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The development of fitness has three main components. Duration. Intensity. Frequency. When combined with good recovery and nutrition, increasing any or all of these will improve your fitness and performance.
Double days, as we call them, hit both duration and frequency and if the process is managed correctly they can also create the possibility of greater intensity and improved quality of training. For example, often there can be a risk that the training benefit hoped for a 2-3 hour long ride can be lost if the 2nd part of the ride you are tired. If this happens the 2nd part becomes substandard turning it into junk miles. But if you split it into two, one hour or ninety minute sessions, separated by good nutrition and recovery, then both sessions can be the same high quality training. You are completing the same amount of time of which all of it is quality.
Riding on a turbo is a good illustration of this. If the weather is really poor then the prospect of riding a three hour ride on the turbo is enough to make anyone’s head fall off. But imagine a 90 minute quite high intensity turbo session in the morning and a ninety minute tempo or medium intensity session six hours later and suddenly the whole things becomes a great deal more manageable.
The other major advantage is that your metabolism is fired up twice. Following a workout, the body continues to burn fat – the harder the workout, the longer the burn. So it makes sense if both workouts are high quality, the fat burn is going to be greater than one session where half is quality and the rest is substandard.
Double Days are excellent for weight management as well as overall fitness.
One way of really capitalising on this is to complete the first session fasted. There is science which indicates riding with glycogen stores in the body depleted means fat burn is then maximised. This in turn can help boost your endurance capacity and enable you to enhance fat burning capabilities in the future.
In a commuting context, perhaps the journey into work could be completed fasted. Unless you’re really experienced and in peak condition it’s best to keep these rides to around an hour.
It is absolutely critical when you finish a fasted ride the first meal is nutritional. A bowl of porridge, with a teaspoon of honey and some whey protein is not too difficult to make at work and is covering all the bases required after an early morning fasted ride. It provides you with high quality carbs, in low GI form, with a little sugar from the honey and a decent blast of protein from the whey powder.
Still thinking about nutrition and in a commuting context, people on their way home will often find the same ride harder. That’s because they may have eaten lunch three or four hours ago and nothing else before the ride, and they are not properly fuelled. That’s going to devalue the training benefit of the ride. Enjoy a good healthy lunch with plenty of salad/veg and protein, perhaps from lean meat, with a carbohydrate based snack around an hour before the ride home. This is very important. If you do this wrong, then training twice a day can actually have a negative effect on performance. Short term fatigue can lead to longer term fatigue. Small injuries can become worse and because you are riding twice they can become more serious than riding just once a day.
Also be aware of the effect an increase in frequency, duration or intensity of exercise has on the immune system making you more susceptible to illness. Combine this with riding when it’s wet and cold, arriving into an office full of people who may be sick there is a real risk you could end up ill.
If you are new to DOUBLE DAYS and unused to high training loads, we would advise building them up slowly. Undertake them at low intensity to start with. You shouldn’t just jump into double days with all guns blazing, unless you’re in really excellent shape to start. Start with one double day a week, build up to a maximum of three and do it over a period of six to eight weeks.
As a rule of thumb, if you are new to double days, aim to complete the rides at sub-threshold effort levels. If you are training with a powermeter, this means staying in or below the TEMPO ZONE (80-90% of FTP) which is about 5-6 on the Rate of Perceived Effort scale (you should be able to hold a conversation). If you are using Max Heart Rate then this is less accurate and precise tending to vary widely between people but as a very rough guideline, it would be best not to exceed 95% of Max Heart Rate.
More experienced riders can increase the intensity over the six to eight week period a little quicker and they may also tweak the duration and frequency of the rides to their own fitness.