The Art of the Double Day
Many top age groupers train twice a day as this is a logical and practical way to increase their training load while still putting in a full day in the office. Adding double session days into your weekly schedule is a great way preparing for that special goal ’ A’ race coming up later in the season.
If you are consistently putting in a 60 – 70 minute session per day on the weekdays with the requisite longer endurance sessions on the weekends, and your Family, Work and Life is well balanced, then you could consider using this strategy to get even fitter. But be warned; the uninitiated should handle double days with care because of its implications on increased recovery needs, dropping immunity and risk of injury. If you simply combine 2 days’ worth of training into one day, as and when, you will find yourself very quickly fatigued, flat and in the worst case, injured.
As with each session in a schedule of single session days, double days should be planned, thought out and completed consistently every week; not done as afterthought on a day that you have an extra hour free in the evening.
If you’re new to double days ease into them using the following guidelines.
- Aim to start with just 1 double day in the week for at least 8 weeks before even thinking of putting in a second double day into the weekly training schedule. This allows your body to adapt gradually to the increasing demands on its immunity and the recovery functions.
- Start with 2/3’s of a ‘full session’ training load in each of your double day sessions and gradually increase the training load each week. Do not start with 2 ‘full’ one hour sessions twice a day. The more time you give your body a chance to adapt, the more you’ll be comfortable transitioning to the new load and able to maintain consistency
- Put the priority session 1st and then the ‘filler’ session as the second session of the day. While all sessions are important, and produce a specific training stimulus, the 1st session on the day, should work the system that you are currently developing (Eg – speed/ tolerance/ heart rate/ endurance). Training this system while you are fresh off a night’s sleep will increase the probability that the quality of this session is high. Practically, you also get the essential session done and out of the way.
- Leave at least 3 – 5 hours before the second session of the day. This will give you some recovery time in-between the 2, even if it’s just sitting at the desk/ walking around the office. The break is also important as it allows you to refuel. As a habit, make sure make sure you stay hydrated in between sessions and treat yourself to a healthy nutritious meal so that your body has enough quality raw material to repair and recover between sessions. If you sweat a lot, top up with simple effervescent electrolyte tablets in your water.
- While it is a luxury for many age-group athletes working regular office hours, a short nap of even 20 minutes will help to shift your body into recovery mode that sets up the process of rebuilding.
- When starting off with double days, think of the second session of the day as a ‘filler’ session but do not regard this as an ‘Optional’ one. In fact, while the 1st session of the day elicits a certain physiological response it is the second session that is often used to build fatigue resistance. Simply put – that is the ability to keep pushing when your arms and legs are already tired. This characteristic is especially useful when training for the Ironman distance.
- The second session of the day should be of a lower intensity and volume; a 40 minute session is physically much less demanding than keeping it going for the full hour. It should also be loosely structured so that it is not mentally stressful to start, execute and complete. Furthermore, the more open these sets are to your own interpretation the better as this will give you the freedom to listen to your body as you ‘go by feel’. For example, a 40 mins run done as 10 mins easy/ 20 mins moderate/ 10 mins easy allows the athlete a wide range of intensity to play with.
- On double days that simply aren’t going to happen, do not try to squeeze both sessions in back to back. The accumulated load of 2 sessions done continuously is much higher than if they were done separately. Recovery needs are much higher and risk of injury or falling sick increase dramatically. Chances are that if your day is too busy for a double, then it is also too busy for a large combined single session. So just get the 1 session of the day done well, forget about the double and move on.
- There is no hard as fast rule whether it is better to work the same or different disciplines on the same day. It depends on a number of factors:
- The current area of weakness that you are trying to improve on,
- Your individual capacity to recover,
- The most convenient session for you to perform,
- The training session on the day before and on the day after the double day.For example, it you are working specifically on improving your overall bike fitness, you could plan 2 sessions on the bike trainer. The 1st one could be a Tolerance style, high cadence, short rest interval type of session while the 2nd one, to be performed in the evening after work, would be something that could safely build strength on your already fatigued legs without stressing the cardiovascular system too much – something like a steady big gear time trail comes to mind. Of course you would want to make sure that the next day is easy on the legs – so a swim with paddles and pullbuoy or a very easy 40 min run is in order.
So the take home message is not to rush headlong into a heavy schedule of multiple double days in a week just because so and so is doing this that and the other.
Instead, ask yourself if you have been consistent enough on your daily tasks to deserve to a double day. Firstly, examine your current life situation and consider if you can manage training twice a day without negatively impacting the other areas of your life and secondly, do you currently need to be logging a high training load. Are you in a specific build phase towards a key race or just keeping fit in between races? Because when it comes to entering that dedicated training ‘tunnel’, as busy age groupers with the full spectrum of other important life demands, we can and should only do so a few times a year.
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