Thursday, July 26, 2012

Training Tip: Double Up!

"Double your pleasure, double your fun." That's what the old Double Mint ad said, anyway. Is the whole double idea true with running? I find it is. As marathon training begins I like to up my overall mileage, in part so my weekly long run doesn't seem like such a huge chunk of my weekly mileage. One "easy" way to do this is by incorporating doubles--days when you run two different times.

These guys know all about doubles.
Pre-marathon, the big focus is usually building endurance. If you're like me, you've given yourself some time off of heavy mileage and reduced your long run distance following your last major race. This means you need to take some time to rebuild your base. Once you've rebuilt your endurance by gradually increasing your mileage, you can hold onto it without doing long runs every day--one or two a week is sufficient to keep it up. Now the hard part of training begins as you add in quality (i.e., hard) workouts like repeats, hills, tempos, etc. Obviously these sessions can really take it out of you.

Here's where the counterintuitive part comes in--adding a second run can increase your recovery! [Note: Now would be a great time to revisit my post on recovery runs if you haven't read it].  For starters, a long run is tougher on your body than two short runs even if the total distance is the same. Secondly, if you do doubles with some regularity, it stimulates your body to adapt--you're getting an aerobic stimulus two times in one day!

My favorite kind of double.
Doing a second run on a hard day can also serve one of two beneficial purposes. If you do an easy run on the morning of a hard workout day, you body gets warmed up. You may find you feel more energetic come time for your workout. If you do a second run after a hard workout, you're running a pre-fatigued state. This forces your body to tap into slightly different energy stores and to use different muscles, both of which can have benefits come race day.

There's another obvious plus to doubles. In periods of extreme weather, like 90+ degree summer days or frigid winter days, it can be much easier psychologically and physiologically to spend two short periods outside rather than a single extended period.  Yes there's much to be said for acclimating yourself to the kinds of conditions you may face on race day, but on easy days, doubles can help you avoid the extra stress that extreme temperatures place on the body.

One word of caution, be careful adding doubles to your schedule. I recommend this great article from Running Times, which details a smart approach to incorporating doubles. 

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