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Going the Wrong Direction with Training? Take Two Right Turns...

Stew smith 45 day plan beginner life changing mobility day plateaus pt tests running strength gains swimming walking

When You Need to Make a 180° Turn Around
- All It Takes is Two Right Turns - 

No one wants to hear "you are going the wrong way - turn around", go back to where you started, or start a new path, but sometimes when on a journey or on the constant journey of life, we need to make a course change. In this dead end road metaphor, the two things a new direction needs is two right turns and sometimes that means going back to where you started. 

In fitness, health, and overall human performance, these two right turns are usually a new good habit you need to start and a bad habit you need to break. Replacing a bad habit with a good habit is obviously easier said than done, but it works in many ways. Here are some of the many ideas to replace something that is not working for you with something that will be better for you - perhaps it is something new. Creating a new good habit might be just the thing you need to be on your way in a better direction.  See some ideas that have worked for many stuck with no direction or progress:

Stuck in Strength Gains - Most often the new direction required in this area is a de-load week. Every one of my best lift performances came after a week that did not focus on strength training. Maybe more mobility, non-impact cardio, or even some calisthenics for a week has been a good option for many.  In fact, we came up with a new Winter Lift Cycle Block Periodization that promotes that added de-load week every 3-4 weeks with great results in both strength and cardio / calisthenics maintenance.  Check your diet, sleep and recovery as well.  Make sure you are eating enough foods for energy as well as protein for rebuidling after breaking it down with strength workouts. Strength training is very tough on the central nervous system (CNS) and requires a real focus on recovery, rest periods, rest days, and good sleep. 

Stuck on PT Test Improvement (Cals) - Check your daily / weekly volume. It is typically too much - stop doing daily sets of the same exercise if you are burning out. OR if you are not doing enough volume and need to better understand what you are personally capable of doing without burning out. Daily reps of the same exercises or muscle groups is one thing you need to change if you are doing daily calisthenics at high volumes.  Many also mix in weight training days on one day followed by calisthenics at high volume on the next day working the same muscle groups. This can yield a week of 5 days in a row of chest and back workouts if you are not observant of your splits. There is a fine line that you need to balance between fatigue and failure during these workouts / tests.  See the Five Stop Signs to help you understand how to optimally improve.   The best option is to make an upper body day followed by a leg day especially if supplementing weight training into calisthenics workouts or calisthenics into weight training workouts. 

Stuck on Running or Swimming Improvements (PST related) - Swimming or running just to get in the distance is not the plan that will work long term for you IF you are trying to get faster on timed short distance events. You have to learn the pace you need to get those goal times otherwise you are just getting good at running too much too slowly or not enough distance too fast (just sprinting). There is something to be said for learning your goal pace by actually practicing your goal pace at shorter intervals at first. Then building up your conditioning for the longer distances that you are actually testing. There is nothing wrong with doing all of the above: sprint days, goal pace running, and longer distance days into week either.  In fact, this workout that build up to 20 miles a week mixes all of the methods together to work on speed, endurance, and enough volume to build a solid foundation that you build some durability too. 


Seasonal Training Changes - I do not have a workout of the day - I have a workout that fits into my year training cycle. I think of the four seasons as a way to challenge ALL of the fitness elements (speed, agility, endurance (run, swim, ruck), strength / power, muscle stamina, mobility and flexibility) – not all at once but spread throughout the year. You will find you can still be above average in ALL the elements of fitness, avoid burnout, reduce injury rates, which is invaluable to your success in any Tactical Profession.

Spring - Calisthenics and cardio workouts. Run / Swim Progression.  But there is a mix of weighted regressions, and progression of calisthenics and running.  As the days of the year get longer, so do the workout times and running / calisthenics volume. (Element focus: Hypertrophy, muscle stamina - strength mix, aerobic / anaerobic endurance - fast timed run / swim / ruck pace) 

Summer - Calisthenics and cardio workouts (advanced). Run max / PT Peak, Swim progression. But with supplemental lifts for people who need some strength focus more than a high mileage focus (runners, triathletes, other endurance athletes). (Element focus: endurance (run, swim, other), muscle stamina (high reps) of calisthenics and some load bearing events. 

Fall - Calisthenics and running volume start to decrease. Non-impact cardio workouts start to replace some of the running (bike, swim, row) However, rucking and swim with fins progressive throughout the Fall and Winter to maintain cardio conditioning especially for people who need to lose weight and not focus so much on strength training (powerlifters, football players, strength athletes)
(Element focus: Hypertrophy, muscle stamina - strength mix, aerobic / anaerobic endurance - fast timed run / swim / ruck pace) 

Winter – We still warm-up with calisthenics, but this cycle is heavy weights, weight vest calisthenics, more non-impact cardio workouts. Some rucking / More Swim with fins peak.  Most people put on 10-15 lbs in this cycle (of muscle and gains in strength) but maintain about a 8-10 miles per week of faster paced running. (Element focus:  Hypertrophy, strength/power, speed / agility)

My most recent programs that walk you through these four cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

Weight Loss Issues - If you are stuck with your weight loss goals, you at first need to assess two things; the amount of food coming in and your training (calories out). Plateaus happen - expect them, but have a plan. Usually, if you are stuck, the best option is to make a change.  This can be re-assessing your diet or just adding something new to your fitness day. Maybe starting a lift cycle? Maybe adding another non-impact cardio option to your day? It could also be a small fix like taking out one piece of the diet or just adding 10-15 minutes of cooldown cardio each day. But plateaus are meant to be answered by making taking a new direction.  Be open to diverse training options as the goal is to burn more calories at the end of the day and eating fewer - but still eating healthfully. 

Make a Pain Change - If you are feeling the aches of lifting, high rep calisthenics, running, and rucking on your hips, back, and legs, do the mobility day in place of a butt kicking middle of the week workout that leaves  you burned out by the end of the week. Are you Burning Out Mid Week?  Add a Mobility Day - I cannot stress this one enough. A mobility and swimming technique focus day in the middle of the week make for a much more productive end of the week performance.  Here is my life changing mobility day options article along with the swim technique / drownproofing workout combo (articles):

Mobility Day 
Repeat 5 times
Swim, Bike, row, elliptical 5 minutes
Stretch or foam roller 5 minutes

Tread 5 minutes
Dynamic stretches in chest deep water 5-10 minutes

Add drownproofing drill workouts if heading to special ops diving programs. 

Water / Alcohol - If drinking too much is an issue for you and you see it becoming an issue with your training recovery, weight loss goals, relationships, or overall productivity at school or work, try to stop drinking and replace with water. This can be seltzer water (non-alcoholic) to feel like a beer is that is your poison. Sure - everything in moderation, but if you have issues with moderating a few drinks, get outside help as this can be a tough road as your dependence grows.  Besides, if you have hopes of performing well is tactical professions, your recovery is critical and over-drinking will wreck your recovery for days.  At some point, you have to start taking your recovery more seriously or your body will do it for you (injuries, illness, poor performance / productivity, and generally not fun to be around.) 

Water / Soda - If you are really serious about your general health and weight loss, just replacing all sugar sodas with water is a way to drop 20+ lbs in a year.  I have seen in countless times. A successful replacement with even NOTHING else, people drop 20-30 lbs in a year. Imagine adding in 15-20 minutes a day of basic movements (walking, calisthenics, dumbbell exercises) into that same year and you will see life changing results that can produce 50-100+lbs of weight loss. 

Remember last year at this time?  Flew by right? Now think about next year - if you start today with some of these minor changes, you could be a different person next year. Consistency makes these little changes life changing. 

When in doubt - "just add water" 

Doing Nothing?  Need to Get Moving Period? - The first step to getting moving is standing up and taking that first step. Typically, these are the hardest every day that we face - even people who are regular daily exercisers. Need ideas? See below for a free beginner plan that builds daily fitness habits - some are as easy as going on a walk and stretching and drinking more water. 

To make a 180° turn, you making two 90° turns will get you off the wrong path that is not yielding any results. The above are a few of the many ways those who have gone before us have succeeded. Seeing those who have reached their goals helps strengthen the inner voice that says what you are enduring is not impossible. You should be able to hear yourself say, "Others have completed this – why can't I?" Now go do it one day at a time! Make today a  New Day One!

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FREE 45 Day Plan EBOOK

These exercises are all pictured in the FREE 45 Day Beginner Plan eBook (link below) and will help you go from zero to sixty in a easy progression that will more than likely keep you free from injury.

- Free 45 Day Beginner Plan

Lean Down Food Plan

Good luck and keep the questions coming. Hope the ideas come in handy. For more ideas check out the Article Section at 

Stew Smith CSCS  -  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

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The Beginner / Intermediate Guide to Fitness
Reclaim Your Life  Erin O'Neill Story (beginner / intermediate)

Veterans Fitness  Baby Boomer and a Flat Stomach 
Circuit Training 101  Beginner / Intermediate Guide to the Gym
The Busy Executive Workout Routine
NEW:   Calisthenics and Cardio (only) (Spring / Summer Cycle)
Tactical Fitness (40+) Phase 1, Phase 2



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Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
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The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
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