“Why on earth would I want to run twice a day when I can just run once a day?”
This must have been what I thought when I first read about running twice-a-day (also known as running a “double” or “doubling”). But, I learned to appreciate them during the marathon training cycles when I followed the Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning plan that maxes out at 85 miles a week. Here are my thoughts on doubling – what I’ve read about them, why I do them, and how I integrate them into my training schedule. However, for further reading by actual experts, I’ve included a list of helpful articles on doubling at the bottom of this post.
When it comes to doubling, Why? is an obvious and reasonable question. Here are some reasons why a runner might want to run twice-a-day:
- Building mileage. For marathoners, this is a very compelling argument for doubling since most training plans have them running upwards of 50 miles a week. Running twice-a-day enables runners to achieve mileage goals by adding additional runs to their schedule.
- Stress management. Breaking a single run into two runs can be easier on the body. For example, doing 6 easy miles in the morning followed by 4 easy miles in the afternoon after a full recovery is potentially less stressful on the body than running 10 easy miles straight.
- Scheduling. Not everyone has time in their schedule for longer workouts – particularly during the work week. Using the 10 easy mile example, they might be able to run 6 miles in the morning and then another 4 miles during their lunch break or after work though.
But, there are also some good arguments against doubling, including:
- Singles are enough. Are runners who are doubling maximizing what they’re getting out of single runs? Guidance varies but some argue that unless a runner is doing upwards of around 75 miles per week, they should probably stick to singles.
- The “training effect”. Is running a double as effective as running a single? Again, using the 10 miler example, running 10 easy miles continuously probably has a different training effect than running 6 easy miles, taking an extensive break, and then running another 4 easy miles. Some runners might be increasing their mileage by doubling at the expense of building their endurance.
I see the wisdom in these arguments against doubling and yet I work them into my training anyway. I think I race better when I’m running 70-80 miles a week and I find I can only maintain that mileage while minimizing stress on my body if I make some of those miles short, easy runs.
Convinced? Well, before lacing up for the second time today, here are some suggestions on how to work doubles into your schedule.
- Don’t make your long run a double. Dividing the long run into two short runs defeats the purpose of that workout. In order to build endurance, the long run should be one continuous run.
- Give yourself time to recover between workouts. If you’re not fully recovered, you risk over-stressing your body. And, you might as well have run a single. Advice varies on the exact amount of time between workouts but 4 hours seems to be a common recommendation.
- Eat something between the two runs. Replenishing some of carbohydrate and water used during the first workout is a good idea. I usually eat something light like a bagel and some sports drink, and then have a hearty meal after the second run.
Depending on when I’m doubling, some of my post-workout concerns are the same that I have when run commuting. For example, since I usually double during my lunch break, my biggest problems tend to be dealing with other employees using the shower facility, and finding something quick but nutritious to eat. If I run commute home as my double, I take home all of the items I’ll need that evening and my normal commute the next morning – my house key, Metro card, identification, my ATM card, and some cash.
Laundry. This may seem like a trivial concern but doubling adds another outfit to the high mileage runner’s mountainous laundry pile. I solve this problem by having more running clothes than any sensible person should own. However, a less costly solution is to double up on wearing some items by air drying them on a laundry rack.
Here are some useful articles by actual experts on doubles.
Jeff Gaudette, “Doubles: The When, Why, and How to Run Twice a Day“, RunnersConnect.
Steve Magness, “Strategies for Doubling“, Runner’s World.
Lisa Marshall, “Pros and Cons of Running Twice a Day“, Runner’s World.
Pete Pfitzinger, “Should You Run Two-a-Days?“, Runner’s World.