Some exercisers say two workouts beat one

Dividing exercise can have benefits for the out-of-shape or time-crunched

Health & Fitness

October 19, 2003|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,Sun Staff

David Keltz isn't a professional athlete, and he's not training for a competitive sporting event.

But the 59-year-old works out twice a day whenever his schedule permits.

Whether he's away on business or at home in Seton Hill, the actor tries to maintain a morning / evening exercise regimen that includes a combination of yoga, martial arts and running.

Though at times hard to manage because of travel and show schedules, the two-a-day routine is Keltz's preference -- it's kept his legs strong, his body flexible and his waist trim for decades, he says.

"And you don't have 24 hours to get stiff," he adds. "I'm convinced [that] it's better."

Two-a-day workouts, once considered exclusive to professional sports teams and hardcore competitive athletes, have become more popular among fitness buffs with average skills and abilities.

"A lot of [two-a-day] people have a focus on wellness and their own personal goals," says Andrea Shelby, co-owner of Federal Hill Fitness.

Fitness experts have mixed opinions on the strategy and its benefits, however.

For the sedentary

Lynne Brick, a nationally recognized aerobics instructor and owner of Brick Bodies, a chain of health clubs where Keltz is a member, says that she only recommends two-a-day workouts for sedentary, out-of-shape beginners who can't make it through one long program.

"A deconditioned person can start with two 10-minute workouts a day," says Brick, "but after a few weeks, they should be able to get a [full] workout in at one time."

Although she doesn't suggest two-a-days for those who work out regularly, Brick says exercisers like Keltz aren't endangering their health, as long as the sessions are kept to an appropriate length and intensity based on the individual's level of conditioning.

"It's fine to do cardio in the morning and then strength training in the afternoon, but it's important to [do it] with moderation," she advises.

Dr. Andrew Tucker, director of primary care sports medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center and head team physician for the Baltimore Ravens, suggests that people who work out twice a day know their limits.

"The disadvantage would be if they get into that environment and want to keep pushing," Tucker says.

He notes that exercisers may increase their risk of an overuse injury if they increase their daily workouts. But, "if they're basically not doing more and more by splitting it up, then I don't really see a significant downside."

There are benefits

In fact, people with time constraints may actually benefit from breaking up a large workout into two smaller sets. A split exercise schedule -- for example, jogging in the morning and weight training in the afternoon or evening -- also may be a healthier choice for those who try to cram a lot of high intensity moves into a single workout.

By exercising in smaller segments, busy fitness buffs won't rush to complete a session, they will be less likely to push beyond appropriate limits and they'll be more likely to take a few minutes to do a warm-up and cool down, Tucker says. And, they'll get a good rest in between.

That rest time is what 46-year-old accountant Bob Crocetti likes about his split workout schedule. "The separation allows me to refuel and redevelop energy," he says.

After becoming sore and bored from his former regimen, which consisted of regular three-hour workouts, Crocetti began to break up his sessions into two parts. Now he alternates between a spinning class and other cardio programs in the morning and strength training in the evenings.

"I'm able to complete the entire routine better than I would going straight through," he says.

"A lot of it hinges on what your goal is in training," says Dr. William O. Roberts, president-elect of the American College of Sports Medicine, a 20,000-member national research and education organization.

"For somebody who is in intense competition, the idea of more is better becomes sort of pervasive," says Roberts, who is generally not an advocate of two-a-day workouts.

"Twice a day has a risk. To train and improve, you have to overload the system," Roberts notes, "but that overload does some damage and you need some time to recover."

In the end, fitness authorities agree that it's not the number of sessions, but the total amount of workout time that will help people maintain good health.

"The cumulative amount of activity during the day, whether it's in 10-minute increments five times a day or a solid 50-minute workout," is what matters, Tucker says.

Breaking it up

If you're new to exercise or just getting back into it, twice-a-day workouts could be beneficial.

Exercise physiologist Dr. B. Don Franks, a faculty member in the kinesiology department at the University of Maryland, College Park, says that sedentary folks can get started by following a simple plan.

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