Ask Stew: Making Changes to a Program
Every quarter of the year, I break up my training routines to change things up and avoid staleness with workouts, as well as over training (over-running, over-high rep calisthenics, etc.). Doing this, I have found that staying strong and maintaining cardiovascular fitness are easily maintained. As written in the 20 Years of Periodization, from the ages from 27-47, this has been my year-long cycle:
January to March: Near 100 percent weights, more non-impact cardio workouts. Ruck / Swim with fins.
April to June: Calisthenics and cardio workouts. Run / Swim Progression.
July to September: Calisthenics and cardio workouts (advanced). Run Max / Swim Progression.
October to December: Calisthenics, weights, and decrease running / non-impact cardio workouts. Ruck / Swim with fins.
Here is an email from a follower of that plan who stays operational with his fire department, but is requesting some advice on changing it up.
Stew – I am a 45 year old fire fighter. I started your periodization training plan this spring and have gone from a big and slow 230 to a leaner and more fit 210. So thanks. However, I am a little concerned with the upcoming lift cycle, as I tend to gain muscle mass (and bulk / fat) easily. I would like to work on strength, mobility, and maintain current cardio levels, but I do not want to gain a lot of mass as it has slowed me down the past 10 years. Love this system, but need to adjust I think. Thanks - John S.
You know, a lot of firefighters are finding the TRX to be very useful in the firehouse for workouts in between calls. With regards to making changes -- absolutely! All systems need flexibility and should be able to adjust fire when needed. In fact, my plan for the winter is doing something similar. I recommend laying off high running miles. Maybe resort to some non-impact activity like rowing, stair stepper, elliptical, bike, swimming, etc. Your joints will thank you for it. However, I am doing something this year completely different as well with regards to strength training. I am reducing my high reps calisthenics by wearing a weight vest. This will help cut my reps by 50-75% but avoid many of the 1-2 rep maxes that made me very strong last year BUT too big. I got up to 225 pounds last winter and when the spring running started, it about crushed me. After the running / high rep cycle (and some food planning) I am back down closer to 200lbs where I plan to stay for good.
Another tool I am using in place of heavy barbells this winter is the TRX. I am going to use weight vests with the TRX and calisthenics as much as I can to reduce repetitions and build / maintain strength through the winter without gaining weight. These workouts will be followed by some form of cardio workout -- short runs or non-impact options like rowing and swimming.
For example, while we are reducing our weekly run totals, we start to add different resistance training in the fall. See below for a TRX / Cals / and Carries Workout we did this week:
Run 1 mile
Repeat 3-4 times
TRX atomic pushups max
TRX Squat / Rows 10-15
TRX rollouts 10
Fireman Carry 50m or sandbag carry 100m
Run 1 mile
This is a quick and effective full body workout that you can make much harder with a weight vest if you prefer and follow it more a longer non-impact cardio workout. For instance, we swam 1500-2000m after this workout.
Yes – make changes and experiment. If your goals are to stay leaner than normal, either change up the weight and repetition ratio of the resistance training, or maybe add some hard and fast interval training sessions with both resistance and cardio -- fast / slow sets or both. Regardless, at our age our weight loss or maintenance starts in the kitchen, so eat well and don't over-eat.
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