In an attempt to increase mileage, you may be tempted to start running twice a day. You've heard good things about it. You have friends that do it, especially if you're training for those longer distances. Maybe you're like my friend Aaron, who I see running all the time, who he runs twice a day, almost every single day because he focuses on the marathon. Whatever the reason, you're thinking about twice a day. Today I want to talk about what the pros and cons of doing so are and what it makes sense and when it simply doesn't.
I'm Jesse Funk, the founder of Solpri.com and the host of this show Runner's High where we talk about everything running or endurance related, if you like, triathlon or other endurance sports. We talk about that stuff here too on this channel. So if you like those things running, endurance sports, that kind of stuff, stick around, subscribe or like or wherever this content is. Every Tuesday and Thursday we have new episodes.
So when we talk about two-a-days or running twice a day, there's a lot of things you want to consider. First, if you're in this video and you've just started running, pretty much here's where you can stop because you really don't need to be running twice a day in the very beginning of your running career. At this point, if you're new to running, this is your first year, then what you basically need to be doing is building mileage gradually and being consistent.
It's a long-term game to be a long-distance athlete. And in your case, if again, you're a new runner to the sport, you don't really need to spend the extra time putting in the extra mileage. The reason is at this stage of the game, it can lead to increased risk of injury because you have a lower time to recover. So don't do it yet. But if that's not you, let's get on to when it may be good for you to actually consider doing two-a-days.
The first consideration is really just a practical one. What your schedule will look like? Now, if you're training for a longer distance race and you want to go half marathon, marathon, ultra mileage becomes more important because you need to be able to go to the distance. It's simply a matter of the reality of your race, and if you have a busy schedule, maybe it doesn't make sense to put in ten, 12, 15 miles in the morning. Maybe you can only put in eight, but you can put in another seven in the evening.
You're still going to get the effects of that fatigue load over the day. Even though you split up your run, I would suggest that you'll get slightly less, but probably not enough to really make a difference if you're still doing it in the same day.
So this is a really great scheduling technique, if that's how your day works out. For some of us, me included, doing two days doesn't make a whole lot of sense, at least at this point in my career. But I did use to do it when we were doing triathlon, especially because in that case, if you are a multi-sport athlete, then you need -- typically you need some kind of recovery period between workout one and workout two because they're often at different intensities.
So if scheduling is a concern for you, but you have little blocks of time, doing two-a-days is a perfect reason or way to work around your schedule and still get your mileage in. Now, if you're a shorter course athlete like me and you like doing 5K, 10K faster stuff, there's actually a few different ways and reasons you might do two-a-days.
First is simply to build mileage, because the bigger your aerobic engine, the better you're going to be at those distances. Yes, it's obviously more important and crucial that you have the mileage to be able to go the distance for the longer races. But you talk to any coach and they'll talk about your base, that aerobic engine, your ability to convert oxygen into energy that is the foundation of your running and putting in more long, easy miles is often the way to continue to build your aerobic base.
I saw really big jumps in my speed in college when I added on basically a seventh day of the week and we tacked on 12 miles that day. So I bumped up my mileage considerably and I saw big gains over that season. We're talking like a minute drop in my 5K time from high 16s to high 15s.
Now, that won't happen for everybody, but it is a case study of one to kind of prove the point that getting in some extra mileage is going to be advantageous even at the shorter distances. But not just that. There's actually a couple of different ways that you may structure your two-a-days that can be advantageous depending on how you want to look at it.
So if you have, say, speedwork of some sort during the day, there's two ways you could structure this. So you can say, okay, let's do like an easy run in the morning and then the speedwork in the afternoon. We know from one of my other videos on the channel which if you haven't watched subscribe that the kind of most optimal time of the day to run is about mid-afternoon. Most of us are working but mid-afternoon, early evening probably going to be a good body is warmed up, ready to go kind of time.
So if you're doing two workouts and that is a time you can schedule that, maybe you're more optimal time for speedwork. You can use the morning time to kind of actually go really easy, get a little mileage in and help your body warm up more so that you are even more prepared for that afternoon session.
Conversely, you could take it the other way around and say "Well, I have time in the morning for the speedwork." Which again is not optimal, but just that's the practicality of life sometimes. So maybe that's the big time you have your big block and you just want to get a couple of miles in the afternoon. Well, again, you could go easy and that becomes a recovery period.
It's something that we talk about. This is a more advanced concept. So again, that's the disclaimer at the beginning. If you're a beginner, this is really applicable to you, but later on in the day. So you've done your speedwork in the morning, afternoon, evening, you go out for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, something, something easy where you're not really working hard, active recovery.
So this is a period where you're getting blood flow through your legs, but you're not trying to induce any more damage than what you've already done in the morning. And I say that in a positive way, because how we get better is we damage our muscles, creating micro tears, and then our body repairs them to compensate for the damage that we've created. It's this hopefully virtuous cycle that we do to get better at running.
So those are kind of two basic ways that you want to schedule, even if you're going shorter distances and you like racing the short, sharp, fast stuff. Now, my big caveat with all of this is that there is the greater possibility of injury and not just injury physically, but mentally in burnout, because you're spending more time working, which means you have less time to recover.
So I would suggest if this is you and you want to do two-a-days, unless you're at the elite, sub-elite level, running high school, experienced high school running collegiately trying to chase little priced purses around the country, those kinds of things, probably not going to spend your entire year or your entire calendar year training doing two-a-days because you need a period of recovery.
So maybe this is the point where you go, I really need to build mileage in my off-season, whatever that is. For high school and collegiate athletes, the off-season is the summertime. But maybe for you, it's the winter. And then you have the summer race season. If that's you, then you go, okay, maybe I do two-a-days during the off-season when intensity is lower and I need to get in more mileage to build that again aerobic engine to get me ready to go for race season.
So then when race season comes around, I start tapering mileage, I can increase intensity and recovery is still good. You can, as I mentioned, use that as active recovery or as a prep for a speed session in the afternoon. And that's a kind of regardless of your race distance, but it is a little more. Unless you're an elite marathoner, most marathoners I know are focused solely on mileage rather than speed.
So you can use it as you get later on in the season and you're increasing intensity. But for the majority of people, I would suggest try not to do it the entire year, again, because you need time to recover and you don't want to burn out and lose the entire motivation from all the time that you've spent working out.
So that's kind of my recommendations on when and why to do two-a-days. I'm sure there are more considerations, so if you have questions for me, leave them down in the comments below. I'd love to help you out. If you want more episodes of the show again, subscribe and you can also check us out on the website Solpri.com/blog. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.