As you begin to get into running (or maybe if you’ve been running for a while), you’ve probably started to think about how you might be able to incorporate more strength training into your running routine.
Given the busyness of the modern world, you’ve probably thought about the days when you might need to combine running and strength training. Or perhaps you have finally decided to stop ignoring that part of your marathon plan that says “strength training.”
In any case, this article is for you. We’ll discuss whether it’s okay to go running after lifting weights or doing strength work in a Q&A format to address common curiosities.
Then you can decide what is going to be the best fit for you in combining your running and strength training.
Is it okay to run after lifting weights?
In short, yes. It’s safe to do so. But you need to know what your fitness goals are to see if it’s the best decision for you. If you’re looking to improve speed or log longer miles, running after lifting weights is not going to be your best option.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in gains of size and strength—as well as favorable hormonal changes that will help you burn extra calories faster and reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone—lifting weights first is the way to go.
There are a couple reasons why it’s often better to run after lifting weights rather than the reverse. It’s critical to note that over 100 studies have confirmed that it takes a day or two longer to recover from strength training in comparison to a high-intensity run. Crazy, right?
One reason to lift first is because you’ll have more energy for strength training if you do it before running. Thus, the exercise you want to have more energy for—and this is especially important for strength-training—you’ll want to do first.
Another is the fatigue associated with running. If you push hard in your runs, you’ll have difficulties pushing through your strength training. In addition, fatigue also impacts your mental acuity, which can give you a lack of focus, particularly later in the day.
Is it better to run pre-strength or post-strength work?
The American Council on Exercise has a convenient chart that will allow you to determine whether it’s better to run pre-strength or post-strength work. In many of the instances, it’s better to run after lifting weights than before.
If you’re looking to lose weight, get leaner, or are more focused on improving strength, you should always start with strength first. If you’re just working your upper body, you do either first, but lower body workouts, you really want to do strength training first.
In addition to goals, you might also want to consider your personal approach to working out. Do you hate to run and love to lift weights? Or would you rather pound the pavement and can’t dream of regularly lifting weights? Chances are that you fit in the latter category.
If that’s the case, you might want to consider strength training first most of the time, because then you’ll get the task you don’t like out of the way first and then get to do what you enjoy. If you switch the tasks, you’ll have significantly less energy for lifting weights.
One option you might want to consider that can bring the best of both worlds is running for 5-15 minutes before lifting weights. This brief run will help you warm up your muscles, increasing their mobility. This can assist in preventing injury during strength training as well as allow you to perform an intense strength workout.
How long should I run after lifting weights?
The length doesn’t matter as much in comparison to the intensity. Kenji Doma, Ph.D., a sports and exercise scientist at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, says that runners could strength train and run in the same day six hours apart as long as you’re not going full-out on your run.
That means it’s fine for you to schedule a nice and easy long run or a recovery run, but you should shy away from a tempo run, speed work, or other high-intensity runs. Whether you end up running 3 miles or 8 miles at an easy pace is less important.
Why should I consider running after lifting weights?
One of the best ways to support strength gains that you have realized during a weightlifting workout is to run afterward. You’ll be supplying the muscles you worked out with additional oxygen and nutrients that will aid in recovery.
Not only will you be upping your running game to some degree by running after lifting weights, but you’ll also be making healthy strength gains with ample time to recover, encouraging an overall healthy physical fitness.
As a final note, your body will respond most to the type of exercise that you end your workout with. If you conclude with a run, you’ll enhance your body’s aerobic endurance, which is what every runner wants.
If you’re more of a visual person, you can check out this video that will summarize much of what we discuss in this article. It has animated characters and objects, which is always fun!
At the end of the day, running after lifting weights is probably the better option than running pre-strength work, except if you’re training for a race and need to improve speed and log miles. In many other cases, running after will give you the biggest physical gains. Whichever way you go, strength training is an often-overlooked, yet critically necessary part of improving as a runner. Make an effort to put time in your training plan for building your strength.