There are three factors to consider when mapping out your workouts and deciding if a two-a-day schedule is suitable for you: intensity level, purpose of the workout, and current fitness.
1. Intensity Level: A training stress is a load that progresses over time to promote physiological adaptations and improved performance. Intensity is one of the most important factors that dictates the amount of stress that results from a workout. It is important to balance high-intensity workouts with low-intensity workouts in order to ensure proper recovery. If you want to go for a tempo run (high intensity) and take a barre class (low intensity) in the same day, great. You do not want to follow up a hard run with a hard high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, because your performance will likely suffer and you could make yourself susceptible to injury.
2. Purpose of the Workout: In pursuing your overall fitness goal, a helpful tip is to determine what the purpose of your workouts is toward that goal. If you are in the midst of a training cycle, be sure that doubling up isn’t going to ruin your effort for a tough interval run you have two days later. On the other side, if you need to fit in a run and a basic strength training session, using the morning/evening design is a great way to fit them both in while allowing some recovery in between. Or if you want to have a tough workout and then take a restorative yoga class to focus on mobility and stretching, that can be very beneficial as well.
3. Current Fitness Level: Take a step back and truly assess your fitness level. Many of us have a more-is-better mentality; however, that is not always the case and it can lead to injury. If you are just starting out with exercise or if you have any orthopedic injuries, doing one workout a day followed by a rest day may be more beneficial. If you have the strong foundation and training history to support two workouts, just be sure to keep an eye out for signs of overtraining and don’t skip rest days.
The important thing to remember is that the goal of any exercise program is to improve performance and stay injury free. So listen to your body, incorporate proper recovery techniques (sleep, massage, rest days), and maintain a healthy diet and hydration during your training program, whether it’s once or twice a day!
Pamela Geisel, MS, CSCS, CPT is a Performance Specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance. She graduated with honors from Towson University with a bachelor’s in exercise science and received her master’s in exercise physiology from Adelphi University. She has been in the fitness field since 2007 and has a special interest in using strength training to maximize performance and reduce injury for runners. Geisel is a long distance runner and has completed five marathons, more than a dozen half-marathons, and many 5K and 10K races.