Science solves big question for iron pumpers and runners

Alexander Hall

NewsNetNebraska

Runners at a local gym train to stay in shape.

Runners at a local gym train to stay in shape.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, exercise is important for maintaining overall health and living longer.

For a long time gym goers have knocked heads over what is the best form of exercise – cardio or lifting.  The ongoing debate is over which should be done first. Believe it or not, there is a proper order to the madness and we can thank science.

For thousands of years, running has been a well-known sport and a great way to stay in shape. In fact, it remains the fifth most popular exercise in the U.S. according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Ancient Greeks knew this and thus the Olympics were born. The term “gym” is actually derived from the Greek work “gymnos” meaning naked because athletes trained nude in Greece.

Running falls under a less specific category of fitness known as cardiovascular exercise. Essentially, cardio, as it is known, is endurance exercising. The goal is to keep your heart rate above a certain level to increase blood flow to strengthen the heart and the arteries and burn fat all at once. Activities like running, rowing and elliptical machines are all forms of cardio exercise.

Historically, lifting can be traced back to the eighteenth century. George Washington was even known for his ability to pump iron during his years as president. In comparison to running, resistance training is a practically brand new way of staying in shape.   It’s also known under a variety of names, such as strength training, weight lifting, pumping iron, the pump, pumping and of recent, getting swole.

“I think it’s better because it gets my heart rate going,” said Nikki Stebbins, referring to her routine of running first. Stebbins runs a local Snap Fitness in Lincoln Neb. and is also studying health science. “But from what I’ve been taught your supposed to lift before you run,” said Stebbins.

Stebbins is one of several people who run first to boost heart rate before strength training. “I would say about half, half know what they’re doing, half don’t,” said Stebbins.

“A lot of people print stuff off online, but I don’t they really know what they’re doing because each workout is for a different body type,” said Stebbins.

According to the Department of Labor resistance training is the second most popular form of exercise in the U.S..  Walking, a cardio workout, is first. Regardless of the method, results can be fantastic if done correctly and unfortunately that’s the problem.

“Always lift before you run,” explained Joey Walsh. A banker in his late 20s, Walsh is a marathon runner. As he gets closer to his events he will spend up to five days a week in the gym training. “If you run before you lift you won’t be able to do as much weight or as many reps,” explained Walsh.

Joey Walsh trains on the treadmill at a local gym. A marathon runner, Walsh understands to get the best results he has to understand the science of exercise.

Joey Walsh trains on the treadmill at a local gym. A marathon runner, Walsh understands to get the best results he has to understand the science of exercise.

“There’s a science behind it,” said Walsh, who also explained that running after resistance training should be done carefully due to the possibility of exhaustion.

Walsh is correct.

Science tells us that regardless of what you are trying to achieve in the long run, doing cardio before resistance training is the wrong order.  You won’t burn as much fat if you run before you lift.

And this is the reason why. If we broke the human body into four separate pieces of protein, carbohydrates, fats and glycogen we would have the fuel to our engine, the human heart.

The human body requires enormous amounts of energy and the four mentioned nutrients do just that, but each works in a different way. Protein gives us the ability to build muscles. Fat gives us energy, but excess fat is what leads to being overweight.

Carbohydrates are sugars in foods like bread that give us energy.  Glycogen is the molecule inside carbohydrates that the body breaks down, stores and uses for energy. With exercise, the body will begin to burn off the carbohydrates and glycogen stores, but, whatever carbohydrates have not been burned will be transformed into body fat.

Craig Huenik trains with Joey Walsh. Huenik is a marathon runner who has competed all over the country and stresses running after lifting.

Craig Huenik trains with Joey Walsh. Huenik is a marathon runner who has competed all over the country and stresses running after lifting.

Science has discovered that specific exercises target certain energy stores. Interestingly enough, the human body only uses glycogen and carbohydrates as fuel during resistance training, not body fat.

Running on the other hand, targets either fat or glycogen.  But, the body will only tap into fat as a fuel source once all the glycogen has been burned.  In other words, performing resistance training first will burn off glycogen and carbohydrates. And performing cardio exercises after resistance training will burn pure body fat.

This means you won’t have to run as far to get the results you want as long as you do resistance training first. “I feel like it’s all mind over matter,” said Stebbins. There is no concrete way to judge how much lifting you will need to do in order to burn all the glycogen up. But, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, a typical 30 minute resistance workout of eight to 12 repetitions at a challenging intensity should take care of most of it.

 

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