Our company thrives on making exercise time-efficient. For those looking to go bigger than their everyday fitness routine, whether it’s for a triathlon or a Tough Mudder, learning how to safely exercise for longer across multiple disciplines becomes vitally important. Here are a few rules to ensure success.
Tips for Safely Doing Twice-a-Day Workouts
Warm up and cool down
While these things are always important, the more workout volume you have in your day the more they’re necessary to reduce your risk of injury. Cool downs help lengthen contracted muscles, which help you get ready for your next session. On days when you’re doing multiple hard workouts, warm-ups are doubly important because they will signal you if your body isn’t ready for the second workout, in which case you should NOT do it, no matter what your schedule says.
When doing twice-a-day workouts, it’s very tempting to skip warm-ups and cool-downs because they add time but, as someone for whom multiple daily workouts have almost been a religion, take it from me that this is a bad idea. I’ve had minor injuries cut short many training programs by trying to cut corners.
Re-evaluate your diet plan
Eating 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day can be great for shedding some pounds when doing a moderate amount of exercise, but multiple hard workouts a day change your nutrition template. You need calories to recover from each workout and underfeeding your body is the quickest way to stall your metabolism.
When you do twice-a-day workouts, you should add at least as many calories as the second workout burns. Since workout caloric burn is a direct result of how hard you try, you need to estimate this yourself. In a given hour of exercise, half-baked efforts generally only burn a few hundred calories, while keeping your pedal to the metal can result in over a thousand.
A good way to tell if you’re eating enough is performance. If your workouts are improving, you’re doing OK. However, after three or four bad sessions in a row, you likely need to add food AND rest.
Take rest and recovery days/weeks
Hopefully your twice-a-day schedule was written by someone who knows what they’re doing; combining workouts takes some thought. Most programs that add multiple hard workouts take into account how long your body needs to recover from that type of training. This is accomplished with active rest days and recovery weeks. Like skipping your warm-up and cool-down — which often happens because these things are “boring” — your risk of injury increases greatly when you skip planned recovery days.
Time your nutrition
Adding food to your diet is best accomplished by understanding how your body utilizes calories at different times during the day. Before and after you eat are the main times to consider. Pre-workout, you don’t want many calories. Just enough to ensure your glycogen stores are topped off. Post-workout is the most vital time. Proper eating in the hour following your workout will help you recover from one session so that you’re ready for the next.
It’s worth discussing the need for glycogen in shorter workouts. Workouts under 45 minutes or so rarely extinguish all of your glycogen. This changes what you should consume post-workout, mainly the need for sugar to rush protein into your muscles. When doing more than one workout, assuming they are both hard, your body will often burn glycogen at “rest” between the two workouts, so you should add the time of both workouts to figure out whether you need your glycogen topped off. This is a topic in the article linked to in the next section.
The harder you exercise, the more important supplements are. Most effective sports supplements are designed around the nutrient timing windows discussed above. Good supplements target pre-, post-, and during-exercise windows, as well as addressing night and morning, the time when your body has slept and fasted — two actions to promote hormone production, which means recovery.
When your body’s trying to recover, it burns calories, which requires water. This means that standard 6-8 glasses of water a day the experts say you should drink goes up. We like to use “half your weight in ounces of water” as the gold standard for hydration. Adding another quarter for each workout should be your minimum target.
Listen to your body
After considering all of the above, the most important rule is to listen to your body. There are no hard and fast rules about doing twice-a-day workouts except that it puts excess stress on your body. If you can keep your body’s recovery processes working properly, more training equals faster and better results.
But that’s a big “if.” Be careful. A good rule to follow is to assess how your body’s responding while warming up and basing the following workout on that response. If it’s stiff and sore, but still working properly, drop a gear from full throttle. If you feel lazy — which will likely happen at some point — but everything feels OK, you can push 100 percent. But if you’re lethargic, meaning that your warm-up doesn’t get you feeling springy and ready for action — or, worse, makes you feel in any way brittle or susceptible to injury — shut things down and try again the next day. Because no training is beneficial if you can’t recover from it.