We get to experts to weigh in on whether you should run before or after your strength workout
In an ideal world, we’d space out our runs, cross-training and recovery sessions through the week. But we know that lots of runners have lots of other things to be doing, including parenting, working and enjoying some chill time.
The good news is that we can combine a run with our strength workouts. But there’s a whole load of conflicting advice out there about how best to do that. Do we run first and gym after? Or start by lifting weights, then finish on a treadmill?
The short answer is this: it depends on your goals for any given run. We ask two experts to break it down for us.
Not sure where to start with strength training? Try our Ultimate Guide to Strength-Training!
Kimberley Morrison is a professional triathlete and INCUS Performance ambassador. “It’s important to consider your goals when deciding whether to do a strength workout before your run,” she says. “Is your main goal to build muscle, or are your strength sessions used as conditioning and mobility for running? If you do your run first and then a strength workout afterwards, you will be fatigued from the run so your form could suffer while lifting weights. You need focus and power when doing a muscle-building workout, and this is harder to maintain if you’ve just finished a run.”
Doing strength workouts first is best for Kimberley’s goals. She advises to plan your workout so that it prepares you for your run. “My strength workouts always complement my run training and use resistance to make me a better runner. I start my warm-up with high knees and walking lunges; I then put on a 20kg weighted vest and go through the motions of running, from step-ups to farmers’ walks to high knee lifts. Doing this means everything is engaged, improving my running form and performance by increasing coordination and stability.”
Suzie Cave is a modern pentathlete and 361° Europe ambassador. She agrees that it’s all about knowing where your focus is. “First, pick out your key training sessions in the week: the ones where you want to perform at your best,” she advises.
For Suzie, it’s her hard run that takes priority in her weekly workout plan, so her strength sessions come afterwards. “Studies have shown that strength training lowers our ability to run at maximal effort for up to 24 hours afterwards. Therefore, I always schedule my strength sessions for after my hard runs so that I’m not going into the runs fatigued, and I schedule the next day to be my easy recovery session or run.
“I think that, when looking at your overall exercise plan, you should position your strength training so that it won’t impair your ability to both perform and recover for the important hard runs.”
She also has some tips for how to approach your strength sessions to get the maximum benefits for running. “Remember that we runners get enough cardio during our runs,” she says. “The focus of our strength workouts should be on controlled power and lifting heavy, not just raising your heartrate.”