Should You Be Doing Double Runs?
The “easy double” is a phrase that avid runners toss around. If you are new to running, perhaps easy double runs dredges up images of someone on a baseball diamond. I promise you, “easy double” is indeed a running term. And before you get any crazy ideas in your head that all double days are easy… they most assuredly are not!
What Is A Double Run?
Just like it sounds like, double runs are when you run twice in the same day. There are a lot of benefits of double runs and many runners can benefit from adding them to their running repertoire.
Common among elites, pulling doubles is not just for the super-fast runners out there. Trust me on this. There are many times when double runs could prove quite beneficial to you.
Why Run Doubles?
Double runs are done for a multitude of reasons. First, running twice a day helps you to add mileage to your weekly workload. That makes perfect sense.
Running twice a day means more miles. In addition, you get fitter much faster when training this way. Studies have shown that this training in a glycogen-depleted state provides countless benefits to your body.
Some people use doubles to split longer runs which aids in recovery. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Instead of running 10 miles, if you divide it into 5s and put them 8 hours apart, it is easier on the body. Even if you don’t split your longer runs, you can still reap recovery benefits. If you do a hard speed workout in the morning, going out for a very slow, easy run in the evening helps your body bounce back.
Looking at it from another angle, running doubles puts you on your feet for more tired miles. Learning to run through fatigue is a good way to train your body to persevere when challenged. Putting your feet up after a run serves a purpose for sure. However, so does heading back out 8 or so hours later.
The time between runs also allows you to fuel and rehydrate your body more naturally than with the supplements most of us fuel with on the fly.
When push comes to shove, miles are miles. I used to believe in a concept called “junk miles.” Some coaches think that easy miles don’t count toward your weekly total. After all, every workout should be quality, right? I have since learned that is a wrong thought. Any time on your feet provides benefits.
Do “Junk Miles” Matter?
All miles matter. I have a friend who is a professional running coach. Much of her training is done while she is coaching. After all, if you get paid to run, why not run? I asked her once if she ever felt like she was on her feet too much and not getting enough quality miles. Her response resonated with me.
She stated that as long as you get a certain amount of “quality” training, that means tempo and speed work specific to your goals and aspirations, the other miles can have a bunch of easy ones worked in. Most athletes do a lot of their training way too fast. If you compare your long runs to an elite’s, you will see they are much better at slowing down than us mere mortals.
This friend often runs 2-4 times each day, with different clients. As far as Coach Daphne is concerned, there are no junk miles.
Disadvantages To Double Runs
There are some disadvantages to running doubles. Some of these seem to directly contradict something above. It is true, they do. What it boils down to is you need a mix of the best of both worlds.
- You feel like you are always training.
- If you aren’t careful, you can end up injured.
- Multiple shorter runs do not give the same benefit as a sole long run.
On the one hand, you can sometimes substitute two 5 mile runs for a 10 miler and it will turn out just fine. However, if you are training for your first half marathon and you never run more than 5 miles, it doesn’t matter how many of them you do.. you won’t be adequately prepared on race day.
There simply is no substitute for the long run. Period. Not on a continuous basis, that is.
Doubling For Ragnar Conditioning
One reason some runners choose to do doubles now is because they are training for some type of event where you need to run more than once a day. An example of that is a Ragnar. Have you heard of Ragnar?
When you do a Ragnar, you and 11 of your friends jump into two vans and form a relay team. That team of runners takes turn traveling across 200 or so miles… on foot. That’s right. Sure, you have people to drive the vans. But you always have a runner on the course at all times.
If you are a Ragnar team of 12, each runner is meant to do 3 legs of the race. The legs people run are of varying distances. When I did my Ragnar from Madison to Chicago I had trained by doing double runs. My friend and I would run in the morning and again after supper. Getting acclimated to running on tired legs helped us prepare for what was to come.
One weekend, we even did 3 runs in close to a 24 hour period. We ran Saturday morning, Saturday after supper, and Sunday morning. This was the closest simulation we could come up with to the Ragnar. Had we wanted to make it even closer, we would have fueled with licorice, slept in a van and wondered about 100 times if we were crazy for registering.
Newbies, Read This First!
If you are brand new to running, I would caution you against jumping right into doubles. Your body needs some time to acclimate to the act of running. Some coaching and running specialist advice will tell you that unless you are running upwards of 50 miles a week, you do not need to run doubles.
While I agree that it is not for everyone, I know from experience that some runners pulling in far fewer miles than that have benefited from the double-run trick.
Having said that, most people should not consider trying to double run until they have been running for a bit and built up a decent base. Your cardiovascular base should be established, you should be acclimated to and comfortable running, and as a runner, you should be looking for a new challenge.
If you are newly contemplating running twice in a day, think about starting small. Start out with one double workout in a week. If you have a challenging track workout in the morning, maybe get out for a brief shakeout run in the evening. See how that feels. You may find that your body actually recovers faster.
Another thing to remember is that many new runners or those not training for a long-distance event often make their second workout of the day something other than running.
I am typically one of those people. I might run in the morning and bike in the evening. True, the benefits of this are different than running doubles, but I still feel great doing it.
Just be certain you don’t take on too much all at once. Your body is counting on you to be smart!