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Cardio or strength training: what should I do first?

Listen to the podcast episode here

As a high-schooler I was starting to get involved with exercise independently from sports. I started running regularly and would do strength training workouts here and there. I thought the only effective way to accomplish anything through exercise was with cardio (running, biking, etc.) I continued with this belief into college as I would head to the campus wellness center and bike for 30 minutes every day. I enjoyed it but after a while I became so bored with my routine and felt like I had plateaued. My junior year of college, my friend took me to a barre class at her hometown studio one weekend and I LOVED it. The music, the challenge, everything about it. And since then (that was in 2015/2016) barre has been my primary form of exercise and now my livelihood through The Studio!

Personally, I feel the very best with this form of exercise. I'm never hurting from it (beyond some mild muscle soreness occasionally), I'm still not bored of it (8ish years so far), and most of all I feel that I get more from it than I give.

However, other forms of exercise have their place, and I realize barre might not be for everyone. How do we figure out what type of exercise is best for you?

First we need to think about the specificity principle. This principle basically believes that your type of training needs to be relevant and similar to the type of activities/sports you're doing in your life.

For example: if you're a marathoner your training needs to be primarily running

If your job requires lots of lifting/manual labor your training needs to be primarily strength training and focusing on body mechanics

If you're a stay at home mom who is in the floor with kids and/or maintaining responsibilities within the home your training needs to focus on flexibility and strength training

Now-knowing the specificity principle does it matter if you start with cardio or strength training first if you're beginning a new workout plan or regimen?

The answer is what my PT school professors used to always tell me: "It depends"

Strength training will create more muscle mass. More muscle mass helps to improve your metabolism, your resistance to stress, helps to balance hormone levels, and much more.

(Also strength training can also strengthen the heart and have positive cardiovascular effects as well)

Cardio can have massive positive effects on your cardiovascular health and more. However, excess cardio can have negative effects on the endocrine system (hormones) by increasing stress to the heart and nervous system as well as one study found that excessive vigorous cardiovascular exercise caused negative remodeling of the heart longterm.

In conclusion, it doesn't matter which type or form you start first. Keep in mind the specificity principle and how your body responds to stress to determine if you should prioritize one over the other.

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