Should you do the intense session first or second?
It depends on the time of year and where you are at with your training, i.e. what phase you are in, as to whether you do your more intense session as you first or second session of the day.
At the start of the year, you typically want to prioritise the quality in your training, to try and hit peak power outputs whilst fresh to make maximum raw power gains. So, this means doing your more intense session in the morning, and topping up your endurance in your second session, with that fatigue already in your legs.
During the season, as part of a periodised approach to training, as we get closer to your target event, your training should look more like the demands of your target event. So, for racing cyclists, this means producing high power when fatigued. This can be achieved by doing some general riding in the morning to build up your endurance and create some fatigue, then doing your intensity in the afternoon on tired legs.
This is the theory behind split days / double days, however we are talking about the ‘marginal gains’ here. Two other key aspects come in to play when talking about double days;
- Psychological – if you save your tougher, more intense session for after work, that can be a tough one mentally. In this instance, get the tougher session done in the morning to give yourself the best chance of completing the two sessions in any given day. Getting the workload done is the priority – the order is less important. Get the 95% right first before we worry about going after those finer gains. This is where Zwift is such a fantastic training tool, helping to make indoor training fun and engaging. After a long day, motivation can naturally drop a little however knowing every pedal stroke counts on Zwift – completing structured workouts can help overcome that mental hurdle.
- Lifestyle – your lifestyle may not permit enough time in the morning or evening to do a longer session, in which case the time you have available throughout the day will dictate which session you complete when. Rather than aiming for optimum timing, and stressing yourself out being tight for time or having to cut a session short – completing the longest session when you have the most time available is a savvy move. If you know you often have to stay late in work, don’t schedule a long training session for the evenings if possible! A morning and lunchtime session could be a good idea?
Fuelling for split days / double days
If you are doing your intense session in morning, you need carbs for dinner the night before. Even taking on some carbs for breakfast will help you really max your intensity. It is important to train in a ‘high carbohydrate state’ when you are doing any sort of intensity.
Rowe & King Nutritionist, Ben Price says ‘For any high intensity sessions, carbohydrate is the main fuel source that is used by the muscle, so without sufficient fuel you’ll struggle to hit those high powers, that feature in quality training sessions’
Fasted training is great, but to be undertaken with care and when training steady – Zone 2 with a little Zone 3 would be the max intensity I would recommend.
Two intense sessions in a day?
Two intense sessions in a day has its place, for really fine tuning your form, when combined with high quality rest. This isn’t sustainable unless you are a pro and can afford afternoon naps and perfect nutrition. Instead, my advice is to generally stick to one steady and one intense session for double days.
Article written by Rowe & King Coach, Matt Rowe