I wrote the other day that I would start looking into two a day workouts – my curiosity being piqued by a very nice long stretch without injury – or much recovery pain. To start, I went back to my Endomondo Log and starting on June 18th, I did two a days every Thursday and three a days (sometimes four) every Saturday through October.
My two a days on Thursday are fairly simple, I get home from work and immediately head out on a 14-16 mile ride. This will take anywhere from 39 to 45 minutes depending on where my legs are. After that I’ll sit around and hang out with the family for an hour or two then head out to my normal Thursday 5k.
Saturdays were a bit of a different story. I run at a friend’s house every Saturday morning, so at about 8 am I would jump on my bike and ride down to his house – about 12-1/2 miles. Once I get there, I’ll go through a bottle of water and a cup of coffee waiting for the rest of the guys to show up (usually 30 minutes to an hour). We’d run somewhere between 7 and 10 miles at a leisurely pace (9-1/2 minute miles). If it was warm out when I got back, I might swim for a bit and then get straight into lunch where we’d talk about upcoming events, the day’s run or whatever else pops up. After about 45 minutes or so I’d get suited back up and head home on my bike, usually the same way I came but every now and again I’d get crazy and take the long 19 mile way home. So I wasn’t doing any of the activities one right after the other, there were distinct breaks in between each one but I also wasn’t leaving hours between each workout either. Now, this approach had its positives – I made more distance than I thought possible and I did so without injuring myself. On the other hand, the possible negative was that out of fear of injury, I didn’t push myself as hard as I could have. If I was a glass half empty guy I would concentrate on the latter. I’m not so I’ll stick with the former.
So that leaves me with a little research to do. Was I right, or wrong? I would argue that whatever the doctors say I had fun and I did that without getting hurt so it’s all good…
Beginner Triathlete says this: “Yes, there are fitness benefits to be gained in these combined sessions, but there are also strength and fitness benefits to be gained in having time between sessions. In most all cases it is best NOT to combine ‘KEY’ workout days if at all possible”. [Not exactly what I do but close – my two and three a days are not all hardcore]. Here’s a forum on Runner’s World where several posters chime in – some do quite a bit more than I did. Joe Friel gives the standard straddling of the fence – it’s good and bad.
In the end, I wasn’t really able to find too much against multiple workout days – as long as one takes care not to over train. There was no information available on how I do my multiples. In the end, there are a couple of things that matter more to me as far as two, or three a days are concerned. One is that I need to know I can handle the distance and the only way to really know this before the race is to do the distance. This is easy for an Olympic but time will be too limited to be able to drop six hours every Saturday over the summer which gets to my original plan: 12.5 mile ride to the running club, 12.5 mile run, swim, 12.5-19 mile ride home on Saturdays… I’ll fit in some long rides in the process, I’ve signed up for one and will sign up for another in a couple of weeks. By the time summer rolls around all I’ll have to do is add in a few trips across the lake and back and I’ll be ready.
As to the question, do two and three a days help condition a body for recovery, if I go by experience I would have to say absolutely but there’s a caveat to this that is prevalent throughout all of the dozens of articles I’ve read on the subject over the past two days. The workouts cannot be too intense, or should allow for one active recovery workout and one intense workout, proper hydration and nutrition is a must – and when we’re burning 3,000 + calories in one day this isn’t exactly easy, and the timing of refueling matters.
One caveat at a time, this article from Runner’s World sums up the need for one of the two workouts to be a recovery pace: “I definitely felt the advantages of running twice a day. My morning run was easy enough that I wasn’t exhausted in the afternoon. But I wasn’t fresh either, so it got me used to training through fatigue. I always re-hydrated, rested, and refueled before the afternoon run, so I had a much better chance of hitting a quality pace than if I’d tried to grind out those same miles on the end of one long run. Here’s how to make doubles work for you”.
This article covers refueling, and making sure to take in enough carbs to re-prime the body’s pump: “If there was an unlimited supply of energy coming in, then it would only make sense that you’re going to recovery quite quickly and still have energy to spare. This is often the case when you’re on a bulking diet.
Low carb diets in particular are going to impact recovery the most, since carbohydrates are the main macro-nutrient that is going to go towards filling muscle glycogen stores and essentially preparing you for your next workout session.
If your diet does not have you eating many carbs apart from the post-workout period, you aren’t going to have much to ‘prime’ your body with before the second workout of the day.
For this reason, if you are planning to do twice a day workouts, it would be a very smart idea to consider altering your diet slightly in order to accommodate to this”.
One problem for me is prevalent throughout most of the articles I’ve read: I don’t allow enough time between workouts. I’m heating up for the ride down to the running club, cooling down before the run, going out for a long run, cooling down and refueling for an hour or so and then getting right back on my bike to ride back – and the articles I’ve read recommend at least 4 hours rest between workouts: “So what’s the catch? Here are some general basics: Allow for at least six hours between each session to give your body time to recover. That mean’s you’ll do one workout in the morning and one in the afternoon or night. Make sure you stay hydrated and eat proper pre- and post-workout meals. Warm-ups and cool-downs are still mandatory; the stretches you did this morning don’t count for tonight, too. Treat your body with respect”. If I had to guess, if I’m not careful, the manner in which I do two and three a days has the potential to hurt me. This, however, has been the opposite of my experience. I can go longer, farther and faster and recover quickly and this has translated into one very happy, much hotter me.
Traditionally though, the one important thing I make sure to do is rest on Sunday. If I want to get my mileage over the 100 mile mark I might go for a very easy ride to loosen my legs up but if I’m the least bit beat I’ll take the full day off and cut the grass.
Have a fantastic rest of the weekend – and thank God it’s Sunday – a day of rest.
Editing Note: I posted this originally at 10 pm, about an hour passed my bed time. I wasn’t finished with it and I went to hit the “save draft” button and hit the “publish” button by accident. I finished it this morning.