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Double Time: Working Out Twice A Day

Running on tired legs isn't fun, but it will teach your body how to finish a race strong.

Running on tired legs isn’t fun, but it will teach your body how to finish a race strong.

The standard double day is hardly a foreign concept to endurance athletes, but double-dipping with two hard workouts is a different thing altogether. But this isn’t a case of being a glutton for punishment; stimulating different energy systems by doing two hard workouts in one day has physiological and psychological benefits.

Running On Tired Legs

The end of a race is when your body starts to break down because you’re in the most fatigued state, but your goal at this point is to find that extra gear and move. If you can condition yourself in training to become used to having to run hard on tired legs, come race day you’ll be that much better prepared.

By doing a hard workout in the morning and coming back in the evening, you’ll no doubt feel more tired. But interestingly enough, the more often runners do these hard double days, some runners begin to actually feel better during their second workout after getting warmed up and getting their legs moving. The second workout is like “sharpening” that more endurance-based morning workout.

The second workout is, most often, more speed- and power-focused. Just like at the end of a race when you must dig and kick, the second workout teaches you to be able to respond in a pre-fatigued state. The good news is that while the first few lethal double days will no doubt be really hard, over time your body and mind will grow more accustomed to them.

RELATED: The Importance Of Varying Your Running Surfaces

Mental Toughness

There is a mental component to being able to cruise through two hard workouts in a day. Much like doing hard workouts after races, there is a confidence that comes in knowing you can push when you’re already tired, hurting and further proving to yourself that your body can go beyond what your mind wants to allow.

For marathoners, doing two hard workouts in a day can be the perfect solution to getting in more quality miles without it being as taxing on the body when compared to a single hard workout. Conversely, a marathoner can also use a double hard workout day as a more time-efficient means of packing the quality into a week. If you have a day off from work, take the opportunity to do the two hard sessions.

The Specifics

Coach Brad Hudson, author of Run Faster From the 5K to the Marathon, explains he most often uses hard daily doubles during light blocks of training. This would mean coming back in the afternoon with shorter 200-meter repeats or 200m-300m uphill repeats. The extra speed is a “supplement” to normal training.

RELATED: Increase Speed Without Increasing Mileage

“But if it’s a hard block like a morning 3-mile warmup, 3 x 3miles with 60 seconds of rest and 3 miles warm down, [the evening would be] 3 miles warmup, 4 x 400/600m good recovery and reps done fast, 1-mile warm-down,” shares Hudson. For hard blocks of training, aim for 8 hours between workouts. If it’s the lighter supplement type of workout, the longer wait isn’t crucial.

If Your Aim Is To Add Speed
Morning: Tempo run
Evening: 200m repeats with full recovery, or hill blasts to strengthen and to maximize speed and power

Very Hard Training Block
Morning: 4 x 2K
Evening: 4-5 x 600m

Marathon Specific

Hudson shares a similar opinion with coach Renato Canova regarding double hard workouts, as he diverges at applying them to marathoning. “I don’t use them for the marathon, for example two 20K progressions, because I find it too mentally hard and taxing on the athletes. But Canova does.”

Looking To Opt For A Canova Double?
Morning: 10K (5:40-30) + 10K (5:10-5:00)*
Evening: 10K (5:30-25) + 10 x 1K (2:55 with 90 seconds rest)*

**Times provided are examples for an elite male, so adjust accordingly

RELATED: Avoid Mileage For Mileage’s Sake

Recovery Time

Training is always a balance of stimulating enough but not overdoing it. Double hard workout days shouldn’t be done twice a week, every week. The more frequent supplementation of 200s in the evening is safer to do more often, but for truly hard efforts it’s imperative you allow yourself enough recovery time. Doing a hard double once every 2-4 weeks is enough. And, be sure to allow at least two days of recovery afterwards.

Coach Hudson’s Periodization For Half Marathon And 10K Runners

1. Morning: 4-mile hill climb. Evening: 8 x 200m.
2. Morning: 5-mile hill climb. Evening: 10 x 200m.
3. Morning: 2 x 3 miles/60 seconds recovery. Evening: 8 x 300m.

Strength Endurance Block
4. Morning: 12K progression. Evening: 8 x 1min. hill max.

Aerobic block
5. Morning: 8K (half marathon pace). Evening: 8K (half marathon pace).

Late season
6. Morning: 4 x 2K. Evening: 4 x 400m fast.
7. Morning: 5K progression. Evening: 1600m + 8 x 400m.

By teaching your legs to move fast in a pre-fatigued state, you’ll be that much more prepared to shift gears at the end of a race. Twice may not always feel so nice, but the later reward sure will.


About The Author: 

Caitlin Chock ( set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004 and previously ran for Nike. A freelance writer, artist, and designer she writes about all things running and founded Ezzere, her own line of running shirts ( You can read more, see her running comics, and her shirts at her website.