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A friend who was new to the running scene asked me if running after leg day is fine and if it brings any benefits. I’ve personally run after a leg day multiple times so I figured I’m in a great position to answer this question with real experience.
As a general rule, a low to moderate intensity run after a leg day is fine. It can even help boost muscle recovery by increasing blood flow to the area. However, high-intensity runs could induce more damage to the muscle and delay muscle recovery.
Other factors could affect your performance and recovery following a leg day. Ahead, we will discuss those factors in detail. I’ll also share with you some tips on how to run after leg day successfully.
Should You Run After Leg Day
If you’ve been following a strength program and then suddenly you decided to sign up for a marathon training program, chances are, you’re gonna have to run right after or the day after your leg day.
And if you’re one of those guys who’re addicted to ”muscle growth”, running after a leg probably raised your eyebrow. Why? Well, for one, running is predominantly leg bias so wouldn’t it hinder muscle recovery, therefore, hindering growth?
It could, but it most likely wouldn’t, here’s why.
Resistance exercises (squats, leg press, etc.) induce a different type of stress compared to running.
One, they don’t use the same types of muscle fibers. Resistance exercises activate type II or fast-twitch muscle fibers which are responsible for quick-burst exercises like weightlifting and sprinting. While running at a low to moderate intensity uses Type I or slow-twitch muscle fibers which are less powerful but more resistant to fatigue.
Two, resistance exercise offers a different type of stimulation from running.
That means, running at low to moderate intensity right after or the day after leg day should be fine and there should be nothing to worry about.
In fact, evidence support that light muscular exercise like jogging can promote lactate clearance which can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
However, I did mention that high-intensity runs like sprinting or any type of short-duration burst of energy fall under the type II muscle fibers and that it does a very similar stimulus to resistance exercise.
Therefore, high-intensity exercises following a leg day can induce further damage to your leg muscles inhibiting muscle recovery. In other words, avoid doing high-intensity running for at least 48 hours after a hard leg day.
You can run at low to moderate intensity right after or the day after leg day but you should avoid high intensity running like sprints, uphill and HIIT for at least 48 hours following a hard leg day.Runners Getup
The definition of a hard leg day is different for all people. But in general, somewhere around 3 weighted leg exercises or anything within 75% of your max squats performed for multiple sets and reps is a hard leg day.
Why Other People Advice Against Running After Leg Day
There are a handful of people advising against running after leg day. Some of them point out that it could lead to overtraining.
Though overtraining is a real thing and it could happen to anyone, it’s not that easy to get to that point, most especially for beginners.
Most people who get to that overtraining status are the ones performing at a very high level and are constantly trying to break their limits with a little tapering week or rest days.
For most of us in the intermediate level, it’s a far stretch so there’s really no reason to be scared.
As long as you run in low to moderate intensity following leg day, you’re going to be fine.
My Muscles Are Sore, Should I Run With Sore Legs?
There’s no escaping the fact that running after leg day hurts and if you’re experiencing that, you’re not alone. Everyone who has had any experience with running after a leg day had to deal with running with sore legs.
As a general rule, running with sore legs is fine as long as you keep the mileage and intensity low. It could even help accelerate lactate clearance which could reduce the duration of the soreness.
Just keep in mind that a recovery run is not intended to improve your running performance, therefore, you shouldn’t try something new and hard during this type of run. Instead, consider it as a way to flush out the lactate in your body.
Advantages Of Running After Leg Day
- It helps with lactate clearance that could potentially reduce deloayed onset muscle soreness
- You can add more miles to your weekly mileage by not skipping your running session
- It could boost recovery in your leg muscles by increasing blood flow to the area
- It helps build mental toughness, you’ll be able to push through despite pain
Disadvantages of Running After Leg Day
- The line between moderate and high intensity is often thin for most beginners, you could unintentionally run high intensity and delay muscle recovery
- Running after a hard leg session is painful, no matter what intensity
Tips On Running After Leg Day
In case you’ve decided to make running after leg day a habit, here are a few tips that could help you do it successfully.
1. Balance Your Training Program
The number one thing you should consider when you’re building your training program is your priority.
If you’re someone training for a marathon, then you’re gonna have to reduce the amount of leg strength exercises in favor of getting more training miles at a slightly faster pace.
There’s absolutely no way you could train for a marathon without sacrificing a few of your leg workouts (considering you’re more of a strength athlete).
If you previously do squats at 75% of your max plus other accessory exercises like Bulgarian split squats and lunges, you will have to reduce that to put in more training miles.
You may end up just doing split squats and lunges so you don’t cause too much muscle soreness that you won’t be able to run at a decent pace the next day.
In contrast, if you’re more of a strength athlete just looking for a way to increase your endurance, then most of your runs are going to be easy runs in favor of doing harder strength training.
It could be anywhere from 15 to 30 mins of low-intensity run.
Recommended read: A Runner’s Guide To Cross-Training (With List Of Exercises)
2. Eat carbs every after workout
While common fitness advice we get from”weight loss gurus” is to reduce carb intake, that’s not necessarily true for performance athletes.
Carbohydrates are the source of glucose, the body’s source of energy for immediate needs. Glucose that isn’t used is stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen.
When you work out a lot, your body uses the glycogen stored in your muscles for fuel. When it runs out, your body finds another source of energy such as fats.
And though burning fats are desired by most people, it’s not necessarily the muscles’ energy source of choice. Therefore, it could affect your athletic performance.
The best way to replace those glycogen stores is by eating carbohydrates following a hard workout.
Recommended read: Why Runners Eat Pasta Before A Marathon (Carb Loading Guide)
3. Always Stretch After Training
Make it a habit to stretch every after you workout. It helps keep your muscles loose and prevents overuse injuries.
The video below is an example of a good stretching routine for runners.
I have personal experience on running both right after and a day after leg day and while I agree that it hurts, there’s really nothing to worry about.
If you’re worried about not being able to recover or losing your strength gains, it’s not going to happen as long as you keep it light and listen to your body.
Since you’ve asked this query, I’m quite sure that you’re someone who lifts and run. And so, you might also be wondering what you should do first, running or lifting.
If so, I made an entire article based on that topic right here. You can learn more about what strategies you can apply based on your goals and which exercise is a better use of your time.