Leg Day vs. Cardio: A Phoenix Challenge
March 12th, 2018
Dayne Patterson and Noelle Viger challenge each other to an exercise of their choice to see who hurts more.
By Dayne Patterson & Noelle Viger
Dayne’s Experience with Cardio:
The last time I had done any substantial amount of cardio was during my senior year in high school. I played hockey a few times a week and was also enrolled in a course which included intensive exercise 2-3 times a week that was based on muscular endurance rather than muscular strength. But, because running somewhere without any specific purpose (i.e. running away from my responsibilities) seemed unnecessary to me, I chose to do it as infrequently as possible.
Running, I think in any level of fitness, is most difficult out of the gate. Your body feels unprepared, your lungs sting and feel heavy, and your breaths are short and taste of iron. None of it sounds delightful in the slightest. But, once you get past the short, aching breaths and numbing in your legs the running becomes easier—and, in my experience, somewhat enjoyable. I was definitely out of my pace by trying to run 6.5 km, but I experienced that “runner’s high” when I got home—admittedly, I felt it right before I went back to bed for a post-exercise nap.
Although during the run I did somewhat enjoy the scenery and the exercise felt easier as it continued, I undoubtedly enjoy the gym much more. Moreover, in my biased opinion, leg day is much more difficult than running. The soreness you experience after a full leg day is unparalleled and can make simple tasks, like sitting down, a chore—especially for those who have never worked their legs. I enjoy working out in opposition to running because I can handle pushing myself harder if I know it will only last another 30-45 seconds before a rest, rather than running in which you experience less stress over a longer period. And, although after the long run my legs felt exhausted, leg days focus the stress to specific areas on your leg and inherently can exercise them more than running ever will. In conclusion, leg days produce more soreness the day of the workout, as well as the days that follow, but running may require a little more perseverance during the activity because rest is never “one more rep” away.
Noelle’s Experience with Leg Day:
The last time that I had an experience doing heavy weights in a gym was never. The closest I’ve gotten to a traditional “leg day” is experimenting with the different machines at the gym. In high school, I did have to go to physical therapy to prevent and deal with a knee injury, but there I mostly did light weights and resistance band activities. However, I have been running for years and while I really enjoy it, I also think it’s one of the hardest forms of exercise.
Going to the gym to do leg day with Dayne was an interesting experience. I do go to the gym, but when I’m there I most often do light weights and body weight exercises. Being one of the people at the squat rack was interesting at least. I didn’t really like doing a higher intensity workout completely inside. I usually run outside, unless the snow is too built up on the roads, so doing a hard, high-intensity workout in a stuffy gym was not really something I enjoyed.
Also, it is nice to have the option to do a workout like running outside, where I don’t really have to interact with other people or wait for a turn on a machine. Working out in solitude can be peaceful, and it is something that I look forward to.
However, with that being said, I do understand why people enjoy or prefer leg day to running. It is a great alternative to train, tone, and strengthen your legs if you don’t enjoy running or you have an injury preventing you from running.
While I may not be a person who does leg day, I do recognize that strength training is valuable, and is recommended for distance runners. There are benefits to strength training; according to Runner’s World, “general strength training has value, but specific strength training that enhances the ability of the muscles to perform as they do in running, is the most effective.” This specific strength training can help prevent injuries and correct running technique.
With all this being said, I did have fun doing leg day with Dayne, but it is not something that I will continue to do, outside of specific strength exercises to prevent injury. I recognize the difficulties of leg day, but I still think running is a more challenging form of exercise, but one that is much more enjoyable for me.
Neither of us would admit that the other’s workout strategy was harder, and we decided it was because when you enjoy the workout, the pain is tolerable.
In the interest of health, both activities will have their pros and cons—and doing both regularly is, naturally, the best option.
Yet, apart from the use of your legs, the two exercises are very limited in their similarity: cardio works on the endurance of your muscles, whereas leg day works on the power and strength you can exert in short spurts.
Muscular strength, an aspect of intensive leg exercises, can increase metabolism, build muscle, and positively affect your mood. With an increased metabolism and larger muscle mass, your body requires a higher calorie intake and will typically cause you to burn fat more effectively due to a raised resting metabolism.
Alternatively, running and other cardio exercises actually increase cognitive abilities, like memory, as well as boost self-esteem and assist in a good night’s sleep. Running also is easier on the wallet, as it only requires a nice pair of shoes and a place to jog, whereas strength training is generally done at a gym from anywhere between $10-50 a month.
If this has sparked your interest in exercise, the UBC Okanagan Gym charges $85 for a semester, and $35 for a single month pass.
To watch our challenge on YouTube click here!