We’ve all heard the saying, “There are no stupid questions,” but there are a lot of questions that take a lot of effort and thought to answer correctly. One such question comes to mind when we are discussing fitness: “What should I do first, cardio or strength training?”
I would say that sounds pretty cut and dry, and the answer would just be in a textbook reference somewhere, but solving this conundrum will not be so simple. When you put it in perspective, it’s almost like asking what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Both are necessary and complement each other, but the overall outcome of your fitness results could very well be determined by whether you do your cardio before or after your strength training.
Define Your Goals
While wearing your fitness investigator hat, first ask the question: “What are my fitness goals?” This will be a defining moment, because your goals will directly influence your cardio decision. Instead of thinking about what you are burning (carbohydrate or fat) to fuel your workout, think a little more about specific goals, such as increasing your cardiovascular endurance, decreasing body weight, increasing muscular strength, and so forth.
Goal: Cardiovascular Endurance
If your goal is to increase cardiovascular endurance, the most sensible next step is to perform cardio exercise and vice versa with increasing muscular strength (Roizen, 2014). Although there has been some research on the topic, a 2013 study at the Life Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that both walking and running were beneficial to good health, and went so far as to say that walking may be even more beneficial to good health (which is also a topic we will cover in a future blog.
This makes it seem as though normal individuals with sensible goals can make their lives a lot easier and focus on more manageable ambitions, such as the aforementioned weight loss, etc.
Goal: Losing Weight and Gaining Muscle
Probably the most commonplace goal I hear as a personal trainer is, “I want to lose weight, and gain muscle.” How does that fit into our cardio vs. strength training riddle? Without spending a huge amount of time reading tomes of fitness research, alternating the cardio and strength order and doing various cycles is one way to make sure both of your goals are met and you continue to have a well-balanced regimen. Variety is the spice of life, is it not?
I encourage you to continue this discussion in the comments area. As we go along our fitness quests, we do not have to go alone. A Health Fitness Specialist can provide some much-needed guidance, and can lend a helping hand when you need to be lifted back on the wagon. Feel free to stop by the NIFS track desk, or call to schedule an appointment today!
Rejoice and evolve,
This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.