For some runners, getting in one run per day is a feat in and of itself. And, let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: running or exercising one time per day most days in the week is fantastic and should by no means be considered inadequate.
However, some runners have more time, energy, and motivation and are eager to consider working out twice a day.
Sometimes called “doubles” or “two a days,” working out twice a day can look like anything from running twice a day to running every morning and strength training in the evening, to doing a yoga class at lunch and a cardio or strength workout at night, and anything in between.
Can I Workout Twice A Day?
Any type of exercise places some amount of stress on your body, so it’s natural to ask, “Can I work out twice a day?” or wonder if working out twice a day is beneficial or harmful to your body.
In general, it can be completely healthy, and sometimes even beneficial, to work out twice a day, but there are also scenarios in which two a days are counterproductive, if not a definitive net negative on your body. The differences lie in the specifics of the workouts you do and your overall health and fitness goals.
In fact, from athletes to everyday people just looking to stay fit, many people follow a two-a-day workout routine multiple days per week every week and find it to be the training structure that works best logistically for their lifestyle and/or yields the best physical results.
What Does Working Out Twice A Day Entail?
As runners, we’re inclined to immediately picture running doubles when someone mentions working out twice a day, and while this is a relatively common practice among elite and professional runners, working out twice a day can entail nearly any iteration of stacking two workouts within the same day.
Sure, it encompasses running in the morning and again in the afternoon or evening, but the options are endless.
Doing yoga followed by an indoor cycling workout, a long run followed by mat pilates, resistance training after swimming, and rowing and running hills after work are among the near countless iterations of exercise routines that qualify as working out twice a day.
In a nutshell, working out twice a day simply means you perform two bouts of exercise, either of the same or different types, within the same day but separated by a period of time.
According to this definition, most of the time, people do not consider running and then immediately lifting weights or doing yoga right after their bike ride to be working out twice a day, as the exercise session is continuous and not broken up into two distinct periods in the same day.
Pros Of Working Out Twice A Day
Depending on the type of exercise you do, and the intensity and duration of your workouts, working out twice a day can double down on many of the positive benefits of exercise.
Promotes Overall Health
Exercise can help support weight loss, reduce blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, lower blood lipids, regulate blood sugar, and reduce the risk of several lifestyle diseases. Any minutes you accrue being physically active in the week can contribute to these positive benefits of moving your body.
Enables Increase in Training Volume
Working out twice a day has also been shown to provide additional benefits over working out just once per day, especially when doing so enables you to increase your overall training volume.
In other words, the benefits of two a days are likely amplified if you can fit in a 45-minute workout in the morning and a 30-minute workout in the evening rather than just a single 60–minute workout in the morning. The doubles will result in a total of 75 minutes of exercise, 15 minutes longer than if you did just one longer bout.
Improves Strength and Endurance
For example, studies have shown that increasing your training volume by working out twice a day can lead to greater improvements in muscle strength and size due to enhanced muscle protein synthesis, fat oxidation, mitochondrial development, and power output.
There’s also evidence to suggest that strength training twice a day yields greater neuromuscular adaptations than single daily training sessions. This enhanced muscle fiber recruitment leads to practical increases in muscular strength and power.
Working out twice a day can also cause favorable metabolic adaptations that contribute to glycogen sparing, leading to improvements in aerobic endurance. This bodes well for distance runners looking to stave off the dreaded bonk around miles 20-24 of the marathon.
Boosts Mental Health
The mental and emotional benefits of exercise should not be overlooked. Exercise produces endorphins, which elevate your mood and provide you with a sense of well-being.
Low- and moderate-intensity exercise also lowers levels of cortisol, helping your body and mind feel less stressed and more at peace. However, the body perceives vigorous exercise as a stressor itself, so hard workouts usually increase cortisol levels.
Exercise can also improve your focus and energy, so working out twice a day can give you a double boost of feel-good chemicals, reduce pent-up stress, and help your brain feel sharp two times in the same day.
Helps You Fit It All In
Finally, working out twice a day can have practical benefits. Many people have inflexible schedules and lack a longer block of uninterrupted time to work out. By splitting your exercise into two sessions, you can fit in all the movement and training you’d like to do without waking up hours before dawn or upending your entire life schedule to fit in a continuous workout.
Similarly, some runners don’t have time, motivation, or energy to stack the two workouts they want to do back to back in a single session in their day, so doing doubles can allow them to get both types of exercise in.
For example, if you want to run 5 days a week and strength train 3 times per week, there’s at least one day where you need to fit in both. If you’re tired after your run or have to drive somewhere across town to your gym, it might not be practical to lift weights right after you finish your threshold run.
Instead, you can stretch, shower, and have breakfast at home after your morning run and then head to the gym for your strength training before dinner. Working out twice a day allows for a mental and physical reset before hitting your second workout.
Cons Of Working Out Twice A Day
Inherent in the workout routine of exercising twice a day is the risk of overtraining, injury, and mental and physical burnout, particularly if you are in fact increasing your training volume with your doubles.
It should come as no surprise that higher training volumes are associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries because your body is doing more physical work. Moreover, working out twice a day reduces the time your body has to rest between bouts of physical exertion and stress.
Working out twice a day can also cause cortisol levels to increase, which then can suppress your immune system, impact your appetite, and disrupt sleep patterns. The greater the intensity and duration of your workouts, the more they will increase cortisol.
Lastly, working out twice a day can be mentally taxing and have the obvious impact of taking up more time and energy in the day, whether just from the additional minutes of exercising, or commuting to and from a workout location, preparing your gear, showering and so on.
Naturally, if you want to work out twice a day, the goal needs to be capitalizing on the benefits while mitigating the potential risks.
#1: Don’t Do Two a Days Every Day
Give your body ample recovery time by limiting the number of days you’re exercising twice. Similarly, if you’re just starting working out twice a day, increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of the secondary workouts gradually over time.
For example, you might start by adding an easy 15-minute shake-out ride on an indoor cycle in the evening on the days you have a threshold run or interval session in the morning and progress to 30 minutes after a couple of weeks.
#2: Pair Smartly
To reduce the risk of injury and maximize fitness gains, double up with two very different forms of exercise, such as high-impact cardio with strength or strength with flexibility, or speed/power with low-impact cardio.
Where possible, try to choose exercises that use different muscle groups. For example, if you cycle in the morning, do upper body and core strength training exercises rather than a leg workout.
#3: Be Mindful of Intensity
Going full-blast for both workouts can be overtaxing, so mix up the intensity of your doubles so that at least one workout is more of a recovery in terms of modality (yoga, walking or deep water walking,) or effort level.
#4: Prioritize Your Primary Workout
Make your harder workout your first workout if the secondary workout will fatigue your body. If you want to run and lift weights and your running workout is your priority, run in the morning and save the lifting for later in the day so that you’re not running on tired muscles.
For maximum results, try to leave an ideal six-hour rest window in between workouts.
#5: Monitor Your Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate can provide a window into how well you’re recovering from workouts. If you notice your heart rate upon waking to be trending upward, it’s a sign you need to cut back and give your body more recovery time.
#6: Keep a Fitness Log
Record all your workouts, including subjective data on how you feel, to help stay on top of niggles and signs of overtraining.
Honor the rest day and ensure you’re getting a full rest day weekly or at least every other week.
#8: Fuel Like a Pro
If you’re going to adopt the workout habits of professional athletes, you have to fuel your body with the same desire for excellence. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods, and ensure your caloric and nutrient needs are met to keep your body healthy.
#9: Listen to Your Body
As always, listen to your body and modify your training schedule accordingly. The goal of working out twice a day is to improve your health and fitness, not detract from your health or quality of life.