Running and lifting are different types of exercise that are often combined in an exercise regimen. Properly done, the combination can benefit both activities. Running builds cardiovascular capacity, enabling the heart and lungs to move blood and oxygen more effectively through the body.
Weightlifting builds muscle and strength. Runners lift weights to gain strength; weightlifters run to increase endurance and lose body fat. Most trainers in both areas recommend a combination of running and lifting.
Running and weightlifting can be performed on the same day. Which one you do first depends on your goals.
Build a Workout Schedule
Weightlifting should not be done more than every other day, allowing at least one full day of rest between sessions, and many trainers recommend a three-day-a-week schedule. That leaves days for running without affecting weight training. You can use these days for more intense running workouts, focusing on intervals or hill training.
Considering that the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderately-intense cardio just to maintain health —never mind training for a long-distance running event like a marathon or triathlon — that's a lot of time to run, even on weightlifting days.
Do a Combination?
A good program of general fitness combines running and weightlifting, with alternating periods of hard and easy workouts. But those ought to be staggered. You should not do an intense-weight workout and then try to do hard running training.
Both activities require a lot of exertion, and excess fatigue from too strenuous a combination can lead to injury. If you consider "leg" days at the gym, do you really want to be running afterward? So on those days, perhaps a light run before you go for those leg gains at the gym.
It's Your Choice
How you combine weightlifting and running is a matter of personal preference. If running after even a light weight session is exhausting, run first and lift later. If running first decreases lifting ability, adjust the running distance and speed to compensate.
The key is balancing the two activities so one does not decrease the benefit of the other. Always allow rest between any two types of exercise. Try lifting for 20 minutes and then jogging a lap; alternate like this until you adjust to an effective combination.
The American Council on Exercise made it easy for you to decide by breaking down what your goals are. For example, if you desire greater endurance, do cardio first. If, however, you want to get lean and strong, lift weights first. If it's an upper-body strength day, choose running or lifting first.
Columbia University's Go Ask Alice! suggests that strength training first boosts the body's metabolism resulting in greater fat burn during cardio. But running first may increase your endurance and cardiovascular health leaving you in good shape for lifting.
Is There a Last Word?
Runners who start lifting or lifters who start running will see a decrease in their training performance at first, but this will dissipate as the combination continues and the body adapts to the new routine. Low-intensity running either before or after weight training will increase calorie consumption and help reduce body fat.
BuiltLean weighs in with the advice that if your main goal is to build muscle, lift first. As you can see, it's all a matter of if this and if that. Neither is wrong or right. Both contribute to your overall fitness, and that's a good thing.
- Columbia University: "Go Ask Alice! Order of Workout Routines to Maximize Benefits"
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition”
- American Council on Exercise: "Cardio or Weights First? Cardio Before vs. After Lifting"
- Built Lean: "Should I Do Cardio Before or After Weights?"