Two workouts are better than one: the benefits of training twice a day

Katie Strick
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When life gets busy you have to be imaginative with your workouts. Drinks after work eat into your gym time and late-night HIIT classes wreak havoc with your sleep, leaving you with less energy than you had before. To reach your full potential, you have to split things up.

The double workout is a smart way to get fit: last week Poldark star Aidan Turner revealed his secret to staying in shape was exercising twice a day, and many of London’s top trainers recommend it for a more efficient workout — it’ll help you get fit quicker, push harder and sleep better. You just have to be flexible.

At Equinox in Kensington, master instructor David Warden says he’s seen a huge increase in people training twice a day. Some do it to up their weekly training volume, but many are busy Londoners who find it more efficient to split their workout in two.

Mastering the split has a dual purpose, says Warden: it allows the body to partly recover between workouts, allowing you to push harder each time, and it also helps you to compartmentalise your training. He recommends doing “longer, more intense workouts in the mornings and shorter, more restorative workouts in the evening”, giving you enough time to settle down before bedtime.

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Doubling up may seem counterintuitive for time-poor Londoners but it can actually be more sensible, says PT and lululemon Sweatlife Ambassador Amy Hopkinson. “I no longer ask a workout to do it all.” Instead, she looks for easier ways to incorporate exercise into her routine. Her mornings are spent “walking to work. Then, when lunchtime allows, I’ll either do a heart rate-inducing HIIT or weights session.”

In the evenings she hits the mat in her living room at around 9pm for a 20-minute stretch led by a yoga app, which gets her ready for bed. The reasons are often practical but there are palpable benefits, too, Hopkinson says. Splitting up cardio, strength and relaxation not only means she clocks up more activity than exercising once a day, but it also allows her to work at optimum intensity each time.

With more London studios offering morning and evening workouts, it makes sense to split it up and reap the rewards, says Hopkinson, as long as you’re clever about it. Structure is key: Warden observes it’s important to leave enough time between your sessions. He’d suggest morning and late afternoon or early evening.

“Make sure you have enough water and food to recover from the first workout and prepare well for the second, staggering meals throughout the day,” Hopkinson notes. And don’t forget to rest. She recommends at least seven hours sleep a night, and meditation for switching off.

Doubling up heightens your risk of burnout or injury, so hydration and stretching are more important than ever. It also heightens the risk of what Warden calls “overtraining syndrome”: professional athletes may train more than twice a day, but it can be easy to burn out without the right guidance.

So think smart. Many PTs offer structured programmes for harnessing the power of two, and Equinox hosts double — even triple — classes as part of its Best Body Series: the separate classes, 45 minutes on butt, 30 minutes on abs and 15 minutes on arms, are designed to be done in the same day, so you can mix and match. Sometimes it takes two.