Each of our training will vary significantly depending on our fitness level, goals, and availability.
There are also endless distinct methods that trainers and coaches explore, research and use with their athletes. Training has turned into trial and error as each athlete performs and reacts differently.
Consistent research has given us greater knowledge; however, makes it more challenging when making decisions as we need to sift through so much information. The most efficient and safest way to train for a race, whether a road 5k or a trail ultramarathon, is by professional guidance and a well-thought-out training plan.
A common question is whether or not you should do cardio and weights on the same day. Today, we will explore this idea and give our suggestion as to what works best to keep our running performance strong.
In this article, we will discuss:
- What is cardio?
- What is weight training?
- The pros of doing cardio and weights on the same day.
- The cons of doing cardio and weights on the same day.
- The recommended sequence of cardio and weights.
- An example of a weekly training schedule.
Let’s jump in!
What exactly is cardio?
Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, is exercise that increases your heart and breathing rates for a period of time. This type of exercise will improve the function of your heart, circulatory system, and lungs.
Cardio is not just running but includes loads of other types of physical activities. Some examples include biking, swimming, power walking, jumping rope, rowing, high-intensity circuit training, dancing, the list goes on and on. If it gets that heart rate up and keeps it up, it’s cardio!
As runners, most of our cardio is actual running. Still, some of us work in cross-training such as biking, rowing, or elliptical to reduce impact and ultimately the risk of injury.
Cardio takes up most of our training schedule, but please, don’t forget about our valuable weight training!
What is weight training?
According to Merriam Webster, weight training is a system of conditioning involving lifting weights, especially for strength and endurance.
As cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart, weight training, or “strength training” strengthens other muscles in your body. This is done using bodyweight, resistance bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, a great variety of weight machines, and fun gym toys!
As runners, we should incorporate strength training into our weekly plan, ideally two sessions. This will strengthen our muscles, protect our joints, improve our speed, running economy, and overall athletic performance.
Some important factors to consider when weight training is to start slow, with either just bodyweight or little weight, perfect the technique and posture of the exercises you perform, and don’t skip the rest between sets.
Now that we have a clear idea of each of these components let’s get to the question you’ve all been waiting for, and see how we can adequately organize our training program.
Should You Do Cardio and Weights On The Same Day?
Yes, you can and should do cardio and weights on the same day.
But let’s take a look at how exactly to make it work and why you should organize your training schedule this way.
As we progress as athletes and runners, our training load increases, and time becomes tight.
This is when we consider adding “double sessions” to our training program to be able to fit everything in. A double session is a day where you train twice a day, ideally once in the morning, and once in the afternoon and evening.
This practice is commonly practiced with triathletes as they need to work in a minimum of three different sports plus weight training! Most seasoned runners also work in double sessions to increase volume, or as we are going to explore, add strength training.
Suppose you are running six sessions a week but also need to fit in two weight training sessions and still have at least one full day of rest. In that case, you will have to make some adjustments, double sessions, to fit this into a 7-day weekly plan.
Which Days Should I Weight Train?
When organizing your training plan, the best way to work in weight training is to add them on the afternoon of the same day you run speedwork sessions.
Since running is our priority, we want to feel our best for our running sessions. That being said, schedule your running sessions in the morning, and weights in the afternoon, with an ideal six-hour rest window in between.
This way, it gives you a chance to recover a bit from your run before hitting the gym.
According to sports training researcher Dr. Kenji Doma, studies show that running after weight training, even 6 hours apart, impairs running performance greater than running before weight training.
Therefore, schedule your running session ideally 6 hours before your weight training to perform at your best the following day.
The day following your afternoon or evening weight training should be a recovery run, low impact cardio or rest. It’s better to have a double session of hard running and weights in one day and rest completely the next, rather than spread everything out and feel depleted every day.
Related: 5 Low Impact Cardio Workouts To Try
Let’s see how this looks mapped out!
Example Training Plan Set Up
According to what we have discussed, the following is an example of the scheduling of a training plan for someone who runs 6 times per week with 2 weight training sessions.
Depending on your fitness level and training load, the number of times you run per week and the intensity of your speedwork sessions will, of course, vary. Therefore, the main takeaway from this schedule is the double sessions and easy runs following weight training afternoons.
AM: Easy Run
PM: Weight Training (6 hours between sessions)
AM: Recovery Run
AM: Speedwork / Race Specific Session
PM: Weight Training (6 hours between sessions)
AM: Recovery Run
AM: Long Run
Leaving 6 hours in between your running and weight training sessions is ideal for providing your body a bit of time to recover before you stress it yet again.
As you can see, the days after the planned double sessions are easy-run days. This will give your body a chance to recover from the double stress from the day before.
Even though this is the best way to organize your training, there are some cons to this setup.
Cons of Doing Cardio and Weights on the Same Day
Training twice a day can be challenging for many as our jobs and family lives take up most of our day.
Some of us may need to do one session immediately after another for time’s sake. If you need to do this, run first, and do your weight training session after. It will be hard on your body to do these sessions consecutively, but it’s better than eliminating weight training altogether.
Adaptation to Double Sessions
If you are not accustomed to having double sessions in your training program, it will take some getting used to. Slowly work this scheduling into your life, and take it easy on the weights.
There are a lot of strength training classes that also include a great deal of cardio. Remember, you are a runner and already do plenty of cardio. Ask your trainer about running-specific exercises that focus on strengthening your muscles and include limited cardio. You don’t want to tire yourself out more than necessary for your running.
Final Tips for Weight Training
Be consistent with your weight training. Inconsistency will put your body through a lot of suffering each time you pick up those weights again.
Weight training is known to cause soreness and whilst we are are no stranger to the DOMS; it will be more tolerable if your body is well-adapted to the workouts. This way, you can run the following mornings without a problem.
We are runners, so our most important training sessions are running. However, we know that weight training is essential for strength, speed, and to reduce our risk of injury, so we need to work it in no matter what.
It is, however, supplemental to our running and it should not negatively affect our running days.
If you feel you are not running at your best during your training sessions, take a look at your weight training schedule and how you are performing your strength exercises. You may need to reassess the exercise type to ensure it is “running specific” and that you are not overdoing it.
Look at the amount of weight you are lifting. You may need to decrease your weight and/or repetitions, add in more rest, or reduce the total session time. A 30-45 minute session twice a week is more than enough, so be careful not to overdo it.
You need to consider these factors when adjusting your weight training to complement your running and ensure it doesn’t hinder it.
Try out this setup and see if it works for you. It may surprise you how organizing the same sessions in a different order can improve your performance significantly!
Take a look at our weight training guide for runners to better understand what to focus on: