5 Steps to Military Fitness Training Success

Army sergeant nears finish line of run.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joaquin Spikes, assigned to the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, approaches the finish line during the Army physical fitness test portion of the 2017 Army Materiel Command's Best Warrior Competition July 16, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade/U.S. Army photo)

If you're striving for a specific long-term goal, training and working out with consistency are the keys to success. However, there are some important things that we all need to know about the training journey.

Whether you are a beginner trying to build a habit or an advanced-level fitness buff who has already achieved lofty goals, this list of important facts is critical to your early success or continued success.

1. Fitness Is a Journey.

Being in shape is not a destination. You may have a specific goal that creates a momentary destination for yourself, but the journey always continues. You don't arrive at some magic spot where your work is done. Fitness takes consistency. There's no pill, potion or supplement that creates a shortcut.

Consistent training + good diet + good recovery = progress. That's it. It's easy to get deconditioned. Staying in shape requires vigilance and habits that evolve into discipline and mental toughness.

2. Daily Improvement?

You don't have to perform better on every workout because that's not how fitness works. Over time, yes. But day to day, you are going to have workouts that suck.

In fact, I'd say 10% of my workouts are incredible, 10% of my workouts are terrible and the rest fall in the "effective because it is completed" column. We all have good days and bad days.

My recommendation is to keep diligent notes of the 24 hours before any personal best or personal worst training day. This 24-hour study may give you some insight into what you did right or wrong with your diet, hydration, sleep, rest, relaxation time and overall recovery. Optimal performance is the mastery of recovery, so it helps you to learn how to recover at your best.

3. Setbacks Are Inevitable.

We are all human and make mistakes. Training setbacks happen. Our job is to try to limit them by avoiding injury, adhering to proper technique, understanding logical progressions and training smarter but not necessarily harder.

What causes the biggest setbacks in training? Usually it's our own egos.

4. Ego Kills Progress.

Ego may help get us to the gym in the first place, but it also can be what causes injuries that require us to take off training days. You can't train with the same intensity over an entire week if you are training every day at the highest limits of your abilities.

Many see that lack of intensity as a failure and push too hard on a day where their body needs a bit of a break. Even if you can't keep up the pace all week, you should see your workout as a win, because you are still putting in the effort even when you do not feel like it.

That workout may not be at an optimal level of performance, in fact, it may just be a simple mobility day that will help you recover and come back stronger toward the end of the week.

Because you did not skip the workout that day, you just made it easier to have a better tomorrow. These lower-intensity workouts can be the hardest, because it is tough to pull the reins on yourself when you need it.

5. Recovery Is Key, and Sleep Is the Most Important Element.

We all can become better sleepers. You may not have to hold back in the gym if you are getting the right amount of sleep regularly. Seven to eight hours is ideal, and that is a tough pill to swallow for many high-achieving people who typically push through on pure will and caffeine.

Long-term success, longevity and optimal performance are tied directly to the recovery and work/stress balance scale. In other words, success, longevity and optimal performance require the mastery of recovery.

When we are training for a specific goal, most workout programs will yield above-average results if they are consistently applied and include a long-term system of proven applications.

The optimal method for you may need to be adapted for others to see the same results. These improvements come when you test and evaluate different methodologies, training systems and individual workouts.

Find your optimal level of training abilities (time per day, days per week) and which methods allow you to recover fully. Avoid the most common mistakes of either doing too much or not enough work or doing that work incorrectly.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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