Reality Check: Are Two-A-Day Workouts A Good Idea?

What’s the first thing you think about when you hear the words two-a-day workouts? Playing sports in high school or pro athletes, perhaps? Well, folks, doubling up on daily sweat sessions isn’t just for these super-active subsets. It could be a faster track to hitting your fitness goals too. Of course, that all depends on a few factors like your current fitness level, stress levels, diet, sleep, and—most importantly—what those actual workouts look like, says personal trainer Michelle Marques, CPT.

Think about it: Say you’re cross-training and trying to make sure you’re getting enough cardio, weight lifting, speed work, and improving your flexibility. If you don’t want to work out every day it can feel near impossible to fit all these different types of exercise, a.k.a. modalities, into your fitness routine consistently enough to see real results.

“It’s one thing to do a strength session in the morning and a yoga class a night, and quite another to do two heavy strength sessions back-to-back,” Marques says. (For the record, she is a fan of the former, but not the latter.)

Feel physically and mentally strong enough to tackle more than one workout per day, but want to know if you should? It’s time to weigh the pros and cons of adding extra exercise time into your day…other than having to wash more dirty workout clothes on the reg.

Here’s everything you need to know about two-a-day workouts—including the potential benefits, risks, and *key* advice for making them work for YOU.

Starting with…are two-a-day workouts safe?

Long story short: Two-a-days can be A-okay, “as long as you’re following a structured program and not simply exercising without direction or guidance,” says Doug Sklar, CPT, founder of New York City-based fitness studio PhilanthroFIT.

However, if you don’t give yourself enough time to recover between your workouts, you might wind up injured or burnt out, says Albert Matheny, CSCS, co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab. Successfully (and healthfully) working out twice a day requires on-point sleep, nutrition, and hydration. Here’s are some telltale signs of overtraining to watch out for.

The Benefits of Two-A-Day Workouts

In a nutshell, working out more can help you get fitter, faster—if you do it right, says Jim Pivarnik, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University. This can be helpful in a few different situations, like if you’re trying to build up your endurance for a running or swimming race but also want to work on your speed, he says. Same goes if you’re training for a triathlon and just have a bunch of different things you need to focus on.

Another scenario: If you’re trying to build muscle while also increasing your endurance, for example, two-a-days may be used to target those very different goals, Pivarnik adds.

As long as your two-a-day workouts are programmed properly (more on that in a jif), you can reap some legit benefits.

1. Improved Cardio. If you’re training for a marathon PR or distance race, going hard on a training run in the morning and then lacing up your sneaks again in the evening for a slow recovery run is a great way to get more miles under your belt while increasing your lung capacity, says Kordecki. Huffing and puffing, who?

2. Easier To Find Time. This might sound counter-intuitive, but “for folks who can’t fit a 45 minute workout into their schedule, knowing that they can do two 20-minute workouts—one in the morning and one at night—can make them more likely to exercise,” Kordecki says. TD;LR: Two short workouts are better than none.

3. Superior Mobility. One of the best ways to ward off injury as you age is by maintaining mobility, Kordecki says. Basically, you want to be able to touch your toes, put wine glasses away on a high shelf, and transfer heavy laundry without issue. “Mobility training as a second workout every day can keep your body more supple and less prone to injury,” she says.

4. Increased Muscle Mass: Research has shown that resistance training can grow your muscles in as little as two months of hree 13-minute sessions a week. So, as long as at least half (in this case, one) of your daily workouts features strength movements like deadlifts, squats, and presses, you can pack on metabolism-boosting muscle, explains Kordecki.

5. Easier Weight Loss: Another perk of moving more often? Any time you work your muscles or jack up your heart rate, something called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) sets in. “EPOC is the energy used to support post-workout recovery and it helps you burn more calories even after you leave the gym,” explains Kordecki. As long as your nutrition is level 100, tapping into EPOC twice per day can make reaching weight loss goals easier.

6. Improved Mood. Hey, that runner’s high and post-PR bliss are no joke. “Hit the gym twice and you’ll get a hit of mood-boosting endorphins twice, which can be great for folks who struggle with low mood,” says Kordecki.

The Downsides Of Two-A-Day Workouts

Hate to break it to you, but doubling up on workouts can mean doubling up on injury risk and burnout. It all comes down to two factors: your form and your recovery.

1. Increased Injury Risk

Good form is important whenever you exercise—and it’s even more vital when you’re sweating through two-a-days.

Do a movement oh-so-slightly incorrectly over and over again and you can land yourself with an overuse injury, Kordecki says. If you’re working out twice a day, those iffy reps may accumulate faster, increasing your risk of these injuries. Sigh.

2. Greater Threat Of Overtraining

Beyond injury to one specific muscle or joint, there’s a full-body risk to consider with two-a-day workouts: overtraining syndrome.

The result of too much exercise coupled with insufficient recovery, overtraining is marked by stalled performance—or worse: regression, says Marques. “If our bodies don’t have time to repair themselves between workouts, the body continually gets broken down and never reaches the point where it’s reaping any benefit from the workouts you’re doing,” she explains.

Other symptoms of overtraining include exercise burnout (a.k.a. a *complete* lack of motivation to get sweaty), wonky sleep, and mood swings.

How To Make Two-A-Day Workouts Work For You

Reaping the benefits of two-a-day workouts without going overboard may seem like a bit of a tightrope walk—but you can totally pull it off, with the right approach.

1. Vary the intensity: “Two super-intense workouts a day are not the way to go,” says Marques. Ditto goes for doing the same workout twice. Mixing up your intensity is a must.

Ideally, “the higher intensity workout will be in the morning, and the lower-intensity will occur later on,” says Kordecki. So, if you go hard at spin class in the a.m., keep your second workout to a mobility class or easy lap swim.

2. Split up cardio and strength: You’ll also want to prioritize the type of training that best supports your goals in the morning, suggests Kordecki. Prepping for a lifting competition? Do your WOD in the morning and take a walk or yoga class in the evening. Preparing for a 5k? Run with the sunrise and strength train at sunset.

3. Don’t double up every day: Though you probably don’t ever need to do two-a-days every day (or even every other day), it’s important to ease into how many double sessions you do, says Matheny. If your goal is to work up to two or three two-a-days a week, start out with one and ramp up over the course of a few weeks.

Another option: “Work out for just 10 minutes during your second session to start, and then gradually increase your workout time,” adds Kordecki.

4. Keep a fitness log: Tracking your performance may seem like a chore, but it can help you monitor whether you’re actually seeing a benefit from working out twice a day. “If you’re continuing to get positive results, that means you’re doing everything right,” Matheny says. If progress has plateaued, though, odds are you’re veering into overtraining territory and need to ease off the gas.

5. Tap the pros: If you’re going to jump into two-a-day territory, find a trainer who can give you the guidance you need to stay safe and learn with confidence, suggests LA-based celebrity trainer, Kathy Freeman, co-creator of the 30 Day Transformation Team Program. Working with a pro guarantees your workouts will be strategic and personalized to you.

6. Play the long game:You’re forgiven for wanting results FAST, but the key to successful two-a-days is to keep your eyes on the horizon. “Working out isn’t just about your short-term goals,” Marques says. If you’re not strategic and get injured, that will ultimately mess with your fitness goals much more than two-a-days can help them.

7. Schedule complete rest days: “Rest is as crucial to transforming your body and reaching your fitness goals as your workouts are,” says Freeman. Schedule in at least two full rest days per week to make sure you don’t push yourself into burnout zone.

8. Above all, listen to your body: “If you feel like crap, that’s your body telling you what you’re doing isn’t quite working,” says Marques. Say it with us now: rest!

The bottom line: Working out twice a day may be helpful for reaching your fitness goals, but you should really do it under supervision of a trainer. You want to make sure your efforts are targeted, and you’re not overtaxing your body.

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