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Happy 40th Training Anniversary to Me: Lessons Learned!

Stew smith

40 Years of Fitness Training! Maybe I am an OG...

It struck me today that I started working out (besides doing normal kid things like bike, Marco-Polo / swim, skateboard, Little League, and seasonal pick up game sports with neighborhood kids) 40 years ago - at the age of 12. It started out similar to the way I have most young people or beginners starting out with the basics of calisthenics and dumbbells. 

I started training for no real reason other than the personal challenge to do more pullups and pushups than anyone at the playground or in PE class. Back then we actually had physical education classes every day. We did have the Presidential Physical Fitness Test and most kids wanted to earn that patch if you scored a certain standard.

But my heart was set on a weight set.  I asked my parents for my 13th year Christmas gift to be out of the Sears & Roebuck Mail Order catalog. It was a Joe Weider set made of concrete weights and bench for a grand total of 110 lbs. Soon, Joe Weider was teaching me how to set up an upper body and lower body day workout, but bench pressing ALL the weight in that set was going to be my first real fitness / lifting goal. I crushed that goal a few months later and never stopped training. This was the thing I needed to build discipline, a strong work ethic, and a fitness level that was good enough to make various sports teams in high school. By the time, I was in high school, I outgrew this set and moved onto strength / football coaches teaching me about powerlifting and putting on mass for football season. Football is North Florida was competitive and I needed all the training I could get to be able to be part of those teams. 

The journey continued as I aged into junior and senior year when I was defensive captain and team caption respectively those years. I was not the gifted athlete, all my gains on the field were worked for through hundreds of hours every year in the weight room and on the field working on speed and agility. I was not recruited like my other teammates were who played at Auburn, Florida State, University of Florida, and Miami in the late 80's and early 90s, but I did not really care. I knew I wanted to go to the Naval Academy or West Point when I was in 10th grade. Like I said, I was only on the field with them because I trained hard to be there and had some toughness in me that helped when it came to tackling. 

I was not able to continue football when I got the Naval Academy, but I did find rugby which was different in that I needed more cardio, but similar that I could still tackle people. Working hard to be on that team was my next challenge and that meant dropping a lot of the weight training that I knew in high school to doing more calisthenics and cardio to meet the military fitness standards and handle the running in rugby. My foundation of fitness started with strength training and even though I lifted less to prepare for the military and later on special ops programs, I still maintained a high level of strength. 

However, this journey was a long road of struggles and failures before any real success (see more)...

I realized I was one of those "athletes" that could put on strength just looking at weights, but if I ever took a week off from running, it was like I had never run before. That sucked when you were now laser focused on once again working hard to be in the same room as some really tough and smart people. The group of people preparing for BUD/S at the Naval Academy in my class were top notch and once again - made me better working hard to be in their category of abilities. 

Spec Ops Years

Eventually, I hit a high level of spec ops fitness and maintained it for nearly a decade, only to fall apart at age 30 with injuries from doing TOO MUCH of everything. 18-20 years from my first weight lifted, I had to rethink some things as I needed to figure out a better system of training, recovery, nutrition, and sleep.  Though this was one of the most fun decades of my professional life, it came with a toll that was worse than the first decade dealing with contact sports and beginner fitness injuries / aches and pains. After 30, face it, the old aches and pains of athletics come back to remind you that they are still with you and the new ones take longer to heal. 

My first ten years out of the military...

I created Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization and have been using it ever since for the last 22 years.  Largely, to rebuild myself, but also it became my system of coaching as each program I created was in some way a focus on the specifics of the training program as well as the seasonal focus to spread out the elements of fitness.  All of my training programs can be organized in that model even now. 

Throughout my life from high school athlete in multiple sports, to military fitness, college sports, special ops selection preparation, and then as active special ops member, I recognized the importance of seasonal training. With Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization, we are able to create an off season when there is no off season. Creating an off-season in sports was naturally built in with it's own periodization cycles (pre-season, in-season maintenance, post-season) no matter what sport or multiple sports you doing / preparing for.  This was not the case for any tactical profession. Until now. 

Whether you call it block periodization or seasonal periodization, the training cycle largely focuses on developing all the elements of fitness important to not just get getting TO and THROUGH the selection training (boot camp, police / fire academy, spec ops assessment / selection), but also the third phase of tactical fitness - the operational maintenance.  Learning the differences between the specifics of phase 1 - TO the training, phase 2 - THROUGH the training, and phase 3 (Active Operator), is the first part of this training education as many people do not realize the differences and train incorrectly depending on their immediate and future goals.  These were some of my realizations and a foundation of my coaching and writing today. 

My last ten years (40-present)...

I would say with the addition of technology of smart phones, easy to upload videos, podcasting, coaching has become easier and I am able to better explain the system I have been using now for 20+ years.  I have developed many programs but every now and then, I nail something with a life changing addition to training.  In my 40s it is by far the Mobility Day.  It has become as important me as leg day.  In fact, You Should Never Skip Mobility Day!  It is that important and life changing. See related articles as I cannot express the importance enough:

Life Changing Workout - Once a Week

Fitness In Your 40-50s - New Rules!

Tactical Fitness for the Athlete Over 40 has been huge for many of the young people who started with me 20 years ago and are now in their 40s. Understanding the new rules will allow you to get several more years out of your activities well into your 50-60s IF you learn the New Rules above!  

Tactical Fitness (40+) Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, Phase 4


Finally, for performance minded athletes who need to be good at everything, but still have some weaknesses, my Block Periodization Workout called Increase Strength and Crush the PST / PAST has been a fantastic tweak to the Seasonal training system.  3 Weeks of strength training / followed by 1 week of PST / PAST test focus (cals / cardio) training done for 16 weeks saw incredible gains in both strength and PT test scores - even PR level runs and swims during the Winter Lift Cycle. 

I am still training people every day who are preparing for the rigors of a tactical profession and pushing the envelope of new ideas and testing in the search of breakthrough workouts like Mobility Day and 3:1 Block Periodization (Strength / PST focus).  I do not have plans to do anything else, so thanks for joining me on the ride for this long.  I plan on continuing this fitness journey through my 60-70-80s and beyond. Hell, I am looking forward to growing old and still crushing workouts.  That is my plan.  Stay tuned...


Why Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization Works...

Why break up the elements of fitness into cycles?  Well - it is difficult to see success with running timed run / longer run pace distances while lifting heavy weights and vice versa.  You can do both, but the progress of both is rather limited and your recovery takes a hit.  We train elements of fitness that go well together like - speed /agility and strength and power (Fall / Winter) Endurance and muscle stamina go well together too (Spring / Summer).  We maintain sufficient strength even while doing more calisthenics and cardio. We maintain a cardio base even though in a strength / power cycle. 

These elements of fitness can be viewed in the diagram below:
Strength, Power, Speed, Agility, Endurance (multiple modes), Muscle Stamina, Flexibility, Mobility, Grip are the physical elements that the tactical athlete has to engage to remain "good at everything."

Finally, my last ten years

I believe I know some things about this situation as it is my current age group (53 next month) and have been using the Tactical Fitness Over 40 approach to training since I was in my early 40s. I cannot express how much the techniques taught in this four part series has changed by life (seriously).

I have been at that spot in my life where I thought running was history as the injuries, aches, and pains of previous athletics and spec ops profession came back to remind me of their permanent existence in my life. The hips do not lie and mine were killing me. My saving grace was losing weight (mass) and mobility days as running lighter was easier and the mobility and flexibility was just what my hips and lower back needed. I made a few changes.

Training is What We Do: 

Need Programming for Fitness Tests and Beyond?  We are all about getting you TO and THROUGH your future training program.  See how that works.  

There is More To than a You May Know

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical 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

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

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