How to organize your workout
Which comes first: cardio or weights? There are several answers to this question, and Help Me Rhonda is here to help you choose which is best to meet your specific fitness goals.
You first need to know what you’re mainly hoping to accomplish: weight loss, strength or endurance.
Complete your weight training before you do cardio. There are several good reasons to plan your time at the gym this way. It takes 20 to 30 minutes of activity for the body to switch from primarily burning carbohydrates to burning fat. If you weight train first, that means you already are burning fat at the start of your cardio session.
Your heart rate will be elevated sooner during your cardio session. Weight training elevates your heart rate. This means that within a few minutes at most during your cardio session after weight training, you will be in your target heart rate zone that is recommended for weight loss and cardiovascular conditioning. If you had started with cardio, you would need to go for longer just to get into your target heart rate zone.
I always ask my clients to warm up on the treadmill, bike or elliptical for 3 to 5 minutes (longer if your muscles are really cold) at a moderate pace before any resistance training.
If building muscle mass is what you desire, consider separate sessions for cardio and weights on different days. This is a popular option when weight loss is not the primary goal. Complete your weights session, cool down and then immediately concentrate on recovery, repair and rebuilding rather than additional exercise. You also could experiment with separate sessions on the same day, but you need to get your nutrition right with this approach.
If you really want to get the most out of your workout and increase your endurance like a triathlete, then warm up, pump iron and then go for some Century-style cardio. You’ll have to really push yourself for the aerobic portion, because your muscles already will be fatigued, and that’s the point.
Another option I use with a couple of my soccer players is to do a circuit. Run on the treadmill, strengthen the upper body, push some leg weights, condition the core, and then do it all over again. Only conditioned athletes should try this, as it is fast-paced and you place many different demands on your body in a short amount of time.
As always, make sure you are drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout and plan for a healthy protein snack within 30 minutes of completion to satiate the hunger and facilitate muscle repair.
– Rhonda Beckham is a nationally certified personal trainer with teaching certificates in Pilates and kickboxing.