Recently, one of our members asked about doing multiple workouts in one day. Specifically, she was asking whether it was smart to come to Industrial Athletics for a CrossFit workout and then go for a run later in the day. The short answer to her question is that anyone can work up to a level of doing multiple workouts in one day, but there are a lot of factors to consider if you want to get to that level of fitness and do it without risk of injury.
Probably the most common issue we see with multiple workouts is one day is overuse. This is when certain parts of the body are placed under too much stress without enough time to recover/rebuild. Overuse injuries are seen in joints, muscles, work capacity, etc. Going back to our earlier example, our athlete may start to experience regular knee pain if she comes to Industrial Athletics for a CrossFit workout that involves a lot of squats and then goes for a long run. The knees have not had enough time to recover from the CrossFit workout before being placed under another long stress. If overuse issues are ignored, they can lead to more serious injuries like stress fractures, rotator cuff tears, or joint mobility issues.
The best way to avoid overuse is to really pay attention to your body. When transitioning from one workout a day to multiple workouts a day, you have to take it slow and constantly reassess how you are feeling. You may find that certain combinations of movements make multiple workouts impossible. If the CrossFit workout requires high rep snatches, your central nervous system may be too fatigued to handle a hard run later in the day. Moreover, you may find that you have to take more rest days. You are doing twice the work in one day than you are used to, so you may have to take a day or two off between training sessions. Just remember to start slow and give it time. If something starts to hurt, rest. Proper rest in the beginning can help avoid overuse injuries that will sideline you later.
Diet and Water
When we workout and push ourselves through high intensity workouts, our bodies are forced to adapt to the stresses. This requires the body to use nutrients stored in our system. Our diets then replenish those nutrients. This is one reason we stress clean eating. When it comes to multiple workouts in one day, you are depleting your body of nutrients more rapidly. As such, you need to plan to replenish those nutrients through diet by eating more. This doesn’t mean you can go out and eat cookies or ice cream just because you are burning more calories in a day. Your additional food needs to come from nutrient rich natural sources like leafy greens, colored vegetables, and fruits.
You also need to eat more to replenish the energy you are using. Energy is stored in our bodies in a couple of different ways. Glycogen is the body’s most readily available energy source. If you have ever worked out and felt incredibly drained after, it may be caused by your lack of glycogen. This is why some members at the gym quickly drink supplement shakes after a workout. They want to restore those glycogen storages quickly. Through your diet, you can make sure your body has a lot of energy by eating energy packed foods. When you are doing multiple workouts in one day, this is important because you are using at least twice the energy that you would on a normal day. You will want to add food options like potatoes, apples, rice, quinoa, and bananas.
Finally, you will need to increase your protein intake. Protein from our diet provides the building blocks for new muscle production. As we workout, our bodies break down muscle. Our bodies then need available amino acids to rebuild that muscle. This is why you gain muscle when you start a workout regime. Protein synthesis starts almost immediately after you finish a workout, so it is important for you to have available amino acids for your body to use. Our best sources of protein are eggs, lean meats, and dairy. You may also consider adding a whey or natural source protein shake to your diet that you will consumer within 20 minutes after each workout.
The final area of diet covers hydration. We could write an entire post on the benefits of water alone (and maybe we will). We cannot emphasize enough the need for water in our diets, and lots of it. As with the rest of our diet, if you are doing multiple workouts in one day, you need to make sure you are ingesting more water than you drink now. You also need to make sure you keep up this increased intake on rest days.
If you are considering multiple workouts in one day, plan to spread out your increased dietary needs over every day, not just the days you do multiple workouts. You need more food on days when you do multiple workouts in order to replenish what you are using. However, you also need those increased calories, nutrients, and amino acids on rest days to make sure your body has what it needs to rest, recover, and rebuild.
A very difficult factor to address in multiple workouts is our rest/work ratios. The reason this is so difficult is because it is entirely based on the work capacity of the individual. We can tell you what you should and should not be eating. We can tell you to rest if you are experiencing some overuse pain. However, we can’t tell you how much to rest. Rest is necessary to give your body time to recover and rebuild. When we workout, we force our bodies to adapt to stress. It is our body’s adaptation that makes us stronger, faster, better. Our bodies need time between workouts, i.e. rest, in order to adapt. If you are working out more than once in a day, you will need more time to adapt. As such, at least in the beginning, you need to be prepared to rest more than you rest now.
The type of rest also needs to be quality rest. This does not mean coming to Industrial Athletics and doing a lower scale for a workout. This means taking a day, or multiple days, of doing nothing intense. You need to spend rest days addressing flexibility, mobility, and muscle soreness. This does not mean you have to sit on the couch. Going for a long walk in the woods or being active in other ways is a good idea. Getting the blood flowing can help your body adapt to your workout stress. Until you get used to multiple workouts in one day, pay attention to how your body feels between workouts. If you are drained, tired, restless, irritable, or feeling joint pain, take an extra rest day. Believe it or not, more rest can equate to faster progress.
Generally speaking, multiple workouts in one day can be very beneficial. If you have a specific sport or fitness goal that you want to achieve outside of Industrial Athletics, adding workouts during your day can help you achieve that goal. Just make sure you are paying attention to your body. Assess the factors we listed above on a regular basis so that you can progress faster and without the risk of injury. We can tell you what factors to consider, but only you know how you feel. In the end, train smart and then train hard.