a jog.

Run After Lifting Weights

It's easy to see how running before hitting the weights makes sense, especially if you're in training for an upcoming race. But what if you don't have an endurance goal in mind, and you're just running for your cardio. Should you run before or after a workout?

Well, if your goals involve getting leaner, losing weight or improving strength, then lifting weights wins first place. But that doesn't mean you get to skip out on cardio. When structuring your workouts, keep in mind that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

To maximize your strength gains and still squeeze in the minimum amount of cardio for health benefits, consider adding a few 20- to 30-minute aerobic sessions, such as running, after a weight training workout. Alternatively, you can head out for a run on an off-day from lifting weights. This works well, especially if you adhere to a three to four day a week schedule of resistance training.

Run Before or After Lifting

But what if you don't fall into either of those categories and you just want to stay in shape? The good news is the whole run before or after workout debate doesn't really apply, and you get to choose the order of operations for your workout. Which means, as long as you're sticking to a consistent fitness plan, whether you run before or after lifting is not as important.

And since you don't have a specific strength or endurance goal, you can even change things up throughout the month or even the week. In other words, choose one week to focus on cardio and head out for a run before lifting weights. Then, shift your focus to strength training the next week, and hit the weights first, followed by a shorter run outdoors.

Before you decide if you should run before or after lifting weights, take into consideration the type of exercise you enjoy the most and make that second. Because let's face it, doing the activity you enjoy the least first, will ensure that it gets done and with the most amount of energy.

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