If you’re an avid runner… you already know you shouldn’t miss leg day.
What I am here to talk to you about is running after leg day. Yay or nay?
There are many assumptions and misconceptions floating around this topic. The quick and short answer, however, is “yes”. You can run after a leg day workout, with certain qualifications.
As long as you carefully plan your workout schedule, you can definitely squeeze in some time for a run… even immediately after leg day.
What’s the Fuss about Running after Leg Day?
Leg day is primarily for strength training. It’s important for you to build more muscle overall and, of course, to develop a well-balanced proportion.
You know how folks with impressive torso builds often end up being the butt of jokes because they have “chicken legs”? Yeah, we don’t want that.
Apart from the weight lifting on leg day, these workouts also help develop your core strength and stability… particularly in your lower body.
Needless to say, leg day helps develop your legs muscles… which, in turn, will bolster your stamina, endurance and overall athleticism.
Whether you’re a triathlete, a climber, a cyclist or a swimmer, it is definitely beneficial for you to have strong legs.
Working them out is a very important part of your fitness program.
But it is ok to engage in cardio after a leg day session?
Ideally, you should give your legs some time to recover… they will likely be sore and tired after leg day.
Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should spend the next day recovering from it by simply putting your legs up and not doing any physical activity at all.
So now comes the big question: can you run after leg day?
Technically speaking, you can if you want.
The issue is really about whether you should run after leg day, given your body’s need for recovery.
Running may seem like the exact opposite of recovering, which is why this dilemma of whether you should run after leg day or not exists in the first place. And if I’m being honest… it’s not a straight “yes” or “no” answer.
Let’s take a closer look at some pros and cons of running after leg day, so we can better determine if this is something we should do.
Pros of Running After Leg Day
1. It provides a balance to your workout program.
Because leg day is all about strength training, it would be ideal to supplement that with cardio training, which you can get from running.
2. It burns off fat reserves.
Keep in mind that while weight training improves your strength and develops your muscles, it does not burn fat the same way a cardio workout does. A cardiovascular workout complements leg day by burning off the fat more efficiently, making those muscle groups you’ve been working on more prominent and visible.
3. Your body will have more definition.
Simply put, doing cardio or running after leg day helps make your muscles “pop” more with noticeable definition and leaner muscle tone. This is a great advantage, not only because you will have better visualization of your progress… but you’ll also look good to others!
4. Cardio after leg day can help expedite muscle recovery.
But wait. Isn’t that contradictory of the fact that it can actually worsen muscle soreness?
While that’s sometimes true… it’s not the whole truth.
If you think about it, there are different ways that muscle pain and soreness can manifest itself.
Sometimes, it’s almost instantaneous, immediately following a workout. The moment when your legs feel like jelly and removing your shoes causes you to cringe.
Other times, it takes a while for the pain to sink in. For me, it’s usually a day or two before I’m in full “ouch” mode.
Also known as DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, your body may convince your brain that you’re feeling fine for a day or two… and then “bam!” The pain hits you.
DOMS can seriously derail your workout schedule, because the pain can feel like it’s making up for the days when you didn’t feel it. It can definitely come on strong.
The interesting thing about it, though, is that scientific studies have found that doing cardio can actually help your body recover from DOMS faster.
Applying this research to your leg day dilemma points to the benefits of running after leg day, especially when you feel “fine” after it.
- Recovery days should be active, not static. Research has shown this. Going into full rest day mode can lead to a much slower recovery because your muscles are not getting good blood flow this way.
- Whatever muscle building momentum you’ve started on leg day should continue the following day with a good cardio session. The fat keeps burning and the muscle growing that way.
Just remember… the key to all of this is to pace yourself.
If you went heavy during leg day, but still have enough energy for a run the next day, then a 100-200m sprint could be a good compromise.
Cons to Running After Leg Day
This is a common concern when it comes to running after leg day. For some people, their body’s reaction to a more physical activity (such as running) after an intense leg day workout is extreme fatigue. They become drained of energy. Muscles freeze up, cramps become worse and some even develop a mild fever.
Any trainer will tell you that overexertion is the sneakiest of enemies… because it could come on when you least expect it.
After the adrenaline has worn off, the exhaustion can hit you like a truck… leaving you unable to work out for days. Not to mention feeling too drained to do whatever else you need to get done.
2. Muscle injury.
This is also a very real and valid concern. You already put your legs under a lot of pressure and stress during the leg day workout. And although doing cardio does help maintain a good blood flow to the muscles, the movement itself still does present a burden on them.
The result: an elevated risk for injury… which, if not addressed properly and promptly, could turn into a more serious condition.
3. Motivation exhaustion.
This is something that you should be wary of. It’s when you suddenly lose the motivation to continue with your program because you now feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained.
It’s important to find that balance when you do your program, so that you don’t end up pushing yourself too far. This will only lead to you struggling, in pain… unhappy.
If you feel like you need to rest… then give yourself a rest, so you can come back faster and stronger.
To Run or Not to Run After Leg Day?
Ultimately, you’re the only one who can really answer this question.
The pros and cons above are simply part of the equation… some factors to consider.
The best thing you can do is listen closely to what your body is trying to tell you.
Only then can you truly achieve the balance you need in having a comprehensive and holistic workout or training program. And it’s only through this balance that you can fully reap the rewards of your hard work.
Should you decide to run, despite feeling some soreness after leg day, at least manage the pace of your run… as well as your expectations for it.
Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t push yourself to train at a maximum difficulty level, when your body is already telling you to slow down.
So… if Not Running, Then What?
Experts recommend doing cardio after leg day, but it doesn’t have to be running per se.
If you feel like you can’t run after leg day, that’s okay… there are other things for you to do.
Some alternative cardio exercises you can do include:
Each of these activities is relatively low-impact, so it shouldn’t be too hard on your legs. Just remember: pace yourself! Always.
Final Thoughts on Running After a Leg Day Workout
More than simply building strength and muscles, developing good workout habits should be a priority when starting a well-balanced exercise program.
Keep in mind that although working out is a physical activity; your mental well-being is also crucial to your success.
Hopefully, this article gave you a better understanding of how to make better decisions for your body within your workout program.
To learn more about the importance of balance in your overall life, check out this article on self-care and how you can practice them.