Tactical Fitness with Stew Smith: Finding Time and Starting Out

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Stew Smith is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  As a military fitness trainer, Stew has trained thousands of students for Navy SEAL, Special Forces, SWAT, FBI, ERT and many other law enforcement and Fire-Fighter professions.

#1:  College Student Preparing for Special Ops Career

So I just started the first week of your AF Combat Rescue Officer workout program. I have to say, I thought I was in shape but this is tough! Love it!   First, how important is nutrition when doing your program?  I know eating healthy is important but do I need to be eating no junk food at all?  

With a crazy schedule complete with work, school, and family stress, nutrition is more important than when you’re not working out. It is critical to your success, and so is sleep. Otherwise you will never be able to recover properly. See related articles on the Nutrition, Recovery, and Importance of Sleep for your optimal performance.  All of these, not just nutrition, are very important for performance.

Second, as of right now I'm in college, in ROTC, have a job, and a pregnant wife. I saw on your workout plan that you said you can split up the workouts but you suggest that people get it all done in the same day.  

Do you have any suggestions for someone like myself that has very little time to work in all of the workouts? Between the running, rucking, swimming, travel time, and the workout itself it can take me close to two hours to complete it all. Again thank you very much for the tough workout and the insight! Thanks, Dave.

I would break the workouts into two sessions. Maybe get your PT / lift in the morning or run if that is easier. Then do what is left either at lunch or in between classes or the evening. We always had to do two a day in college as some of these Special Ops prep workouts take two hours or more. And when in a crunch and you have to skip some of the longer workouts, move some of the longer events like rucking and long swim workouts to the weekend.

#2:  Getting back in the pool again

Stew, I have been powerlifting and rucking for more than a year now and thinking of giving my legs a break and adding swimming this winter. Any recommendations on strokes and start up distances?  My lungs are ok but not in swim shape.  Thanks, Scott.

I would get in the pool and give it a test. See how far you can swim using any or all the strokes you know without stopping. If you actually do pretty well and can get 400-500m without stopping, try doing a reverse pyramid of distance for starters so each set gets easier. Your workout will look like this:  400m, rest 1 minute, 300m, rest 1 minute, 200m, rest 1 minute, 100m, rest 1 minute. This swim totals 1000m and is a good starting point.

If you only get 100m or less before you have to stop, try doing super sets of that distance for 5-10 sets with a 30-60 second rest interval. For instance, if you can only get 100m, set the workout up as follows: Repeat 5-10 times Swim 100m Rest 30-6 seconds

As you can see both workouts start off pretty slow and total 500-1000m of swim time, but for someone who has not swum in a while, that is a challenge and you will feel it. But, you will progress quickly if you do these workouts 3-4 days a week adding as much distance as you can handle each day.

#3:  Post Heart Bypass – Running Goal Turned to Rowing Goal

I’m 64. After recovering from a heart attack and triple bypass in 2010, I set passing the US Army fitness test as a recovery goal. I chose this because it was calibrated for my age, simple, and seemed both challenging and feasible. After several months of strength training, I passed the pushup/sit-up tests. Though, I was at best about a few minutes (22 min) off the minimum two mile run of 19:50. But over two running seasons, I ended up with injuries that stopped my running workouts. 

Although nothing compares with running, I like rowing machines. So, I want to figure out what rowing time/distance would be comparable to a minimum pass of the APFT two mile run, calibrated for my age, so I can meet my goal on a rowing machine. Any suggestions you might have about this would be greatly appreciated.  First of all, great job on making and sticking to fun and challenging fitness goals! They help keep you focused. Running can be hard on the body so mixing in some non-impact options is always a smart idea. I would row the time it takes you to run 2 miles. So 20-22 minutes and see how far you get on the rower.

The machine should have a range of 300-400 calories burned at this distance with moderate effort on your part. This also happens to be a rough estimate of how many calories you would burn on your 2 mile run. Note your distance and focus your progressions on going farther each workout per 20-22 minutes of work on the rower.  Work on a goal of making that distance you started with 22 minutes to under 20 minutes. Should be a fun challenge for you.


Stew Smith is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL Lieutenant, and author of several military, police, and fire fighter fitness training / testing books such as Tactical Fitness, Maximum Fitness, The SWAT Workout, Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and more. 

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