Fitness junkies and newbie exercisers alike tend to think that if a little bit is good, more must be better — especially when it comes to their workouts. Chances are you’ve even considered doubling up on your daily workouts (if you haven’t done so already).
But before you tack on a second workout, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
CONSIDER YOUR GOALS
First, you need to consider whether two-a-days are appropriate for your experience level and fitness goals.
Professional athletes, for example, often rely on two-a-day workouts to maintain fitness while building other skills and tangential benefits for sports performance. However, if you’re new to exercise or strength training, doing two workouts per day could actually limit your progress, especially if you don’t watch the intensity.
See, beginners typically need longer recovery periods between their workouts, as their muscles aren’t accustomed to exercise the way an intermediate or advanced exerciser is, and if you want to continue seeing progress from your workouts, you need to give your body adequate time to recover before you hit those muscles again. “If you’re constantly breaking your muscles down, you don’t actually give them time to repair and grow,” says Lauren Pak, NASM-certified personal trainer and co-owner of Achieve Fitness in Somerville, Massachusetts.
PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL
Now, once you’ve been training consistently 2–3 days per week for approximately two years, you could start looking at tacking on a second daily workout because, at this point, your body should be prepared to handle greater frequency and/or intensity. Chances are you’ve also gotten a better sense of how your body reacts to different exercise intensities, so you’ll (hopefully) know when it’s time to back off from two-a-days.
That said, exercise is very individual, and some people may adapt more easily than others. According to Pak, the important thing is you feel like you’re recovering well from your current workouts, and you’re adding that second workout in because it brings you energy. “If it makes you feel good, then absolutely go for it,” she says.
MIX UP YOUR WORKOUTS
It’s also worth noting that doing two workouts per day doesn’t have to mean going for a long or hard run in the morning and then tackling a heavy strength-training session in the evening. You might choose to go for an easy run or a brisk walk in the morning right after you wake up because it brings you energy. Later, you might book a Pilates class or swim laps to help you unwind after a long day. “Everyone should be active every day in some way, whether it’s just taking the stairs or walking or yoga,” Pak says, “but that doesn’t mean it has to be intense workouts every day or twice a day.”
However, if you’re doing two workouts per day because you feel like you have to, it might be time to step back and think about why, Pak says. “I don’t think there are many people out there who need to work out twice a day in order to get the results they’re looking for,” she adds.
One exception would be if you’re trying to maintain muscular strength while training for a cardio endurance event like a triathlon. In this scenario, intense two-a-days may be appropriate. After all, working toward multiple fitness goals often requires a high training volume that can be hard to fit into a single session, so you might choose to do your cardio in the morning and your strength training in the evening.
Just be aware that most people can’t sustain this level of training indefinitely. Once your event is complete, dial back on your training for a bit to give your body the chance to recover.