Split Days: How to train twice a day
Double days or split days are where you do more than one workout in a 24-hour period.
For instance, you might do an intense interval session focused on improving your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) in the morning, and then perform a workout to work on your mountain bike skills in the afternoon.
Who should use split day workouts?
Split days can be taken advantage of by a number of different types of riders.
Elite-level pro athletes can use split day when they are in or approaching the race season, to add more volume and a greater training stimulus to their training plan, without the need to ride for 4-5 hours at a time, as well as perform high intensity intervals.
On the flip side, recreational riders looking to improve their fitness on a tight schedule, can train early in the morning, and later on in the evening, to get around the problem of not having 2 hours+ of time available at any one point in the day.
So to summarise the benefits of split days, they are good for:
- those with less time
- increasing training volume in a manageable way
- working on covering multiple areas of fitness and performance in a single day
How to maximise your split days
Split days can be quite tough to structure and the second session of the day needs as much thought put into it as the first.
Here are some good rules of thumb to follow when planning a split day:
Schedule your most intense cycling or MTB workout first. This will allow you to get the most out of yourself in sessions that demand a high intensity in order to achieve the goal.
Examples include VO2Max intervals, force hill repeats or sprinting. If these sessions are put 2nd in the day, the fatigue accumulated might be enough to stop you pushing as hard as is required.
Another biggie is to make sure to refuel properly after first workout of the day. This is critical so that you have the energy to achieve what you have planned for your 2nd session.
Making sure you eat a well balanced and calorically-adequate meal as soon as you finish your ride is the way to do this.
In additional, ensuring you rehydrate well to help your body’s digestion and transport of waste products out of the muscles via the blood.
So what are some common mistakes that a lot of athletes make when doing split days?
The main one has got to be pushing too hard or doing too much in the first ride of the day. As mentioned, both workouts should be prioritised, so whilst performing your first workout, always keep in mind the demands of the session you have scheduled later on.
Another mistake is riding the novelty factor of split days too far and getting burnt out. Whilst they are very helpful in increasing your training volume and training stress, too many can leave you overtrained and lacking motivation.
Always ramp up your training slowly and progressively, so that the increase in training stress is manageable and won’t illicit overtraining syndrome or illness.
Of course, not refuelling or rehydrating correctly is a mistake many make, and the importance of this has already been stressed above. It can be an easy mistake to make, because many athletes are often rushing around after the first session. Try to plan ahead, and if possible, pre-prepare any nutrition you’ll need, so that you can get it down ASAP.
Example Split Day
Finally, here’s a split day you might want to try:
- 1st Workout: 1.5H Total Time - 4-5x 2.5M @ ~120% of FTP, with 2 min active recovery between each. In lead up to interval set and after completion, ride in Zone 2 the rest of the time.
- 2nd Workout: 1H Total Time - Ride off-road at your local spot, practicing cornering, jumps, drops and negotiating rocks. Throw in a few sprints out of corners if your condition allows for it.
Drop any thoughts or tips of your own in the comments below!