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Are You a Cardio Machine? Improve Your Run - Swim - Ruck!

Stew smith

Don't Do Cardio?
Not Smart if Military Service is in Your Future

Become a Cardio Machine without the Overuse Injuries

The Spec Ops Triathlon is a common workout evolution we do monthly to improve and maintain the needed skills seen in many military training and special ops selection programs. Mastering the run, swim with SCUBA fins, and 50lb ruck needs to be as much of your programming as lifting weights and doing calisthenics.  Check out #specopstri on Instagram for some great pics and ideas to add to your workout routine. 

Run - Ruck - Swim Guidance (Some Basics)

If you you hate running longer distances (anything over 100m) like I did as I transitioned from sports to becoming a member of the military, you need to read this - After 35 Years of Hating Running - Here are 10 Lessons Learned.  But it does not stop there, learning to get good at rucking also has its progression rules - Rucking Progression Rules of Rucking.  And of course learning how to swim and swim with fins using the combat swimmer stroke (CSS) is needed to be practiced long before joining as there are many elements you need to master (technique, swim conditioning, ankle mobility, and hips strength). 

Avoid Injury: Becoming Better at Running By NOT Running TOO MUCH

I call this my triathlon athlete model of training. If you are trying to build a cardio base, you do not have to do it with countless of long slow distance miles.  Most people who are non-running athletes (long distance types) will get overuse injuries in the first few weeks of tha training model.  Consider making running being about 1/3 of your total cardio activity and the other 2/3 be a combination of swimming or something else like biking, rowing, elliptical, stairsteppers, or other non-running / rucking impact activity.  So, instead of running an hour at a 10 minute mile pace and wonder why you got good at running slower and your knees hurt, run for 20 minutes but faster, then spend the remaining 40 minutes doing steady paced cardio with a combined swim and other cardio option. Your knees / shins will thank you for this especially if you are new to running longer distances (or running at all). 

A Way to Add These Cardio Events to Your Week (And Progress from Here)

Here is a run - swim - ruck workout schedule modeled from a combination of the 50-50 Swim Workout (Navy), 50-50 Swim Workout (Air Force), Tread / Drownproofing Drills, Running with Purpose and Pace Workout, and Adding Rucking on Leg Days

 If you need to work on your cardio more than your strength, do your cardio first most days, however it is wise to do these events in the order of any fitness test or event you know is going to be part of any assessment. 


Leg Day



Leg Day

Sat or Sun

Warmup plus 1 mile timed

Repeat 8 times
400m @ GP
- 1 min walk

50-50 Swim Workout

Warmup with 500m swim
10 x 50m free + 50m CSS (minimum rest)

10 min tread no hands

Warmup plus 1 mile timed

Hills, beach, or bleachers 15 min
+ 2 miles of 1 min fast / 1 min easy

Ruck 2-3 miles (50lbs)
and / or
Swim 500m no fins warmup
Swim with fins 2000m for time
Tread 10 min with fins / no hands

Mobility Day
Repeat 5 times
5 min cardio
5 min foam roller, stretch, massage

Swim 10 min + Tread 10 min + drownproof workout

(add 50-50 if you prefer and need the conditioning)




Warmup plus 1 mile timed

Repeat 6 times
800m @ GP
- 2 min walk

50-50 Swim Workout
Warmup with 500m swim
10 x 50m free + 50m CSS (minimum rest)



2-3 mile run fast for time on beach, hills, if available

Ruck 2-3 miles but
-Do squat 20 / lunges 10/leg every 5 minutes of first 2 miles

Swim with fins 2000-3000m




Warmup plus

4 mile timed run

Optional – add in obstacle course if available for fun running

Add 50-50 if you need to conditioning






use bike, row, elliptical or more swimming in place of running if needed

use bike, row, elliptical or more swimming in place of run/ruck if needed

No running / rucking today any way - but add in more swim conditioning if needed

use bike, row, elliptical or more swimming in place of running if needed

use bike, row, elliptical o r more swimming in place of run/ruck if needed

use bike, row, elliptical or more swimming in place of running if needed

Add 10-15% distance / time per week to the above chart if you feel you can handle more cardio volume - otherwise keep the mileage the same and focus on make the runs / rucks / swims faster / easier to handle.

= goal pace for timed runs (6 min mile) or 7 min mile for runs of 4-6 miles
Bike / Row - Replace any run / ruck with non-impact if volume is getting more than you are ready for until you progress to this number of miles per week
Leg Day - Top off leg day with Ruck or swim with fins (depending on your needs USMC, Navy, AF, Army, etc) 
Swim 50-50 - Use the Air Force Version if considering the AFSW Open Enlistment. 
See more advanced weeks of running progression with the Running Plan to Get Your TO and THROUGH Selection.

Who Is The Tactical Fitness Coach / Author Stew Smith?

 I'm the former Navy SEAL that military recruits and special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Check out the Complete List of Training Programs (Spec Ops, Military, Police, Fire)

We Have Answers For Beginners to Advanced Spec Ops Level Training Programs (see below)



DO NOT RELY ON THE MILITARY TO GET YOU INTO SHAPE AT BASIC TRAINING.  You will get into better shape for sure during your training if you arrive in lower fitness form, but you need to arrive with a foundation of physical fitness that is specific to your future job in the military / fitness tests / training. If you show up out of shape, you could end up failing standards or injuring yourself causing longer delays or removal from training altogether. 

For You Special Candidates (Get in Shape LONG Before You Join) 

High Intermediate Military / Advanced Spec Ops
Building Programming:

Which Program is Right For Me?
It Depends...Special Ops Candidates


(Special Ops– Most of my programs tend to focus on getting TO and THROUGH a specific tactical training program.  So you may see a mix of all the seasons in some of these books, but if you are training long term, you can take advantage of Seasonal Periodization and save yourself some of the over-use, long term pains that tend to follow many of the tactical preparations - especially on the spec ops level of training. 

Start training today with workouts that focus on the specifics of getting to and through tactical profession training from firefighter, police, swat, military to special ops. We have programs to help you get TO and THROUGH training. We also have training programs to help you with training as you age in these professions (Tactical Fitness 40+ series).


Running Plans - All books and ebooks will contain some form of progressive running plan and some with rucking depending on your goals.  But here are some links to running supplements or replacement if you need more or need to try something different:

Special Ops Running / Rucking Plan (advanced)

1.5-2 mile Running Plan (PDF free) (decent progression - intermediate /advanced) and even more at Complete List of Books / eBooks...

Lifting Cycle Programs For Those Who Need a Strength Focus

It is not all just calisthenics and cardio at
 Stew Smith Fitness

These programs as well as my online coaching programs have Winter Lift Cycles in them as part of our Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System. But, do not get these lift cycles confused with ACTUAL strength / power lifting programs, these are strength / power programs that also have a focus on cardio fitness maintenance BECAUSE you need to be good at all the elements of fitness and develop into an all-round Tactical Athlete.  

Most Recent Spring / Summer & Fall Winter Programs:
(click to read more)

Or Do You Want my REAL TIME Seasonal Periodization Training - Delivered Weekly?


Get Weekly Unpublished Workouts Tested and Evaluated by local Stew Smith Training programs. 

Stew Smith Fitness Membership – You have access to years of workouts for both beginner / intermediate and advanced / special ops levels of fitness. Each week you will receive new and unpublished workouts being tested by Navy SEAL veteran / Stew Smith CSCS and his local group of future tactical professionals in both basic training and advanced spec ops training programming. The latest videos, articles, and other programming will be part of the weekly data feed to members as well. We go through the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization program one week at a time.

Join the Online PT CLUB:
One On One Coaching with Stew Smith

If You Need a More Personalized Approach to Fit Your Needs, Goals, Time per Day, Days per week, Facilities, Abilities, etc...Try Online Coaching

Questions?  Just email me at

At - List of Products and Services

  1. FREE Articles
  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos at page  
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
  6. Online Coaching   


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  • Dobie on

    The problem with modalities such as biking, swimming or rowing is that there is very little crossover to run or ruck performance beyond a broad aerobic pace. They’re good choices for recovery but I order to be successful at selection you need to putting in miles via running and rucking

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