Power Pumpkin Workout

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Here’s a fun way to save your body from looking scary this Halloween: before you decorate the jack-​​o-​​lanterns with your family and friends, grab a heavy gourd and use to tone your trouble spots! My new video, the Slimnastics Stability Ball Workout (www​.nikkifitness​.com) was the inspiration for these moves, because you typically use a medicine ball or stability ball to perform them. My 4 year old is the reason we bought the pumpkin in the first place.

Running More Than You Want To

Top 5 Tips for Proper Running Form

Every so often, I get asked how to train for a long run like a half marathon or marathon.  Many young men and women prefer the accountability of a race and the thrill of competing in runs while preparing for Special Ops professions.  If running is a weakness you must work on in order to succeed in future training programs, preparing for races that are also entertaining can be a great way to turn a weakness into more of a strength.  Though a marathon is not necessary, it does make a great gut-​​check if you can keep from getting injured prior to your training.  Here is an email from a young man who is making the transition from a collegiate power athlete and working on his skills to become a better long distance runner:

Stew, I just finished my senior year of college in AZ and have been trying to get better at running as I am preparing for Army Special Forces.  As you know, this training requires you to run and ruck many miles each week, but I am having issues with keeping my focus during longer runs.  Any suggestions?  Should I try running different locations, races, marathons, different cities, elevation, beach/​desert, trails?  Thanks – Sean.

What is the best way to…?

2012 London Olympics

For over a decade and a half of writing about working out and acing fitness tests primarily, I often get questions that start off with, “Stew — what is the best way to (insert event)?  The most common one is “run faster in timed runs”.  Or “do more pull-​​ups, push-​​ups, sit-​​ups” is often asked.  And, of course, there is swimming times related question — “What is the best way to increase my swim speed /​ decrease swim times per given distance?”  Or a very controversial topic — “What is the best way to build muscle?”

The reason why I bring up this topic is after reading an email from a young man trying to ace his situp test, I got distracted.  He is seeking a goal to keep a pace of one sit-​​up per second or scoring 120 situps in 2 minute period.  This is a great goal!  It is not uncommon in the Spec Ops candidate world to see 120+ on 2 minute sit-​​up tests and there is a way to build up to get there.  Is MY way the BEST way?  I do not know — depends on how you define BEST.  Here is the question:

Situps“Stew — I have a sit-​​up test that a scored near the minimums on the first time (60 in 2 min), acceptable a month later (90 in 2 minutes), but I want to master this event as it once embarrassed me.  The sit-​​ups — I overestimated my abilities and did not practice (like you said) and was ranked last in our group on sit-​​ups.  Now I want to max it and not far away from it.  What is the best way to get that max score in sit-​​ups?”

 

How do you define BEST? I Digress…

It’s Getting Spooky Out There

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Every once in a while, I feel the urge to unplug from the news, social media and technology.  Recently, after a two year hiatus from the news, I decided that enough time had passed to re-​​engage.   I’ll admit that the timing couldn’t have been worse.  It’s getting really scary out there, isn’t it?  From rampant viruses to political turmoil, the news isn’t very encouraging.  Fortunately, we, as a country, can still cling to some simple yet powerful truths — we have a strong military to protect us, the most advanced scientific achievements to make our lives better, and the resilience and fortitude that makes us all Americans.  As Americans, we also have the freedom to take care of ourselves and there may be no better time than now to do that in a big way.

How to REALLY Build Muscle-​​Forget 3 Sets of 10 Reps

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If you have ever stepped into a gym, most like you’ve used the old school method of 3 sets with 10 reps to try and build muscle.  Then, 90% of you won’t return after a month because you don’t see any gains. Of course not! Think about what you’re doing. In order for a muscle to increase in size you have to first break it down. You’re not going to accomplish that will 3 measly sets of a weight you can lift 10 times.

Week #19: Workout of the Week

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Here is a different type of 50–50 split workout we like to do in October as we slowly transition from higher rep calisthenics and move into more weight training programs to build strength and power.  The term 50–50 refers to the workout being about 50% calisthenics and 50% weight training.  This is one of our new workouts we created this Fall.

Related articles are periodization, Preparing for the Tactical Fitness Test

Weight Room
Burpee /​ Run Pyramid:
1 burpee — run 30m
2 burpees, run 30m
3 burpees, run 30m
4 burpees, run 30m
5 burpees = burpee 1–5
Max Pullups
Max dips
Stair crawls down/​up

Traits of a Special Operator

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We all have had some form of psych test in our lives.  Do you remember the Myers-​​Briggs test you may have seen in high school, college, or in the military as well.  I know I have taken it at least three times in my life.  A recent question brought back some of those memories and prompted a little thought on the topic of personality types.  Here is the question:

Stew,
What are some of the personality types that make it through Special Ops training programs and go onto to serve in various Special Ops programs for a profession (like SEAL, EOD, Army SF, SWAT Teams, etc)?  I saw your article on some of the traits needed for Mental Toughness as well as the many fitness requirements you recommend, but what type of people finish the training?

How to Hit the Pause Button

BLT 1/4 hits paradise for Exercise Tropic Thunder

This weekend I’m pulling some self-​​imposed overtime.  With everything going on in my life at the moment, I have to put in some extra hours to catch up with paperwork and correspondence which I hope will get me ahead for next week, or so I choose to believe at this moment!  Does it ever feel like you’ve got too much on your plate?  From your service/​career demands to family obligations and a lengthy list of must-​​dos, it may feel like you’ll never get on top of it all.  Maybe we can all take a cue from nature as summer is officially over and autumn begins.  In the fall, everything seems to take a pause — the grass stops growing, leaves begin to turn, and flowers fade.  If your world is spinning, check out these tips to help you take it down a notch or two. 

Sleep Deprivation Video from TED Conference

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If you have not seen or heard about the TED conferences you should subscribe — especially if you like to hear about new and innovative things occurring in the world with science /​ technology based research and development.

TED = (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference share the best ideas in the world for FREE by video.  Check them out.  This one is conducted by former Navy SEAL and current medical doctor — Kirk Parsley.

Workout of the Week # 18: 50–50 Workout

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As many of the readers know, I use a method of periodization that evolves with the seasons.  Some have called it the Solstice Running Plan, while I tend to just like changing my workouts every quarter (12–13 weeks) so not to burn out with any one type of exercise.  For instance, each change of season brings in something new and gradually fades something out:

Spring (March — May):  Progressive running build up as well as shift from winter weights to higher rep calisthenics, taper from longer swimming workouts, with shift in speed /​ agility training.

Summer (June — September):  Peak build up of miles running, high rep calisthenics, high speed on swimming, only bodyweight exercise to include fireman carries, crawls, log PT, etc…(Almost no weights — focus is PFT testing scores)

Fall (September — November):  Drop high rep calisthenics, introduce weight training, increase swimming distance /​ rucking, reduce running mileage over 12 weeks and focus on faster paced shorter runs.

Weird Workout Hacks that Actually Work

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It’s not hard to find hundreds of search results for workout tips when searching the internet. That’s why I was on a mission to find quick and easy workout tips that actually work, proven by scientific studies.  Below are my findings:

High Blood Pressure During High School Physical

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Teenage high blood pressure occurs with some frequency and is often caught when high school student-​​athletes get physicals prior to joining a JV /​ Varsity athletic team.  Here is an email from a young man who wants to one day serve in the military but tried out for football this past summer.  He states:

“Stew, I took your advice and joined some team sports while is high school in order to prepare for being a part of a team when I join the Marines one day.  But, I was borderline high blood pressure and not sure why — during my annual physical for sport.  Is this something I can reduce with more exercise, diet, or do I need to see a doctor and get medicine?”

It is never a bad idea to do more than occasional blood pressure checks over the next several months.  I would get your blood pressure checked at least every month to establish if borderline high blood pressure increases or decreases due to many causes. If you see any more high blood pressure scores, then yes, I would go to a doctor, BUT there are many causes for TEMPORARY high blood pressure.  In fact, only about 1–3% of teenagers actually have high blood pressure, so it can be something you have to deal with but chances are low.

Gut Check

Gut Check Obstacle Course

Have you ever heard that expression, “I had a gut feeling”?  Maybe you’re about to make an important decision and you stop to do a “gut check.”   For those of you in combat situations or as first-​​responders, you may find yourselves going with your “gut instincts”.   The phrase “gut check” is even defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “an evaluation or test of a person’s resolve, commitment, or priorities.”  Merriam-​​Webster calls it “a test of courage, character, or determination.”  It’s no accident that our gut seems to have the ability to guide us through challenging situations.  You may be surprised at just how important your gut is to your physical stamina, mental sharpness and emotional health.  

Workout of the Week #17

Combat Swimmer Stroke

Here is a swim workout that requires a video to best explain.  The focus is on three events:

Life Saving Buddy Tow — 25m
Combat Swimmer Stroke 50m
Freestyle 100m (6–10 strokes per breath)

The goal is to push yourself on the buddy tow — recover with the 50m CSS — then push your heart /​ lungs with 100m freestyle hypoxic type swim set.

Peak Your Performance…Now!

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Have you ever enjoyed a summer day that you wish would never end?  Labor Day was one of those days for us here in Maine.  Usually, by this time of the season, the crisp chill of autumn has set in and I’m reaching for my fleece.  Instead, this week has ushered in steamy, hot weather and brilliant sunshine.  So, you guessed it, I’m spending as much time as possible outdoors to soak up every ounce of warmth before it becomes a fleeting memory in a few short months.  Last week we talked about peaking your performance with a better approach to sports nutrition.  Whether you’re at the gym, on a bike, in the water or at home, this week we’ll continue to shed the light on overcoming inflammation to keep you moving. 

The Two Minute Bodyweight Workout –4 to Floor

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The Two Minute Bodyweight Workout –4 to Floor

This article was authored by Sergeant Michael Volkin, inventor of Strength Stack 52 bodyweight exercise cards.

I don’t know about you, but I have too much stuff to do. Like you, every day I deal with email, Facebook, tweets, work, pets, family, and so on. Finding time to go to the gym is getting harder and harder each day. Well, have no fear. I have assembled for you a workout you can do anywhere called the 2 Minute Workout that only takes, you guessed it, 2 minutes! This workout will get your blood pumping, increase your energy level, burn some calories and strengthen muscles.  Not a bad way to spend 2 minutes!

Workout of the Week #16

Stew Smith Navy Seal

It is testing focus month for us in August /​ September (1st week) so we tend to mix in fitness testing elements with workouts.

Here is one we did to help with PT and running:

Sports Nutrition — A Game Changer

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Wolff-Diaz)

As summer winds down, I’m noticing an interesting trend that has developed over the past few months — my pension for all things water-​​related.  From swimming to kayaking to paddle boarding, I’ve been on a mission to stay on or in the water as much as possible.  I now officially have the SUP (stand up paddle board) addiction!  Put me on the water with a paddle in my hand and I’m content for hours.  If you haven’t checked it out, SUP-​​ing is an awesome full body workout engaging your core for balance, increasing flexibility, upper & lower body strength and decreasing stress…seriously, is there anything more calming than dipping your paddle into a clear, tranquil lake or the invigorating rush of catching the surf?  My newly discovered passion has made me even more aware of how to tweak my nutrition to keep me on the water as long as possible this year. 

Top Reasons Why People Fail Special Ops

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I love getting email questions that require me to think and recall over the years some of my experiences to share.  These questions are from a future SOF candidate, who asks a simple question, “Why is the attrition rate so high?”  Here is his specifics:

I was curious Stew, why are the attrition rates for SOF so high? It seems that to get into any SOF training program you have to pass a physical examination to show you can handle training, academic tests, and reach a pretty high level of fitness. Therefore; all those who start should technically be able to complete the course? But of course most end up quitting. Through what means do trainees feel that the course isn’t for them? Or is it that people believe the workload isn’t worth the reward? Is it naive to think that because you only meet the minimums that you cannot succeed in the course? Is it more of a solid success-​​driven mentality requirement?

Crushing Cortisol

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Last weekend I returned to my parent’s home for a reunion with my mom’s family.  We spent our days relaxing by the lake, talking up a storm and laughing until our sides were about to split!  It took a couple of years for my mom to pull off this reunion as everyone’s schedules and circumstances were decidedly chaotic and stressful.  I’m sure my family will agree that it was one of the most fun times we’ve had together in a long while. In fact, any stress we may have carried into the weekend was quickly diminished.  When I left on Monday, everyone looked relaxed and happy.  It made me realize that stress can take its toll on all of us and yet there are simple ways we can all crush it.