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Fitness Mistakes and Failures - Humans are Experts At Failing and Succeeding too!

Stew smith

Learning From Fitness Failures (Now or Later)

“To err is human, but to really screw things up requires a computer.”  I learned that (again) after failing to save this article the first time – now I am making it even better.  It is true, we are all experts at failing and one thing life throws at us are opportunities to fail, but eventually – IF YOU KEEP GOING – you will find the path to success and learn how to do things better / smarter along the way.  Here are many common mistakes we all make in fitness. I recently asked a group of people on social media a simple question: 

What are some of the biggest mistakes you have made with your fitness and health? 

Before I explain their answers, I recently saw this quote and it inspired this entire journey down the rabbit hole of success and failure:

You will never know until you try...and try again.

Too Much, Too Soon, Too Often – For me, it has been a journey in learning my limits before with too much weight, too many miles, too many reps, or too much speed that broke me for luckily only nagging injuries. Starting a running program with little to no foundation or doing high repetition calisthenics without a steady increase week after week has led to many cases of joint tendonitis, foot, shin, knee, leg, hip, and back pain over the years. Training too much without recovery days also was a lesson learned.  In hindsight, have more mobility and flexibility time during the week IF you are training hard and pushing normal training standards and limits.  Logical progressions and mobility / recovery days have to be part of the training cycle if you want to avoid training injuries that derail the best intentions.


Ego Lifting – It is not uncommon to see people in the gym with their training partners pushed perceived limitations. There is nothing wrong with that – that is how we get stronger and more confident in our abilities.  However, there is a fine line between pushing hard and stupidity.  One of my friends sent this in: “Ego lifting with poor form. Caused a 100% bicep tendon tear that required surgery to reattach and took me a year to recover from.” I have seen this one in my Spec Ops buddy circles when doing weighted pullups.  Already doing 220lbs pullups is tough on big guys, add 80lbs to a weight vest and a 300lb pullup can separate that bicep tendon right from the bone. These belong in the too much category.

Too Big – Many of us in the gym are on the bigger, faster, stronger train and it is fun!  However, there comes a time when you eventually get to a point where you have reached your height / weight potential.  Can you get bigger SURE – should you?  Well - that depends.  Here is a great one for all us gym rats out there:  “Letting myself get too heavy pursuing lift numbers. Once I dieted the fat off, I had exactly the same amount of muscle mass on frame. We all hit a genetic ceiling at some point. My mistake was thinking I could blast through that with food and heavier weights. Yes. I pushed more weight but was not good for my overall health and performance.  As you age this extra weight you put on in the gym gets harder and harder to work off and walking up steps becomes a cardio workout.  Too Much category again.

Fitness IS NOT a Destination - For some achieving a goal puts them at a dead end - whether it is a racing event, a 1RM, or PT test even.  Many are lost without the next goal to chase. One friend said,"Not sticking with it once I hit a point when I'm strong, fast and flexible then i get comfy in putting it off until i have to start back at day one.  Fitness if a journey NOT a destination - keep on moving - even if in a maintenance phase. 

Big and Strong - But That Was It - Often, if trying to be a well rouned tactical athlete, the big lift numbers can force you out of cardio shape if you are not careful and make running hurt even more than it does already.  One long time friend said, "The biggest was pushing my weight up for the sake of chasing higher 1RM numbers. While my big three were marginally better at 205, any sort of running was miserable. Once I dropped back down to 185, running became comfortable again, my joints were happier and I was much more versatile. Also, not focusing on mobility and recovery enough until my late 40s probably slowed progress down. Do not forget to do the things you may not really like to do IF you want to be well rounded. My knees thanks me when I run under 200lbs these days. 

Not Enough Recovery – You will find on this journey of training hard that MORE is not the answer when training hard already. However, LESS IS MORE should start creeping into your training cycles and the focus on sleep, nutrition, and water are the 1-2-3 combination to improving performance. More is not the best answer – even exercise needs moderation.  Here is a good statement from the group: “Not taking sleep and recovery as seriously as I did training. Mostly overdoing everything I do and not focusing on recovery enough. Constantly trying to figure a good balance between food, sleep, hydration, recovery, and training is my new focus and I still get it wrong, but I am getting smarter after 30+ years of training.” Have you noticed you should start learning from other people’s mistakes yet? This one belongs in the too often category as training too often without proper recovery only leads to diminished returns, over-training, and injury. You will learn one way of the other. 

If you do not actively Pursue Recovery, Recovery will pursue you - One of the group wisely commented, "Not recognizing signs of tendonitis and continuing to train without any modifications, leading to long term pain and recovery and surgeries." Recovery, cooldown periods, stretching / mobility are all part of the game - skip them at your own peril.  Never Skip Mobility Day.  Seriously, adding this simple mobility day in the middle of the week is LIFE CHANGING for any age. 

I will never master mobility / flexibility but by constantly assessing them, I will stay on top of the aches / pains that can stop you in your tracks - Stew

Not Enough Research - Not Understanding Nutrition / Supplementation – It has taken me a lifetime of athletics, spec ops training, competing, and coaching and I finally have found what works for me at my age now. Know that the journey from teen athlete to 50+ year old guy trying to work out hard comes with evolving needs and abilities to remain at your full potential.  What works for one guy may not work for you especially if there is a huge age difference between you and what the other is doing. Get smarter or remain broken. You can eat differently as a teen and well into your 20’s, but 30s, 40s, 50s you have to make changes as out working a bad diet is not going to happen anymore.  Imagine having a good diet in your teens and twenties where you could be? This one belongs in the category of too much of the same old thing without doing research on the options available to you. THEN testing those options to what is right for you to be at optimal performance.  

Not Putting It All Together – We all know how to train hard, eat right, sleep well, hydrate, and what we need to do, but have you considered taking training notes of peak performances or even more importantly poor performances? Can you put them ALL together? Writing down the foods, drinks that you consumed, how well you slept, and the training day accomplished can be the perfect formula if you have one of those days where you PR in everything you try. Just by writing these details down may offer you the perfect GAME TIME prescription for you being at your best. Do the same when you suck or have no energy to train as well.  You may find the answer in your notes and most likely you did too much of something or not enough nutrition / recovery / sleep and screwed up your next training or testing day.

Motivation and Discipline – There is a difference.  Many people start training programs and are highly motivated. After a few weeks, that motivation starts to fade and if you did not build good habits during that motivational period, you may not have created any discipline in the training.  Your initial inspiration and motivation to train for something hard will die and you only will have your habits and discipline to rely on when the days start early, and you do not feel like training. You must be able to say, “today I am training BECAUSE I do not feel like it.”

Your training will NEVER be perfect, life has a way of making this so. But you can strive to put it all together and make it work for you perfectly – some days. Personally, the best part about this journey is there are days the weights win and there are days I win, but gravity always wins in the end. Nothing will be perfect – but it can be exceptionally good and a constant challenge to make perfect. Enjoy the journey to building the perfect you and challenge yourself every decade of your life until it is your last.

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)

Fitness for Beginners - Get Started for Free!

Most people who enter the recruiters' offices are seeking regular military jobs and on the beginner spectrum of fitness. Please consider the following before joining the military:

- Run - Learn how to run and get in shape to run 2-3 miles without stopping.  See beginner / intermediate running plan.  But, you may need to start off with just walking depending on your fitness level. If you played sports that had a little bit of running in it (football) or no running in it like swimming, you need to practice running regularly to get over the growing pains accompanied with impact cardio like running and rucking. To do well on timed runs, you need to practice that distance at a goal pace. Learn about GOAL PACE Running. 

- Calisthenics - You will be doing calisthenics not only throughout the day in basic training, but as a fitness test as well.  Get used to exercises like pushups, crunches, plank poses, pullups, squats, and lunges to work the entire body.  If you need some ideas, see the programs below that address all the physical fitness challenges you will see in preparation, testing, and basic training and beyond. The Boot camp, PFT, Bible, and Cals and Cardio are all encompassing workouts that will prepare you for the challenges of Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard basic training and fitness tests as well. The Army and Marine Corps will require more challenging workouts and fitness testing.  See links of the books below to see more details of the Combat Fitness Test you must be able to accomplish when you join. 



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

The Pipeline of Training Options: 

It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. 

Other EBOOKS (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).


Lifting Cycle Programs For Those Who Need a Strength Focus

You may have seen my Winter Lift Cycle that I discuss in the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization article as well as have our actual lift programs we have done over the years in the following books.


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

Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout, Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter Cycle, Warrior Workout #2Maximum 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

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