If you're as obsessed with fitness as we are, chances are you've had your fair share of two-a-day workouts. With so many fun classes and routines to choose from, it's hard to pick just one! Working out twice a day is definitely not a bad idea, but things can go awry if you're not doing it properly.
We spoke with some powerhouse trainers about how safe these doubled-up days are and the right way to incorporate them into our schedule to avoid injury, over-training, and exhaustion.
"You can do two-a-days if you do them smart," said Emily Abbate, fitness expert, CPT, and Spin instructor at Swerve Fitness in New York City.
And remember, you're taking your training to a more serious level. "Two workouts a day shouldn't be taken lightly," said DIAKADI personal trainer Nicolette Amarillas, holistic exercise and life coach. "[This type of exercise schedule] should only be done with a well-designed program." Follow these expert-approved guidelines and you'll be feeling great and reaching your goals, one properly executed two-a-day at a time.
Know Before You Go: Risks of Over-Training
TL;DR: It's pretty easy for us to eff this up and hurt ourselves, so be careful.
We want to give you some idea of warning signs so you can listen to your body and know exactly when to take a break. Amarillas shared that "there are disadvantages when executed incorrectly . . . these disadvantages may look different for everyone, [but can include] adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, loss of menstruation, inconsistent sleep, irritability, injuries, joint pain, etc."
"Listen to your body!" she emphasized. "If you're sore, tired, or drained, your body is sending you signals to listen to it and follow along." It's OK to cancel a class if you're feeling worn down or too sore.
"If you're sore, tired, or drained, your body is sending you signals to listen to it and follow along."
DIAKADI trainer Ross Steiner, CSCS, said you should consider a few of your goals and abilities before starting on your daily double schedule. He told POPSUGAR to start by "determining training goals," then to evaluate the time you have to reach your goal, the intensity of your program, and how much experience you have. If you have a trainer to check in with, we'd recommend it, but if you don't have one on hand, do your best to listen to your body, and consider a check-up with a general practitioner or your physician.
Pick the Right Mix of Workouts
TL;DR: Balance makes a huge difference.
The type of workouts you do within the same day makes a difference. "It's not really ideal to crush a morning Spin class and then hit sprint intervals with your girlfriend postwork," Abbate said. "Instead, maybe balance out that morning cardio burn with some low-impact, low-intensity yoga or even a barre class."
Start With a Challenge, Then Cool Down
TL;DR: Tougher exercise first, mellower one second.
"Always do the more challenging and demanding exercises first," Amarillas said. "I use this method not only within a week cycle but also within each workout." This is a great way to balance your gym sessions and your two-a-days! "The more demanding the movement is on the nervous system, the earlier it should come in your day," she said. "For example, if a deadlift is going to be the most demanding movement, this should be done prior to cardio."
She suggests you start with weights in the morning and end with cardio. "You don't want to fatigue your system with cardio, leaving less gas in the tank for your lift later in the day," she said.
Choose Workouts Based on Your Goals
TL;DR: Structure your day based on weight-loss or strength-training goals.
"If losing body fat is your primary goal, we usually have our athletes perform conditioning first thing in the morning, followed by a strength session — spaced out ideally six or more hours post-conditioning" — we'll get to that timing in just a second. "If [building] strength is the primary goal, our focus is on our lifting session followed by a conditioning session ideally later that same day."
In fact, a two-a-day program could be the best thing for you if you have strength-building goals. "When it comes to gaining lean muscle mass, almost nothing is as effective as a two-a-day bodybuilding split," Steiner said.
Space Them Out
TL;DR: At least four to six hours (ideally eight) between workouts.
Steiner shared that, although two-a-day splits are effective within bodybuilding, "these regimes were spaced out at least six to eight hours apart, and always followed with plentiful post-training nutrition." He emphasized that your workouts should be at least four to six hours apart and that "recovery and nutrition are paramount."
TL;DR: Please eat. A lot.
"Before you slip into that second set of Spandex, make sure you're eating enough to fuel your sweat dates," said Abbate, who emphasized the importance of fuel. Steiner recommended always having a well-balanced post-lifting meal for those double-header days.
"Our bodies and brains need a minimum amount of calories, carbohydrates, and fats per day to sustain function, so it's important to maintain this ratio when you are doubling the workload on your body."
"What I look for most is that you are eating enough to supply the body with energy, splitting your workouts correctly, and looking out for signs of fatigue," Amarillas said. "Our bodies and brains need a minimum amount of calories, carbohydrates, and fats per day to sustain function, so it's important to maintain this ratio when you are doubling the workload on your body."
"This also correlates with other areas of life, sleep, rest, workload, etc.," she continued. "If you are doubling your workouts, you should also increase sleep and rest where it's needed and decrease other stressors."
TL;DR: keep your workouts to 45 minutes or less and only three two-a-days per week.
It's not ideal to do two 90-minute cardio classes in one day — in fact, each workout should have a time limit. "[Your] workouts should be around 45 minutes or less," Steiner said. Amarillas also suggested keeping your two-a-days to three times a week at a maximum and not staying on that kind of program for a long time: "Working out two times a day is not something you should expect to do forever."
She warned that this is when overtraining comes into play. "I would advise the athlete to do this three times a week," she said. "The body needs rest, period. Without ample rest and time for the muscles to rejuvenate, progress will be stunted and injury can happen."
Erica Stenz, trainer and VP at Barry's Bootcamp in San Francisco, suggests keeping it even easier on your body by breaking up a 45- or 60-minute workout into a two-a-day. "I always tell clients that doing two mini workouts is just as good as doing one long workout."
Rest, Rest, Rest
TL;DR: No rest, no gainz.
Take your rest as seriously as your training. "Strength can't be built with a program that does not allow for enough restoration of the muscles," Amarillas said. "If executed well, you will see changes in body composition faster, but this can also lead to overtraining." So rest, recover, restore, and balance out your week with lots of eight-hour-plus nights of sleep!