Twice a day workouts | potential consequences of exercising too much

Is it just me, or has there suddenly been an increase in the number of people doing twice a day workouts?

twice a day workouts

I see it daily on social media; Facebook status updates, Tweets, weekly workout recap blog posts.

I see it frequently in the gym; back to back spin classes, upper/lower-morning/evening body part splits.

I’ve  had clients ask me to program twice a day workouts for them. And group fitness participants head to the weight room immediately after an exhausting Bootcamp class for another hour of lifting weights.

There’s even a hashtag for the movement: #2adays (captured from my Twitter stream with handles removed to protect the innocent…)

twice a day workouts

twice a day workouts

twice a day workouts

twice a day workouts

Proponents of ‘2-a-days’ argue that they’re a great way to jump start weight loss, work through strength plateaus and put on loads of muscle fast.

What do I think about twice a day workouts?

In my opinion, unless you’re a professional athlete (meaning you earn money for your efforts and you have coaches carefully monitoring your program) OR your twice a day workouts are very short in duration (meaning you get up from your desk to do some squats, lunges, pushups and planks a few times a day), ‘2adays’ are more likely to undermine your health and fitness goals than propel you towards them.

Why?

  • exercising too frequently can lead to overtraining syndrome (think weight loss plateaus, weight gain, fatigue and loss of strength)
  • repetitive strain injuries often result from performing the same movements over and over (especially if those movements involve impact)
  • improvements in strength and increases in muscle mass require rest (24 to 72 hours between workouts, depending on your goals)
  • metabolic adaptations to longer, more frequent workouts can lead to fat storage rather than fat burning (the body learns to make fuel last longer to ensure that you don’t run out before your workout is over)
  • hormonal responses to longer, more frequent workouts can lead to fat storage rather than fat burning (the body perceives exercise as ‘stress’ and increases it’s production of cortisol, a fat storage hormone)
  • twice a day workouts are not sustainable for most people (setting yourself up for success by creating a workout schedule that you can consistently follow is the best way to achieve your long term health and fitness goals)

Still not convinced? Perhaps you need to ask yourself whether you’re ‘exercising to live’ or ‘living to exercise’… And whether there’s something else you could be doing with all that ‘spare’ time 😉

How frequently to you work out?

Have you ever done twice a day workouts? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Comments

  1. This is a great post. I have noticed the 2aday increase myself and don’t think it is healthy.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Jeni!

      • Leighton Nicholas says:

        I train 6 days a week 4 of the days are twice a day, I don’t do this religiously as I listen to my body, also I never mimic the same training twice in one day e.g. Tabatta in morning, swimming or weights in the evening. On my day off I have a hot bath followed by a 40 minute stretch but I stretch 15 mins everyday anyway.

        I think training twice a day is fine but you have to be conditioned to training everyday before you decide to do it twice a day, the human body is very intelligent and can adapt very quickly, give your body time to adapt and listen to your body.

        Another good tip I’d like to share that I do is my heart rate, my heart rate can tell me a lot, the lower it is the fitter I am getting but when it goes up from one day to the other then it could be dehydration,your adrenaline, caffein or OVERTRAINING, if your training twice a day and your heart rate goes up dehydration and over trading the the most likely, have a look at the colour of your urine, if it’s a dark yellow then your dehydrated but also remember (vitamin B can also make your pee a dark colour) so then that should be a clear indication that your overtraining, also insomnia is another sign of overtraining.

        And lastely and I say the most important is nutrition, your body needs the correct fuel have a look about GI (Glycemic Index) you need a Low GI ( slow release) energy before a session, but during and immediately after your body is craving two main thing High GI carbs and Protein, believe it or not but your body will benefit more from a chocolate full fat milkshake, that will give you what you need rather than spending money on protein shakes unless your a body builder that is, however slightly contradivtive I know but a shake I have is a 4:1 ration carbs to protein drink, so it has more carbs than protein, I take the high5 4:1 whey isolate. Then for approx hour and half after you want to be having a Low GI foods, plenty of greens, fruits for antioxidants, meat isn’t that high on the list for what your body need but IMO the king of Fish Salmon is the daddy.

        Hope this helps.

  2. I have definitely noticed this and like many things fitness/diet related, I think folks feel bad that they are not keeping up! I do 2 a days with yoga and Pilates sometimes or outdoor biking (lower impact workouts). I think I have fallen victim to “more is better” and comparing to others/keeping up with what other people are doing. Thanks for the post/reality check!!
    Erica @ Erica Finds recently posted…Survey Says: Want to Run Faster? Work On Your CadenceMy Profile

    • Erica, you touch on an important point; people really do compare themselves to others and I hate to think that someone new to exercise feels like a failure because they’re ‘only’ exercising once a day, 3 days a week.

  3. I’ve done 2-a-day to jumpstart things, but they have been more like an aerobic workout (even walking) plus Pilates – not two intense workouts per day. I used to be of the more-is-better mindset, too, but have to say that I’ve had much greater gains w/fewer, shorter, but much more intense workouts. My bodyfat is lower, my muscle tone is awesome, and I feel wonderful. And I have MORE TIME. What is not to love? I would encourage 2-a-day-ers to reconsider and try tweaking their routines to work smarter, not harder or longer.
    Sarah @ Semi-Sweet recently posted…Lebanese Seven Spices SeasoningMy Profile

    • Sarah, good clarification. Walking or any other form of very low intensity movement really doesn’t count as a 2nd workout (in my books); it’s just part of adopting a more active life style.
      And HOORAY for more time to get OTHER things done!

  4. you know I SO SO SO AGREE.
    Unless youre paid to be an athlete or prepreprecompetition theres never a need.
    um
    in
    my
    opinion 🙂
    Miz recently posted…Ive declared INTROVERT status.My Profile

  5. Timely post Tamara. I love 2adays for no other reason than how much I enjoy working out and I had the time. I learned the hard way that it’s not worth it. No I’m not injured but I felt like I was seriously overtraining and probably would have been injured had I continued. My body got my attention and I listened so I took a self imposed running and strength training break and I looked closely at my training. Without realizing it I wasn’t giving my body time to recover fully and it caught up with me even when I considered one of the 2aday workouts to be less intense. Live and learn.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted…Essential Tools of a Well Stocked KitchenMy Profile

    • Thanks Jill for sharing your experience. I’ve seen this in my gym too. So happy that you realize what’s best for your body and are LISTENING to it! 🙂

  6. I have been trying to get myself motivated to do my walk/jog thing in the mornings and then go back to the gym in the afternoon a couple of times a week for a 30 minute (or less) strength training session. Not a good idea? I just can’t stand strength training and I’m not willing to give up morning walking so it seemed like a reasonable way to try to get in the strength training I know I need without ruining my whole day. I’m definitely not a fitness professional, though, so I’ll have to reconsider.
    Denise @ Do you have that in my size??? recently posted…Pity, party of oneMy Profile

    • Denise, it depends on how intense your workouts are. I would say, that if between the two workouts, you’re spending much more than 60 minutes (and it’s a fairly intense 60 minutes) you’re doing too much. And for most, adding in a walk (not a power walk or job) to their day doesn’t really qualify as an extra workout; just active living 😉

  7. I did not even know there was a hashtag!!! I admit that my workouts are intense & longer than most but I do it all at one time! 🙂 I can see 2 a day for the bodybuilding crowd when they get close to competitions – you mentioned the professional athletes so sort of like that OR as you mentioned shorter workouts – like people that have only a little time in the morn & eve – maybe cardio one time & weights the other. But to do hard core workouts but morn & eve – holy crap – my hard core morn is enough for me! GREAT POST!
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & the Holiday WeekendMy Profile

    • Crazy isn’t it Jody? And definitely with your intense workouts, 2-a-days would kill you! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  8. I’m a 1dayer. It may happen from time to time where I’ll split up my cardio/strength training but that’s for reasons of scheduling or activity I want to do (bike ride, group cycling class, yoga, TKD what have you).
    Kierston @candyfit recently posted…#MIMM: Marvelous 5!My Profile

  9. Some times I do 2aday as you mentioned, two short workouts. It happens out of necessity not some level of ‘heard coreness” (it’s a real word if I put in quotes right). I frequently do 2 20 minutes workouts or 1 20 minute weight training followed by a run or something cardio focused for 20-30 minutes. Totally agree it is not healthy. Over exercising can lead to adrenaline fatigue which can kick off an auto immune disorder.
    Stephanie Robbins recently posted…Total Training 4th of July SaleMy Profile

    • Stephanie, I think that breaking one, regular length workout (60 mins max) into two shorter pieces isn’t necessarily going to result in overtraining. Sometimes we have to to make it work in our day. I’m really referring to those who are doing way more than 60 minutes of exercise a day. Personally, I’d rather spend the extra time knitting 🙂

  10. Thank you for writing this post! I must admit it’s getting tired to read on twitter, instagram, and blogs the ridiculous number of workouts people do. Having been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue in January I was tired, run down, and 2-adays were neither realistic nor going to happen! I remember at a spin studio I used to go to many people would spin for an hour and then do gravity strength training for an hour – I’ll always remember many of the instructors saying exercising for that long really wasn’t beneficial – but people did it anyways! I think it’s just part of our culture – of wanting to constantly do more – and I guess lose weight? Glad to have some scientific ‘evidence’ to show it’s not always the best idea!

    I’m active all day long but the closest so 2-adays I get is a workout in the morning and yoga in the afternoon or evening.
    Danielle recently posted…Vancouver Adventure: Friends come to visit (recap 1)My Profile

    • Danielle, so sorry to hear that you have adrenal fatigue; it’s more common than people think and a drag to live through. I tend to think of yoga as more restorative than a workout (although I know that some yoga instructors are tough!) and don’t necessarily consider that an evil!

  11. Mixed feelings here. My dad had a great quote for this:

    “There’s no such thing as over training, just under eating and under sleeping.”

    At its base level, there is actually meat to that statement, though intensity is the governing factor…

    • Roy, I like your dad’s quote. And think he’s probably right, but most people don’t eat and sleep for two intense workouts a day (and most don’t really need them?).

      As far as emotional fulfillment; I get that many people exercise for reasons other than the aesthetic. Still, if you’re not fueling and sleeping correctly, you may end up emotionally fulfilled, but physically exhausted and injured…

      Definitely 2-a-days aren’t for everybody, but people need to learn their own bodies and act accordingly!

  12. I hadn’t really thought of that! Is it okay if you’re mixing up different muscle groups? Like a run in the morning and then abs or or arms in the evening?
    Nikki recently posted…Breathing a cautious sigh of relief…My Profile

    • Nikki, as many of the above commenters point out, it really comes down to intensity and total duration of your workouts. And are you doing this every day, or only 3-4 days per week? I understand that for many people, separating strength and cardio workouts is a necessity for scheduling purposes; just pay attention to your body and watch for the signs of doing too much!

  13. I’ve had trainers suggest I go for 2 a days to get the fat burning going. Both SHORT, INTENSE workouts that would total about an hour. BUT… I work out best in the mornings. By the evening, the most I want to do is take is walk. Not intense enough to qualify. And I feel cheated when I only do a half hour in the mornings! It never works for me. Not to mention that succeed at making myself go to the gym and workout. I fail completely at working out at home.

    I know a couple people who do 2adays – and they both seem to be in that “I hate my body” phase where this is another way to punish their bodies.
    deb roby recently posted…The Food of PortlandMy Profile

    • I hear you Deb. I have a terrible time working out later in the day. Even if it happens, it won’t be at near the intensity my body needs to make change.

      And I agree, the most common reason I see for 2-a-days is to lose weight via punishment…

  14. Hmm, I usually work out 3-5 per week and sometimes I do end up with two in a day. Is it bad if you’re doing something like cardio in the morning and then strength in the evening?
    Nikki recently posted…Breathing a cautious sigh of relief…My Profile

  15. I think it depends on how you define “workout”. I may do a strength workout in the morning then walk with my husband after dinner. We’re moving but we’re not walking superfast. This might be a 2 a day to some but to me it’s just having quite time with my husband. 🙂
    Pamela Hernandez recently posted…Are Smoothies a Good Choice Ep 86My Profile

    • Yes! So agree Pamela. Many of the above commenters made the same point and like you, I don’t think of an evening walk as a workout. It’s really more like ‘active living’. Intensity is what defines a workout for me!

  16. Really good post. I only do 2-a-days if I run in the morning then do weights at lunch or evening. AND this only happens when the run is shorter, there are at least 4 hours of recovery and the weight workout is one that’s about 25 minutes (like bis/back, or shoulder/chest , not full body). This happens maybe twice a week tops. Usually I’m too pooped to do a second workout 😉
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted…Fun For Friday – My 4th of JulyMy Profile

  17. What a great post! Sometimes when people post about their 2-a-days, I feel like I’m not working hard enough, so I appreciate your thoughts! I stick to once a day with a few exceptions: breaking up a long run, a 10-minutes-or-less weight routine, or triathlon training.
    Karen @ the mile report recently posted…4th of July funMy Profile

  18. This summer I have been guilty of the 2x (sometimes 3x) a day because of my boot camp classes. 5 mornings a week for 45 minutes but I also want/need to run and do my other training. When I quit teaching classes I will scale back down for sure. (I don’t post tweet or FB my workouts though so no #2aday from me!)
    Kim recently posted…My Favorite Way to CookMy Profile

  19. I’ve never jumped on the 2-a-day bandwagon . . . just seems like a bit much to me. When I workout, I give it my all. So twice a day just doesn’t seem like fun. I wouldn’t want to burn myself out–I enjoy working out. Love that last question though–living to exercise or exercising to live. Excellent point.
    Michelle @ Eat Move Balance recently posted…The Big Rib Cooking ExperimentMy Profile

  20. Timely post! Right now I am working out twice a day 2 times per week and once a day 3 other days. The ONLY reason I’m doing this is because I’m on vacation from work. Once I am back to working 8 hours a day, there will be no time for 2 workouts a day. I definitely see this as a chance for me to do what I love to do – workout! 🙂
    Maureen recently posted…Eats & Treats – Carmel/Monterey EditionMy Profile

  21. I have injured myself from repetitive strain – not from 2x daily workouts, but just doing a little too much – so I definitely think it’s important to be careful.
    Beeb recently posted…FitBloggin’ GoodBye DinnerMy Profile

  22. I agree that some people go a little overboard with their workouts. I have injured myself when working out too hard. I would never consider two times a day unless they were short or perhaps an AM running session and then some PM yoga.
    Jenn @comebackmomma recently posted…Fitbloggin’ 13 Social Media Conference RecapMy Profile

  23. I too have noticed an increase of 2-a-day workouts. Or maybe I’m just paying more attention to it. Frankly, I don’t have the energy (or time) for it! Aside from that, unless they were both short workouts or I was training for a IM tri or something, I don’t think that I would do it for fear of injury and overuse.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…Good Days. Bad Days.My Profile

  24. I haven’t seen this yet but it’s just a matter of time. Kind of like the “plankathons” with the masses mentality: It must be good because everyone’s doing it. Good job calling it out!
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted…Workout Tunes without Wires: Freedom FoundMy Profile

  25. I doubt I’ll ever teach to do 2aday-ers. I haven’t seen any research at all that backs up this trend. I have, however, seen lots of research that links overexercising with injury rates.
    AlexandraFunFit recently posted…6 Practical Fitness Tips for Older AdultsMy Profile

  26. I was JUST having an issue with this! I did two back-to-back Zumba classes last night and had an awful time sleeping afterward. When I do just one zumba class or weight session a day, I feel great. Two puts me over the edge apparently. And my plateau would be explained by that too! Thanks for this insight.

    • Interesting Christine. I have heard people say that too much exercise can cause sleep problems (rather than help with better sleep). Isn’t it freeing to realize that you can take a day or two off exercise each week and still make progress? 🙂

      • Yes, and no. I feel I’ve become addicted to the gym, so taking away a class is hard for me (and I LOVE Zumba). But yes, because…more time to do other things! And rest up my body.
        Christina recently posted…Low Fat Cake Batter DipMy Profile

        • Just remind yourself that rest is a part of the process; just like warming up, cooling down and stretching. I find that adopting this sort of mindset makes it easier to take a day away from the gym…

  27. I have seen a large increase and even tried 2adays myself. But, for me, I would rather knock it all out at once; give it my all and move on. That is not to say I won’t add in an evening walk, bike ride or even yoga class, but to me, that is not a workout. Rather, I think of that as living a healthy lifestyle. As long as this doesn’t become an unhealthy fad, I am all for people finding their healthy mojo.

    • Carolyn says:

      I agree with you Brynn, about people finding what works for them….I am all abut “MY FIT” (you may like my FB page of that name) It may not be the same as YOUR fit; we may enjoy the same workouts at different levels or have nothing in common at all when it comes to working out (I DONT dance, so Zumba and the likes are torture for me!) but it is all in the name of fitness, healthy living and having fun!

    • Agree with your last comment; everybody needs to find what works for them! I can’t imagine doing two a day myself, although will happily walk after a big gym workout!

  28. Carolyn says:

    I just saw this post and haven’t read everything here yet (I plan to!) , but I just wanted to say that I do 2-A-Days, SOMETIMES, and I find that they work best if they are short in nature and each one is focused on something different. So, if I am pressed for time but want to get a workout in, I may do a short cardio with stretching in the morning and sneak some resistance sets in later in the day. Not overly long training, 20-30 min max in each session and doing different activities. But, that’s just me. I am also a “seasoned” exerciser, and have maintained a weight loss of 25+ lbs for over 5 years. I may be more used to this than others.

    • I think your approach sounds reasonable Carolyn; short but intense and different activities. As long as you’re not suffering from overtraining signs, I think you’re probably A-OK! Thanks for sharing!

  29. I do weights in the morning 45 minutes to an hour and one hour of cardio in the evening…what are your thoughts on this?

    • Personally, my body can’t handle 2 hours of exercise daily. Part of that might be age and part of it might be intensity. My strength training workouts are quite intense! The best question to ask is probably, How does it make YOU feel? And how else might you be spending your time? 🙂

  30. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
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  31. I’m a multi-sport endurance athlete training for long distance triathlons + a group exercise instructor, so I’m often doing 2aday workouts. I try to keep the intensity of my own workouts during class at a minimum- but sometimes that’s hard because I don’t want to let my students down. I’m working on finding a balance, but in the meantime I make sure to take recovery seriously with lots of foam rolling, sleep, ice + yoga.

  32. I know there are heaps of instructors at my gym that teach 2adays. I was talking to one who said she does three classes some days (sometimes all back to back :O) and totals about 14 classes each week!

    I do about about 2 hours twice a week of hockey training, and play two games and warmups each saturday, which is about 3 hours. And do gym classes three days a week for an hour each and i have shin splints in both legs from overuse! I don’t know how she does it!

    • Tell me about it! It’s been many years since I’ve taught more than about 5 classes a week. Right now, I teach 3 and along with my own workouts that’s plenty!

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