Q | I often hear about people doing “two-a-days.” Should I be working out twice a day?
A | For many people, the phrase “two-a-day” conjures dreaded memories of high school sports practices. In modern fitness parlance, “two-a-day” signifies any number of ways you can squeeze in two exercise sessions in one 24-hour block — typically, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon or evening.
Whether two-a-days are right for you, says veteran trainer Nick Tumminello, author of Building Muscle and Performance, depends on how you define “workout,” and also on your fitness ability, goals, and overall lifestyle.
For people striving to stay healthy and move more, scheduling two 20-minute workouts daily is sometimes easier than fitting in a single longer session. If you have a desk job, multiple workouts can break up your sedentary time — which can, in turn, speed your metabolism and stave off weight gain.
And if your evening session is focused on recovery or play (such as a game of catch with your kids, gentle yoga, or light bicycling), it can double as a stress-relieving break to help you relax before bedtime.
For advanced exercisers seeking exceptional strength and fitness, “two-a-days allow you to fuel up, rest, and refocus so that your second workout is just as intense as the first,” says Tumminello.
That’s significant: A 2013 University of Utah study found that intensity — not duration — is key to a workout’s effectiveness.
A possible downside to two-a-days is going full-throttle for too long, too often. Recovery — including nutrition, sleep, self-myofascial release, and other self-care practices — is critical to any fitness regimen, and becomes even more important when you double the number of intense workouts you do in a day. (Learn more about cracking your personal recovery code at “The Recovery Zone“.)
To ease into working out twice a day, first make sure your nutrition and sleep are dialed in, says Tumminello, or all the extra work will just end up exhausting you.
Next, experiment with one or two double sessions a week when other stressors in your life are at a low ebb.
If your energy is high and your body responds positively, add more workouts if you like — but back off the moment you feel the extra exercise is wearing you down. Intense two-a-days aren’t sustainable year-round, says Tumminello. “Even the pros don’t do two-a-days all the time.”
This article originally appeared as part of “Expert Answers” in the May 2016 issue of Experience Life. To order a back issue, call 800-897-4056 (press option 3 when prompted). To get all the articles from each issue of Experience Life, subscribe online at https://experiencelife.com/articlesubscribe.