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Run Before or After a Workout? (Goal Oriented Answer)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: August 3, 2023

As a fitness coach, I often get this question from my clients and friends: should you run before or after a workout?

For months, my clients and I have integrated running before and after every exercise routine. The results varied, and I had to devote my time to research to get to know why.

I have summarized all the information obtained in this article.

Let’s get into it.

Quick Summary

  • Your fitness goals influence if you will run before or after a workout.
  • Running improves your aerobic agility, helps burn more calories, and your cardiovascular health.
  • People run to keep fit, to build muscles, and increase endurance.

What Does Running Do to Your Body?

A man running on the road

Running improves your cardiovascular health and aerobic agility, burns more calories, and enhances muscular endurance and muscle strength.

Many endurance athletes today know that to train efficiently, they need to do more than just run.

Cross-training is currently widely regarded as the most effective universal technique for enhancing athletic prowess, mobility, and general emotions of well-being.

Cross-training involves:

  • Varying your exercises.
  • Targeting your cardiovascular system.
  • Working different muscle areas, lower and upper body.
  • Using both slow and quick twitch muscles.

The answer to whether you should run before or after a workout depends on several factors, including:

  • What are your general fitness objectives?
  • What do you hope to gain?
  • How would you like to improve?

Running or other types of cardio may be a difficult exercise on their own, but most runners understand that a strength workout routine is a crucial supplement to running miles.

Know Your Goal

A woman in a track field area

Your fitness goals are the major determinant of the ideal schedule for your back-to-back exercises.

Do you want to enhance your running mileage with weight lifting to prevent injuries and general strength?

Are you a strength-based runner who trains for health? Is your aim to lose weight by combining cardio and strength training?

In most circumstances, your primary or major fitness goal is the exercise you should perform first.

If you are a runner, you must run before your gym activity. If your aim is bulking or increasing physical prowess, you should lift weights before running or doing cardio. 

By performing your primary workout first, you will guarantee that your system is strong, adequately fed, and ready to perform that key exercise.

Because of a phenomenon known as interference, it is usual to feel exhausted for your second session.

Nevertheless, if you schedule your secondary exercise after your major one, the endurance performance drop caused by the first training session would be less bothersome because the second session is merely supposed to support your first exercise.

How to Train for Your Goal?

A man running on a mountain

Setting specific goals before embarking on a fitness regime is critical to guaranteeing you work out most efficiently.

If You Want to Lose Weight

It really does not matter if you go running or do weights first for weight loss; however, strength surpasses running in terms of overall significance when it comes to fat burning.

Most people prioritize the best cardio workouts for losing weight since it burns the most calories, but resistance training or high-intensity interval training workouts three to four days per week are preferable.

Strength workouts enable you to gain or retain lean muscle mass, where the body burns fat over time. The more you build muscle, the higher your aerobic metabolism becomes.

"Ultimately, aerobic exercise uses more energy and expends more calories because you're moving regularly, but endurance training may need you to spend two-thirds of your time resting, so adding some cardio can enhance your overall calorie burn."

- Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D.

When you conduct heavy resistance training with brief rest periods, you create more excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which corresponds to the number of calories burned after you finish your workout [1].

This is due to the increased demand for anaerobic (oxygenless) energy channels during strength training workouts, which raises the requirement for oxygen post-exercise.

As a result, the more strenuous your weights are and the less break you have between rounds, the more EPOC you'll create.


If You Want to Build Muscle

An athlete running on a treadmill

Lifting weights ought to be the major emphasis of your gym practice if you want to build and retain muscle mass. Particularly hypertrophy weight training.

Lifting weights every day results in gradually straining your muscles through lifting progressively heavier weights with 8 to 12 repetitions.

Lifting big weights and straining your muscles will result in microtrauma, swelling in the muscular tissue, and a depletion of glycogen (carbohydrate) reserves [2].

Muscle protein production happens as an aspect of the recovery process. This makes muscular tissue powerful and larger than before.

So the next time your muscles are subjected to the same workout stimulus, they will be better prepared to deal with it.

So, if you want to gain muscle, you must expend energy by lifting weights. Running before lifting depletes the circulating sources of energy required for large lifts [3].

Furthermore, the repeated motion of running lowers the effectiveness of muscular contractions, especially in the lower body. As a result, you become tired, and your muscular contractions become less effective.

Your form may even deteriorate as an outcome of the exhaustion and repeated contractions required to complete a run.

I advise clients whose main aim is to gain strength and optimize muscle growth to finish workouts with a light cardio session in the form of a 10-minute jog or a low-intensity cardio workout that will increase blood flow.

Related: How to Build Muscle Without Weights?

If You Want to Increase Endurance

The same concept applies here, which says you must emphasize weightlifting if you want to improve strength and aerobic capacity.

A hard weight day prior to running performance may tire the muscles, leading you to compromise good form when performing cardio and increasing your chance of injury.

If you're preparing for a run, using weights before cardio may reduce your stamina.

As per a study in the journal Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism, persons who did strength training before running had worse running impairment than those who ran first [4].


Is It Good to Run and Workout on the Same Day?

You can run and work out on the same day with at least nine hours of recovery in between.

Will I Lose Muscles If I Run in The Morning?

You will lose muscle if you run in the morning since your cortisol levels are high.

Should I Run After a Leg Day?

No. You should not run after a leg day. You should rather have a 48-hour recovery after it.

Does Running After a Workout Burn More Fat?

Yes. Running after a workout burns more fat during the first fifteen minutes of that workout.

Use Running to Maximize Your Primary Goal

Always make sure to have your fitness goals in mind when determining whether to run before or after a workout.

For maximum results, consider combining running with a good pre-running supplement specifically designed to recover your working muscles through oxygenation induced by ingredients like L-citrulline and Betaine Anhydrous.

My clients and I have compiled the list of the best pre-workouts for running, and their contribution to our workouts has been incredible.

They’ve helped many achieve overall fitness goals and sent their energy stores through the roof.


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