Is It Better To Run Before Or After A Workout?

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Whenever you establish a fitness routine, one of the most important considerations is what type of exercise you’ll do each day. Will it be a cardio workout like a run, HIIT workout, or spin class? Or a strength training workout like lifting weights at the gym? 

Establishing an effective exercise routine hinges upon balancing different types of workouts. If you find yourself asking, “Is it better to run before or after a workout?” you’re already in a great place. Doubling up on two different forms of exercise in one session is a clear indication of your commitment to your health and fitness journey. 

But is it better to run before or after a workout? Should you run or do cardio before or after lifting weights or strength training? If you’re looking to maximize the benefits of your workouts, keep reading to learn how to best combine cardio and strength training and whether you should run before or after a workout.

We will look at: 

  • Do You Need To Do Cardio And Strength Training Workouts?
  • Is It Better To Run Before Or After A Workout?
  • How Your Fitness Goals Influence If You Should Run Before Or After A Workout
  • How The Type Of Workout Influences If You Should Run Before Or After A Workout
  • Should I Go Running Before Or After A Workout?

Let’s get started!

A woman running with a city skyline behind her.

Do You Need to Do Cardio and Strength Training Workouts?

Running, or other forms of cardio, can be a challenging workout on its own, but many runners are well aware that strength training workouts are important complements to running mileage. For this reason, if you have the time and motivation, you may want to run before or after working out with weights or doing some other form of resistance training.

Strength training helps build muscle to make you a faster, stronger, and more powerful runner, and it can help your muscles, tendons, and connective tissues handle the impact and forces from running.

In this way, lifting weights or strength training workouts can reduce the risk of injury and make you a more well-rounded athlete.

Ultimately, if you want to become the best runner you can be, you have to do more than run.

A person doing a kettlebell swing.

Likewise, if lifting weights is your workout of choice, you should still do cardio as well to ensure you are getting aerobic exercise and taking care of your heart, lungs, and overall health.

However, depending on the flexibility of your schedule in terms of the number of days you can work out per week and your overall training volume, it might not be feasible to alternate running days with strength training workouts. You might have to double up.

In these cases, you have to decide if you should do cardio before weights or weights before cardio.

Is It Better To Run Before Or After A Workout?

There isn’t a clear-cut answer when it comes to the question, “Is it better to run before or after a workout?” Rather, whether it’s better to run or do cardio before or after a strength workout depends on two key variables: your overall fitness goals and the type of workouts you’re doing.

Different responses to each of those two factors will yield different answers to whether you should run first or lift weights first. 

The good news is that while there is an optimal order for most people based primarily on your fitness goals and priorities, studies suggest that you can’t really go wrong either way because your body will still reap the benefits of both.

A person running trail.

How Your Fitness Goals Influence If You Should Run Before Or After A Workout

The primary determinant for the best order for your back-to-back workouts is your fitness goals. 

Are you a runner looking to supplement your mileage with resistance training for injury prevention and overall strengthening? Are you a strength-based athlete who runs for overall health? Are you looking to have a mix of cardio and strength workouts with the goal of losing weight?

In most cases, your priority, or primary fitness objective, is the workout you should do first. 

In other words, if you are a runner, you should run before your workout in the gym. On the other hand, if your goal is bodybuilding or building muscular strength, you should hit the weights before you run or do cardio. 

By doing your primary activity first, you’ll ensure your body is strong, properly fueled, and firing on all cylinders for that key activity. 

A woman running in a park.

It’s common to feel tired for your second workout due to a phenomenon termed interference. However, if you put your secondary activity after your primary one, any fatigue and performance decline you experience because of the first workout will be less problematic since that second workout is only meant to be an adjunct to your main sport.

Moreover, there is some evidence to suggest that aerobic exercise like running can impede muscle protein synthesis and strength and power development with resistance training workouts when they are done first, meaning if you want to build muscle and increase your strength and power, do your strength workout before your run.

When it comes to the type of cardio exercise, running seems to exert a particularly strong interference effect on potential hypertrophy, strength, and power gains from resistance training workouts when you run before your workout. Cycling before lifting weights may not be as detrimental, according to a large review.

Similarly, research suggests that endurance performance—mainly time to exhaustion—can be impaired when it follows a strength-training workout. Therefore, if you’re training for a race, it’s usually better to run before your weights workout.

A man doing bicep curls.

If you fall in the last group—general fitness or weight loss—you have more latitude in the decision, but there may be benefits to lifting weights first. Evidence suggests weights before cardio yields the best lower body strength adaptations without compromising improvements in aerobic capacity.

How the Type of Workout Influences If You Should Run Before Or After A Workout

The type of workout also affects the preferred order of activities.

If you are a runner, if you do your strength training workouts on recovery run or easy run days, the order of your workouts is less important than if you are trying to do a speed workout or long run before or after a workout.

If you are doing total-body workouts or leg day in the gym, running before or after your workout will be more fatiguing on your legs, and the order will matter more than if you’re doing body part splits and focusing on upper body or core.

A woman doing renegade rows.

Should I Go Running Before Or After a Workout?

Whether you are a runner looking to diversify your training or an avid gym-goer adding in cardio, if you’re running and lifting weights on the same day, you’re doing an awesome job with your exercise routine, and for that, you should feel really proud.

In general, most people find the best way to structure their workout routine is to do whatever form of exercise they prioritize first. In other words, if you’re a competitive runner and your run is your focus, go running before you lift weights. 

If you’re trying to build muscle as your primary goal and just using running as a way to improve your overall fitness, go running after your workout so that your body is firing on all cylinders and strong for your lift.

Following a well-thought-out training plan created specifically for your goal will assist in a successful process and result. If you are looking for running plans to help organize your training, take a look at our very own training resources!

A group of people running.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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