Peddling. Panting. Water. Repeat. It was hot this weekend! No, scratch that. It was Hot this weekend (with a capital H and that rhymes with nothing and that stands for what we should have been doing instead of riding our bikes around Orange County). As luck would have it, having trucked my bike to the former homeland – the OC – I made it my mission to put that bike to use regardless of temperature. Besides, black spandex absorbs sweat so well it’s hard for anyone to notice that glisten on your pants isn’t simply the sparkle inherent of biker-shorts, but an enhanced shine straight from the pores of your own skin.
But I digress. Heat aside, a small pack* of us pulled off 23 miles with relative ease. Luckily, we were a group of four which allowed there never to be a third wheel attempting to chat, and even more luckily, Sam had recently started hitting up the gym again and had questions about when the best time to do weight/strength training was. I love when conversations on bike rides become fodder for online research!
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, my friend Bryan instilled in my head after you do cardio, you want to go immediately into crunches or push-ups to maximize your metabolism at that exact moment. I still hear his voice in my head when I get home from a run and think about doing crunches; I can vividly recall him telling me to get the most out of my heart-rate. I sort of assumed that this was the best time. Considering my level of curiosity tends to run on “high,” I am a little shocked I never questioned this information until now. Let’s find out!
Okay, the first thing to know is this: the best time to do weight/strength training has one heck of a lot to do with why you are engaging in this kind of activity in the first place. Wait, I lied. The first thing to know is if you are doing weight and strength training, CONGRATULATIONS!!! So the second thing to know is that when you do this kind of workout matters in terms of what you hope to accomplish. What you want to accomplish will tell you how to spend your energy.
See, if you want to look like someone who kicks around Venice Beach (aka, you want to big muscles), you’ll want to get your weight lifting on without any sort of cardio activity beforehand. The reason, according to About.com’s Elizabeth Quinn, is that, “the body’s main source of energy for muscle contraction (glycogen) is high. If you do a hard cardio workout before lifting, you deplete glycogen, which makes the workout ineffective.” In order to make sure energy is expended for your means of being buffer than Buffy, you’ll lift to work your muscles.
But if you’re going for Bollywood starlet status (aka, burning calories/weight loss), Quinn recommends you put in a cardio workout and then move onto weights. The reason? Well, it’s not because weight lifting burns less calories – it actually burns more! Yet weight-lifting causes fatigue exponentially faster than cardio, and most people won’t burn enough calories just this way.
I’m not sure this really answers Sam’s question though, or justifies Bryan’s claim that you’re somehow capitalizing on your metabolism if you engage in strengthening after cardio. It seems that cardio before weights could actually leave your muscles a bit fatigued and thus you won’t hit the weights as hard, and might not wind up doing as much strength traning as you’re hoping. Finding a journal article on this topic was extremely difficult, and seemed to leave room for debate on all ends.
I did however, find the Fitness Nerd’s answer the best approach: “While basing your decisions on facts, and not just theories and opinions, is generally a good practice in life, at some point, you also have to ask yourself: ‘What works for me?'” Play around with what both is offering the results you desire and is comfortable for your body.
In my very humble opinion, you get the best results no matter what you do by doing what satisfies you and keeps you reasonably happy and healthy. If you just want to be a well rounded and healthy individual, do a little of something in terms of both strength and cardio and you’ll be just fine.
* What is a collection of cyclists called? Perhaps a chain gang?