Leg day is something most, if not all of us, dread. By this time, you probably already know how bad your legs can hurt after a leg day. Some people even consider their leg day a failure if they can walk properly without assistance the next morning!
So, if it hurts so much, who in their right mind would even consider running after leg day? Keep reading because the answer may surprise you!
Two Sides Of The Coin
When it comes to running after leg day, experts and fitness enthusiasts have varying opinions. Let’s look at each side to understand the issue better, shall we?
1. The Naysayers
They Hamper Muscle Gain
Some professionals believe that endurance training and strength training should be avoided to maximize the results of your strength training. According to them, cardio exercises like running inhibits the way you gain muscles from resistance training.
However, they do not necessarily say that the two should not be combined. What they are recommending is to have some time apart between the two, or waiting at least one day after your leg day before running.
Also, it’s worth noting that doing these two types of training simultaneously will not completely prevent you from gaining bulk and strength. The process will just be a lot slower.
It Increases The Likelihood Of Injury
Another argument is that it is often bad to work on the same muscle groups for two consecutive days. It can cause the muscle to overstrain.
After leg day, your muscles will feel tired, tight, and sore. When running with tight muscles, you are at a higher risk of suffering from muscle tears and injury.
If you absolutely have to run after your leg day, make sure you stick to low-intensity leg workouts to prevent too much stress on your muscles.
2. The Yes!-Sayers
On the other hand, many powerlifters and bodybuilders are all for active rest and recovery. Meaning, they recommend moderate cardio exercises like running the day after working out.
According to them, jogging for a couple of miles or doing power walks on the treadmill can be beneficial. These activities are said to increase the blood flow to your muscles, allowing them to receive proper nutrients to heal, repair themselves, and recover.
Shorter Recovery Time
Improved circulation also helps in flushing out toxins and waste products like lactic acid that causes muscle pain. This shortens recovery time and lets you train hard again sooner.
Steve Magness, the author of The Science of Running, also points out that pain should be expected and is actually a desired part of the training. He says that muscle pain and damage encourages the body to respond in a way that increases its ability to deal with stressors.
Prevent Additional Soreness
Several studies have also proven that an easy to moderate run after an intense leg workout can physiologically prevent additional soreness in the DOMS or delayed-onset muscle soreness cycle.
This means that muscle damage due to leg day training can help you run better the next day. However, getting just the right amount of pain can be a tricky balancing act. You need to both handle hard workouts and still run despite the soreness to make it work.
The Running Times also says that exercise itself is an analgesic. Therefore, a light run and recovery session can actually offer some relief from muscle soreness due to your last workout.
How to Run after Leg Day
Running after your leg day should not be complicated. Do it properly, and you can reap all the fantastic benefits while also enjoying an active lifestyle with less pain and less stress. Here are the steps to follow to run after leg day:
- Wear your most comfortable running shoes. If possible, slip on a pair of compression socks as well. This will help with circulation.
- Do some proper stretches and warm up before running. This will get your heart rate up, your blood flowing, and minimize the risk of muscle injury. To know how to do this, watch this video:
- Use a timer and set it for 15 to 20 minutes. Begin by jogging lightly and then running at a pace where chatting with someone will be easy. Do not break into a sprint since this can do your muscles more harm than good.
- After the time is up, finish off with a nice cooldown and stretching.
- Keep your compression socks, stockings, or tights on for another couple of hours to maximize their benefits. You can also wear them as you sleep to reduce soreness and hasten your recovery. Note, however, that they can get sweaty and uncomfortable after some time.
When NOT To Run After Leg Day
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Running after a leg day is not always a good idea, and the following are some of the reasons why you should NOT run after leg day:
1. You Ran A Very Long Race
Do not run the day after running a half-marathon, marathon, or any similar long race, especially if you are a new runner. Instead, go for a no-impact cross-training exercise such as pool cycling or pool running which promotes recovery and blood flow. Fifteen to twenty minutes of these exercises at a slow, comfortable pace should be enough to reduce further soreness.
2. If You Committed A Mistake While Training
Training mistakes happen when you push your body much harder or longer than it was prepared for. This can lead to an injury if you run right after this error when your body should be resting.
Your aerobic system, consisting of your cells, lungs, and heart, heal and recover faster than the structural arrangement of the body which is your muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. So, if there is damage to the latter, you have to be very careful not to make it worse.
You can prevent training mistakes by doing a lot of strength, endurance, and core exercises before pushing yourself hard.
3. When It Is Difficult For You To Walk
When you find it hard to walk after leg day, it means that your muscles are too tight and your DOMS is bad and can be debilitating. Therefore, engaging in even a light-intensity cardio exercise can be dangerous. Even static stretching is out of the question.
In cases like these, experts like Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running suggest a strength routine and a mobility routine instead. Your aim is to loosen the tight area with aggravating it. You can also spend a few minutes cross-training in the pool, on the bike, or with a foam roller.
A short, light run is often the best way to recover. If possible, you can take a nap before using a foam roller to work out any remaining kinks. Then, put your legs in an ice bath after your recovery run (not after a leg day workout). This should help you recover fully within a few days.
So, is running after leg day a good idea? Well, the short answer is yes, but it depends on your own fitness level and goals. Of course, there are a few instances when merely resting your legs are more helpful, and running could do more harm than good. It can be beneficial if you know how to listen to your body and adjust your workout routine and running intensity accordingly.
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