Written by Andi Martin-Wagner | Photo by Brian Reilly
In our super busy world, just getting to the gym can be a luxury; many of us simply don’t have time to spend an hour each day in the weight room. For some, the solution to staying fit with a packed schedule may be to split daily workouts into two, such as one in the morning and one after work, a method known in fitness as “two-a-days.”
While there are benefits to this strategy, if not executed carefully it can come with risks. If you are overtraining, you could be setting yourself up for a plateau, an injury, or good old-fashioned burnout. Here’s how to structure two-a-day workouts to maintain your fitness—and your sanity.
There are three ways to perform two-a-day workouts:
1. Strength x2
While this is not recommended on a long-term basis, some experts feel it can be beneficial with proper rest and nutrition.
2. Cardio x2
These days, more people are getting wise to the effectiveness of HIIT cardio and healthy eating, making this practice somewhat obsolete. Some old-school competitors still stand by this strategy, but it is totally unnecessary if you give yourself the adequate time to prep for your event.
3. 1 Cardio + 1 Strength
This seems to be the most common practice among athletes, as well as lifetime fitness enthusiasts. Splitting your workout this way can be a huge time saver to enable max effort, and allows for rest and refueling in between.
Once you’ve decided which type works for your schedule and training goals, follow these rules to ensure you’re training safely and effectively:
• Keep it short. You should spend no more than 75-90 minutes total in the gym per day, whether that is in one session or two.
• Spread them out. Allow six to eight hours between each workout in order to rest, let cortisol levels drop, and refuel properly.
• Eat, eat, eat. Fuel yourself pre- and post-workout (especially post-workout), making sure to consume a good dose of high quality protein within 30-40 minutes of finishing your training.
• Mix ‘em up. Try to do different activities at each workout. So if you do cardio in the morning, do your weight training in the evening, or switch up the body parts you are training in the AM workout versus the PM workout.
• Don’t skip stretching. Be sure to include time to warm-up and cool-down before and after your workouts to aid recovery.
• Rest up. Build rest days (yes, full days) into your weekly routine to allow for adequate recovery, repair, and muscle growth.
• Make it temporary. Two-a-days that include strength training in both sessions should not be continued over a long period of time. You can cycle them into your training for a week or two at a time in order to break through a plateau or hit specific strength gains. Otherwise, keep it to one strength sesh a day.
One last note: Keep in mind with this type of training, more does not equal better. Stick to a maximum of two workouts in one day and follow the guidelines mentioned here to make sure your training sessions work for you, not against you.