Two-a-days

My final reader question post will address two-a-day workouts.  Doing two workouts in one day potentially can be more beneficial than one long workout.  For cycling, which is an endurance sport, this may be less true than others.  Other sports with shorter durations benefit greatly from a shorter, intense workout followed by rest, recovery, a nap, and then another workout, sometimes even three per day (swimming and basketball come to mind here).  I use two-a-days for their potential benefits, but also two other aspects: weight loss and my schedule.

I have found that I can easily do an hour Zone 2 spin (usually 3×18 minutes or similar) on the rollers before breakfast.  For me, at 220w and 160 lbs, I burn about 800 Calories and by riding in Zone 2, my metabolism is burning primarily fat for fuel.  In the afternoon I will do a more intense workout (this time of year, Tempo, but later on Threshold or VO2 Max / 3-5 minute intervals).  I am fresh for the afternoon session but have added a nice calorie burn for the day.

The other reason I utilize this type of workout is my schedule.  I am home with the baby on Mondays (rest day), Tuesdays (Two-a-day) and Wednesday.  I can only do workouts at home, and not for an extended period of time.  The morning workout is before he wakes up, usually from 7 to 8 AM, and the afternoon workout is during his long afternoon nap, usually about 2-3 PM.  I don’t find time for my own nap between workouts, but I do try to eat well, rehydrate (especially after the indoor workout), and stay off my feet.  I also find that I need to be sure to eat enough, since I’ve found I can quickly hit the wall for my second workout if I’m no careful.

The second aspect of the reader’s question was “It appears that you do some two-a-days and also often do sat & sun races? Aren’t your legs toast on the 2nd day?”, so I’ll address this specifically.  For two-a-days featuring two intense workouts this is a major consideration.  The most intense workout should come first.  For example, a sprint workout in the morning may leave you with less top end later, but the afternoon workout might be a more steady threshold session.

As for racing on the second day, I have no reservations admitting my fatigue.  Last season I could easily see signs of fatigue on the second day: high resting HR, sore legs, excessive hunger and thirst, a feeling of less ‘snap’ on the bike, and a low exercise HR (sometimes 10 bpm lower for a given power).  However, I was usually able to produce similar overall power numbers on the second day despite my feelings of fatigue and increased perceived exertion.

For more detail, I’ll examine my cyclocross race weekend of 10/09/10.  I don’t have power data but I do have GPS and HR.  Note that my LTHR is 164 and my Max is 180. You can follow the links below to the race files on TrainingPeaks.

I raced the grassy Interlocken CX course.  I rode okay and placed 14th in a very strong field of 70 racers.  My average/max HR was 164/170.  I then went to work for a 12 hour shift immediately after the race, slept 4 hours, and then drove three hours to BV for XXX.  Needless to say, I did not get a very good recovery.

For the , I raced strong and finished behind the lead group in a much smaller race, finishing 5th.  My average/max HR was 158/166.  Most telling, I spent a total of 32 minutes above my threshold heart rate on Saturday but only 3 minutes on Sunday.  Despite all of this I raced just as well if not better despite poor recovery and signs of fatigue.

Without a power meter, it is difficult to quantify objective comparison of the two days performances, but I suspect if I had a power meter, I would have seen similar numbers for each race.  Also, awarded me fewer points (lower is better) for Sunday’s race based on my placing among the other racers in each race, confirming my better performance on Sunday despite signs of fatigue and poor recovery.

I looked at a few of my double race weekends for the 2010 road season (there were seven), but with the variability of road races (long RR, Criteriums, pack dynamics, race strategy, ‘easy’ races, etc), I couldn’t find much good data.  I only had one double criterium weekend (8/21 & 8/22), and I would say my performance, power, HR numbers, were similar although the second race felt much harder.  Data below:

Raisin Hope Crit (70 minutes) Primal Crit (75 minutes)
Avg HR 155 156
Max HR 177 177
Normalized Power 301 313

From this small case study, I would say that recovery plays a key role for success back to back workouts whether they are two-a-days or a race weekend.  This includes recovery ability based on fitness and age but also includes techniques like cold water immersion, massage, hydration and nutrition.  I’ll also add that you should listen to both subjective and objective indicators of fatigue and performance because how you feel and how you perform don’t always correlate.

About Russell

I have been racing bicycles for a decade. This blog will chronicle my efforts as a Category 2 road racer and lining up with the PROs.
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2 Responses to Two-a-days

  1. says:

    Love the posts Russell especially the training insights like this one. Juggling a family and training is right up my alley.

  2. Mike Woodard says:

    Thanks for the great blog. Awesome stuff!

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