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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Debate/Discussion: Cardio vs. strength training

Womens Health Magazine

When I first realized the importance of a healthy lifestyle combined with eating right and exercising:  

I was a cardio fiend! 

I'd go to the gym and spend hours on the elliptical trainer, the static bike, the treadmill, the stair stepper...anything cardio related really.

Not until I lost some weight did I venture into the weight room. In my mind:

cardio was for losing weight and strength training was for toning muscles. 

Once I had burned the fat hiding these areas I then started toning them. Sounds logical right?

Fast forward 8 years and I would say that the information out there isn't definitive one way or the other. Personally, I'm no longer one of those people who only goes to the gym for the cardio machines. I also have a real interest in strength training.

I use them both as part of my exercise routine and value them both

However, after a snacking binge, I think first about running to burn off some of those calories and not about pumping iron.

Is this from fact or fiction?

Last week, while browinsg twitter, I came across an interesting tweet from @WomensHealthMag. The article gave a breakdown (based on your needs) on whether cardio or strength training was "better".

  • To burn fat and keep it off = strength training
  • Combat stress = cardio
  • Increase self-confidence = strength
  • Reduce exercise related injuries = strength
  • Live longer = cardio
  • Increase your speed = it was a tie

Yesterday, I read another tweet posted by @katieRUNSthis. She wanted to know how much strength training we runners incorporate into our routines. As well as how much we think we should be doing. So, maybe we only do strength training twice a week but think the magical number is three times a week.

Honestly, I don't know how much I should be doing.

Is there a magical number? 

All I know is that I need both to be a stronger and more efficient runner. Even when I wasn't training I would do both cardio and strength everytime I hit the gym.  I felt I couldn't have one without the other. Yet, in the past I was convinced that cardio was the answer to my healthier lifestyle goals.

What do you think? Which is "better", cardio or strength training? Do you agree with Women's Health Magazine? As a runner, if you do incorporate strength training into your routine, why? If not, why not?


  1. I 100% Believe that Strength Training is just as important as cardio.. regardless of your goals! I believe they balance each other out. I WISH I could have incorporated more strength training into my marathon training, it only makes you are stronger runner. I started adding more strength LATE into the game, but am aching to add it in more regularly once training is over :)

  2. Thanks for posting this, the details on which to do for various goals is very helpful

  3. I incorporate strength training into my running/training routines because I am long on endurance but don't have the strength that could help me power up hills and have a strong kick at the finish.

    I both agree and disagree with the article. Long term I know that muscle burns more calories than fat so building muscle is super important to weight loss or maintenance.

    That being said, you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 lb and cardio calories burned add up a lot faster. I know this is because we don't count the afterburn provided by strength training (because it's hard to determine), but mentally I think most people need the motivation of the high numbers.

    The only good option, in my opinion, is a good mix of both no matter what your goals are. It's a cover all your bases approach but you get the best of both worlds!

    Great post & question by the way :)

  4. @Brooke: Once I started losing weight I was heavy on the strength training. I only started running "seriously" last year. So it was easier for me to incorporate it into my running routine because it was always there anyway. I find that strength training that works the shoulders and the hamstrings have been the most useful to me. Although I work my entire body.

    @Julie: You're welcome! I'm NO expert but I hope it helped someone!

    @Stephanie: I completely agree. People are addicted to the calorie counts on cardio machines! When you go to the weight room there are no such counters on the machines so it's like a guessing game. But yea, I go with the "cover all bases" approach like you!

  5. This blog I read, I think it's called runaddicts or some variation on that had a similar article to the one you are referring to. In my opinion to drop weight fast you have to have lots of cardio, but strength training of some sorts will only add to and support weightloss and healthy muscle tone. I'm working on adding some strength training but overall I'm all about high caloric burn right now.

  6. I'll have to look up that one. But it's interesting how people use cardio and strength training to their benefits. I was reading a blog the other day about how one girl does NO cardio at all. Only strength training because she doesn't want to lose weight. A balance is always good, in my opinion, but some people need more or less of some things.