Does Workout Order Matter?

My coach has given me workouts that specified swimming first, then running. This resulted in the following steps once I reach the gym:

1. Change into swim gear

2. Shower/rinse

3. Swim

4. Shower/rinse off chlorine

5. Change into running gear

6. Run

7. Change into swim gear

8. Shower/rinse

9. Stretch in hot tub

10. Full shower

However, if I were to run first instead of swimming, the steps would be:

1. Run (I’m already in my run gear when I get to the gym, so I don’t have to change into it at the gym)

2. Change into swim gear

3. Shower/rinse

4. Swim

5. Stretch in hot tub

6. Full shower

In other words, I cut 10 steps down to 6 because I don’t have to do an extra two changes and extra set of showering/rinsing to go along with the changes. So I asked my coach the following question:

Me: How much of a difference does it make to do the workouts in the order you specify? For example, today you had me do swimming, then running. If I had done running, then swimming, would that make a difference?

Coach: In general, it doesn’t matter, but there are some exceptions. The ability to do a quality swim after a run is significantly compromised. The swim requires the most sensitive muscle memory, and swimming fatigued reinforces sloppy form. Always best to swim when fresh. There may be some days when you have no choice, and that is OK, but 80% of your swimming should be when you are rested.

So there you go, it does matter, and this makes sense. I was swimming after my other exercises previously, and once I switched to swimming first, I noticed a huge difference in how I felt while swimming. Whether that will translate into difference in performance in races I don’t have personal experience with yet, but we’ll see.

  • Darrell Burns

    Try stretching outside of the hot tub, then you cut your steps down to 7…not quite as good as 6, but better than 10. The hot tub stretches aren’t really that mandatory, are they?

  • Joshua

    No, but I think you get a better stretch if you’re in the hot tub. I know for my hamstrings I pretty much have to stretch in the hot tub due to my past injury.