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Coach Dabbs is the winner of the 2019 Merv Alexander Memorial Coaches Award at the Tyack Award luncheon

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“There is a misconception that doubles are something only high-mileage, elite runners do,” says Steve Magness

Running Twice A Day – What’s The Point?

Heading out for two runs in a single day–logging “doubles” or “two-a-days”–is standard practice among elites. But most mortals wouldn’t dream of it: not enough time and too much injury risk. “There is a misconception that doubles are something only high-mileage, elite runners do,” says Steve Magness, an exercise physiologist and cross-country coach for the University of Houston. “But a lot of runners can benefit from them.” Including time-crunched folks trying to squeeze in miles and veterans looking to step things up. For good reason: Studies suggest doubling up and running in a depleted state can boost fat-burning, train the body to use glycogen more efficiently, and stimulate mitochondria production (more mitochondria can delay fatigue). “By shortening the time between runs, you’re challenging your body to recover faster,” says Greg McMillan, an exercise physiologist and coach in Flagstaff, Arizona. “And a faster recovery is a good thing.” But bad things can happen if you overdo it. Here’s when it makes sense to double up–and how to do it safely.

“Cumulative mileage matters–no matter how you do it,” says Brad Hudson of Hudson Elite Marathon Performance in Boulder, Colorado. You can boost your total miles by doubling once a week–and still keep a rest day. Four to 10 hours after a key workout like an interval session or a tempo run, go for an easy 20- to 45-minute run, and don’t fret about pace. This will boost mileage and aid recovery from the first workout by increasing blood flow to the muscles and flushing out lactic acid and other metabolic waste products. The result? Fresher legs for your next run. “The best massage you can get is from a second run,” says Hudson. On days you can’t bear the thought of lacing up again, try pool-running, cycling, or the elliptical. Such options offer similar recovery benefits without  the pounding, says Hudson.

No doubt, it can be tough to run six to eight miles on a Wednesday. Divide the run in two, and you can reap a surprising number of benefits. For example, logging two 40-minute runs delivers a double boost of human growth hormone (production peaks about 40 minutes into a run), which helps build and repair muscle. You’ll also enjoy two post exercise spikes in your resting metabolic rate, which could aid in weight loss. And finally, you can push the pace a bit on the shorter runs. “Sometimes it’s better to take two runs that you feel really good about than one that you just slog through,” says Hudson. That said, there’s simply no substitute for the weekly long run when it comes to building endurance, muscle strength, and mental readiness, particularly if you have a half or full marathon in sight. Maintain your long run and key workouts and split only midlength recovery runs, says Magness.

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Jay Johnson on going from track to summer training.

Planning and Screening

If you can find the time to plan the first few weeks of summer training, that allows you to assign that training to kids who didn’t run in the championship season, and it gives you a couple of weeks to refresh before summer training. 

While it would be ideal for you to be with your athletes daily in the first few weeks of the year, that’s not going to happen in most programs. But assigning them SAM and strides lays the foundation for doing comprehensive training when you meet with them in the summer.

If you know the athlete has some problematic asymmetries with their gait, it might be worth having them see a knowledgeable physical therapist or chiropractor who can do a movement screen, and can then assign routines to correct these issues. Obviously, this can backfire, with this person overstepping their bounds and giving input on training. 

I don’t think this is necessary for 80-90% of your kids, but for the athlete who has had injury issues that you are certainly a function of musculoskeletal weakness and/or a significant asymmetry, it might be worth involving a physical therapist or chiropractor.

Are They Bored?

That would be my simple question regarding when to start training again. 

There are different schools of thought on when to resume training. Joan Hunter has her Loudoun Valley athletes take only a few days off, then resume training, and they seem to have fewer injuries because of it. The flip side is one week of little activity, then a week of running, but only four to five times, which has worked for a lot runners.

The reality is that when training starts, you want it to be comprehensive and you want their full attention, and that’s the reason I think you should wait until they’re bored. Related, you need to be antsy to start practice before you start practice. If you’re not excited to get going, it probably means you need to delay summer practice a week.

Beat The Heat

Plant the seed that they need to beat the heat this summer and be willing to get up to run. Unfortunately, the problem is that, in an ideal world, they go to bed early enough to get the 9-10 hours of sleep they need as high school student-athletes. I’m at a loss on this one as to how you convince a high school athlete to get to bed early enough to get that amount of sleep and still be up in time to beat the heat. 

The book Why We Sleep was recommended by Paul Vandersteen at the Boulder Running Clinics and it’s fascinating. The author, Matthew Walker, Ph.D, was on Dr. Peter Atia’s The Drive podcast and their three-part interview is the most important running-related information I’ve acquired this year. (I love the free podcast app Overcastand its smart speed function, which is free). 

7Walker recommends high school athletes go to bed a bit later and sleep in…the opposite of what you may need to do in your climate. Again, I don’t know what to tell you on this, other than we know that sleep is a game changer when it comes to training and that athletes need a great deal of sleep to handle significant training loads.