2011-10-24

Why Two Workouts Are Easier Than One

At this point, some of you may be thinking, If we're just beginning to build up a fitness base, why does Ryan assume we can work out twice a day? Another way you might be thinking this thought is, Twice a day? Working out twice a day?? What are you, crazy? I'm not that hard-core.

So is working out twice a day "hard-core?" Not at all! In fact, I believe that twice-a-day workouts are actually a little easier on your body than once-a-day workouts. Here's why:

Humans Throughout the Ages
In ancient and prehistoric times, human beings were engaged in a constant, daily struggle to survive. We had to keep moving in order to find food. We had to keep working, keep going, never stopping. The cost of not doing so was starvation and death. Our only thought was to survive, therefore there was really no such thing as "spare time," except an hour or two at night when the exhaustion finally set in, but it was still too early to sleep. These are our physiological roots. The human body was designed to endure such circumstances. It endured then - it can endure today.

Today, only an ever-shrinking subset of us know what it's like to be engaged in physical activity all day long. Only those of us who engage in hands-on farm work, construction, and labor-intensive manufacturing know what it's really like to run around and lift things and pull things and hit things and swing things all day long, six days a week, sometimes for twelve hours at a time.

Even fifty years ago, the number of people who were engaged in physical activity basically all day long was much higher than it is today. That's only really a generation ago.

"Once-A-Day-Only" Makes No Sense
What I'm getting at is that the idea of being sedentary all day long and then getting one good, hard workout in once a day is not merely a modern phenomenon - it is a phenomenon utterly unique to this generation. Prior generations moved around and were active all day long, even your parents and grandparents. So, physiologically speaking, there is no reason to believe that you can't be active all day long.

If you think about it, there is no good reason to believe that a species of organisms that were designed to hunt-and-gather on the Serengeti plains would suddenly become delicate, sedentary creatures that can only endure thirty-to-sixty minutes of organized movement per day without hurting themselves.

No one is "hard-core" for working out twice a day. It's not "extra," and it's not "intense." Indeed, done correctly, working out multiple times per day is nothing more than returning your body to something more closely resembling the human body in a state of nature. It is certainly more difficult than sitting on the couch and eating Doritos, but definitely not beyond the pale. Our bodies were intended to be active like this. The more active, the more we are reflecting our evolutionary development. It's only logical.

Competitive athletes know that if a person neglects to warm-up prior to major competition, he or she stands a good chance of pulling a muscle. Extending that logic to a slightly longer time horizon, it makes some sense that it is potentially much harder on your body to kill yourself during a single, isolated workout once a day than to engage in regular, ongoing physical activity throughout the day.

For these reasons, I think a once-a-day workout regimen may not be the most logical approach to fitness.

You Can Do It!
The point of all of this is that there's nothing "special" about a person who works out more than once a day. Such people don't have anything "extra" in their bodies that allows them to push themselves to limits inaccessible to the rest of us. We can all do it! That's good news!

The key is simply this: While a once-a-day workout regimen focuses on completely exhausting the muscles over the course of a short period of time, a twice-a-day workout regimen is a little more relaxed. This very fact is why I think two-a-day workouts might be even easier for beginners than a once-a-day regimen.

Think of the last time you went to the gym: what did you do? Quite likely, you stretched a bit, maybe got in a light cardio warm-up, and then you hit the weights hard. You likely pushed yourself as far as you were willing to go that day and then slogged your way over to the cardio machine to go for as long as you could before you got too tired, too hungry, and too bored to keep going. Then you went home.

Two-a-day workouts are a lot more fun than this.

Let's take my Week 1 winter training workouts for example. Today, I pulled myself out of bed and went downstairs to work out. Rather than blasting my muscles with the world's most award-winning weight workout, I took things slowly. I started with the deadlifts because it is a calm, almost relaxing motion. I took deep breaths and concentrated on the way my body felt as I did them. I didn't worry too much about how much weight had in my hands, I just concentrated on having good form and enjoying the motion. I approached each one of the exercises this way, and in between each set of four exercises, I checked my email and read the news. Easy.

Tonight, my only obligation at the gym is to put in 30 to 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. I don't need to worry about blasting my muscles and then killing myself on the treadmill. My only responsibility is to do some relaxing stretches and then get a quick bout of cardio in.

The reason I can relax so much as I do these workouts is because I know that - at any given workout - I have "another workout in the bank" for today. No need to push too hard in the morning, because I have a cardio workout in the afternoon. No need to push too hard in the afternoon, because "I already worked out today."

The mental effect is that it takes the edge off. Less pressure, more fun. Less grunting, more deep breathing. The enjoyment you get from relaxing and spending time with your body will make each individual workout far more effective, even though you are spending less time per workout, at a seemingly lower intensity level.

Conclusion
Before you completely write-off any fitness enthusiast as "too hard core for me" just because they work out twice a day, you should consider changing your paradigm a bit. Two workouts in a day need not necessarily mean two evil, crushing workouts every single day.

Instead, think of it as two short, focused workouts spaced across the day as opposed to one, gargantuan killer workout. This provides the benefits of perhaps saving some time, and certainly relieves some of the mental pressure we all feel when we're working out. It allows for a more relaxed approach to fitness and provides you with a means to getting closer to your physiological roots.

Maybe twice-a-day workouts are right for you, too!