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Mistakes And Lessons Learned with Jeff Nichols and Stew Smith

Stew Smith

Humans Are Experts at Making Mistakes!
Learn from Them and Grow

We are all human so making mistakes is a part of life - learning from those mistakes you have made as well as those mistakes by others around you is the key to growth. In this podcast, Jeff Nichols of and I discuss some of the training mistakes that are commonly done in the weight room at every level and age. 

Depending on your goals, you may have a tendency to want to over train especially if in the special ops level of fitness required to reach goals.  Here is our podcast and additional list of mistakes we hope you can learn from before making them: 
 (also on Spotify, apple podcasts, google play - search Tactical Fitness Report) 

More Mistakes

Here is a running list of mistakes performed and experienced by myself and others around me over the years that typically led to poor performance, over-training, or injury. 

Lifting mistakes

- back to soon before full recovery of illness or injury

- too heavy lift before proper warm-up and progression

- after a period of time away from lifting, (or anything) you jump back into where you left off when you should have pulled back to where you were about a month or two prior to stopping lifting ESPECIALLY if you are on a progressive lifting cycle (heavy weight or volume)

MIxing in Lifting with Running / Calisthenics / Other Activities

 - Trying to improve in both heavy lifting and running longer distances (timed runs in the 1.5-5 mile distance range) do not mix as you will likely get good at neither at the same time. SPRINTING and AGILITY however work very well with heavy lifting / explosive workouts. 

- You can however maintain both strength / endurance together once you have progressed to where you want to be but trying to improve in both is difficult especially if pushing optimal levels for your level and goals. 
- Technique technique technique - Proper movement in all athletic activities means efficiency, less energy burned, and injury prevention. If you can get a class or instructor / coach (or at worst watch countless videos) on perfecting your form and technique.  Fail at technique and waste energy, be sub-optimal, and standby for injury. 
- Lifting and Calisthenics - Heavy weights and high volume also do not mix while trying to get good at strength and muscle stamina.  These two elements of fitness are best done in separate cycles. Whether it is hypertrophy volume with weights or calisthenics high volume, make that a different cycle altogether from your strength / power cycles.  As discussed in the video podcast, mixing lifting and calisthenics is something that works well, but make the cycle either be a higher volume or reps for muscle stamina, or add weight to calisthenics and more weight for fewer reps for strength / power. 
Calisthenic fitness test - practice these muscle stamina events - PERIOD. If you are getting tested in them, learn how to take the test long before you ever get tested in it.  That test should be a workout assessment event for you. Get used to moving and holding positions for the time and distances of the test. Practice regularly so you can assess your progress. Create a strategy that works for you through regular practice. The SEAL PST CLINIC describes how to create a strategy DEPENDING on your strengths and weaknesses. 
Running - find softer ground, better shoes, and logical progressions.  To many people start off either too fast (sprint), running too far (long slow distance), or just too often (every day).  Progress logically with a 10-15% time / distance increase each week IF you are feeling like you can handle more each week. Stay where you are or reduce miles if needed.  
Running variety: goal pace, intervals, sprints,Hills, sand, weight vest - rucksack and agility.  Your training week of running should be a mix of running types especially in the tactical fitness goals as you need to be able to handle short and fast pace without blowing a hammy, as well as longer distances / load bearing (rucking) activities for longer periods of time.  Mix in sprints, hills, intervals on all types of different surfaces (softer preferred) while you start your progression. 
Technique!  Learning HOW TO RUN is also important as you can hurt yourself when over-striding with hard heel strikes. Everything matters from breathing, arm swings, length of strides, and speed. Check out the ways to run as in this article - Evolution of Running - as many are also some of my mistakes / lessons learned.
Running for me personally is a love hate relationship! Running year around at high mileage breaks me. Learn to cycle mileage up and down depending on the cycle you are in. This is why I developed my Solstice Running Program - When the days are longer - so are my runs - when they are shorter (winter) so are my runs.  Injury reduction even elimination! See my answer to this that saved my life. 
Running Sprinting 80% is my new 100% percent - As I have aged, I have learned that I am a few percentage points from a full sprint from pulling hips, hamstring, and calves in some way.  Goal pace for mile running - easy day, but my sprint is typically pulled back about 15-20% from full all out running these days.  The last thing I need is a severely pulled muscle that sidelines me for months so I avoid 100% sprinting on the ground. In the pool - different story!
Swimming -  technique and conditioning. You will learn one or the other first when you start. One is the hard way and one is the smart way. Learn technique, build up to goal pace swimming at whatever stroke you need.  Then to top off leg days, add scuba fins and 1-2 miles of swimming (build up to that too of course). 
Neglecting Mobility and Flexibility - Neglect these two at your own risk. Take a day or two a week to focus on both with stretching and movements of your joints, massage, foam rolling, and one of my favorites - treading water.  Running in water, doing dynamic stretches in chest deep water is LIFE CHANGING!  Try it out with more info on this article. 


Assess Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself

As discussed in the video, learn how to assess yourself as a candidate throughout the process of preparing to get TO and THROUGH the training. Not just as an initial assessment, but this chart in the Assessment Tool can help you see where you meet up on the spectrum of training that will place you in the top 25% of candidates in spec ops selection programs.  See Assessment tool article and video that Jeff Nichols and I developed to help.

Related Articles:

Swimming and Treading - Spec Ops Prep

Dude - You Are Not In Swimming Shape

CSS Swimming Errors

Better Runs and Swims on the PST

Classic PST Week of Training - Pyramid, Super Sets, Max Rep Sets

Spec Ops Candidates – Is This Your Story?

Be a Better Recruit / Candidate

Spec Ops Prep – One Stop Shop Research Article

Don’t Set a Timeline to Join - Set a Performance Starting Line

Asking Great Questions if You Need Assistance

What is – Specific Training for Tactical Professions

Complete List of Books, eBooks, Training Programs


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


Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week

Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

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. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  Do not skip lifting in your year of training prep.  However, if you are coming from a powerlifting / football background, supplementing a few lifts into your endurance / muscle stamina focus plan is something you may enjoy especially if training for a year or more during your prep phase. 

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Other EBOOKS (Military, Police, Fire Fighter, Special Ops, General Fitness– 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).


Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

Tactical Fitness - At the core of this program is the Tactical Fitness Test which measures 12 standards for your physical capacity, including: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, muscle coordination, and stamina. Tactical fitness means having the skills needed to save lives and extend the limits of your endurance whether you are in the military, police, firefighting professions, or just an everyday hero. Also featured in the Tactical Fitness Test called the Dirty Dozen.

Tactical Strength - Tactical Strength is the lifting program used by Stew Smith and his Military, Police, Fire Fighter fitness program called the Heroes of Tomorrow. It is designed to build strength in the upper body, legs, and core to prepare you better for any load bearing activity (rucking, boat carry, log PT, etc). The program also does not neglect cardiovascular activity and will end workouts with rucking or swimming (or other non impact options (row, bike, elliptical) if needed. The cardio workouts will be quick and fast focusing more on speed and agility than long slow distance. We also use the Tactical Strength Test to test elements of speed, agility, and strength / power.

Tactical Mobility is a comprehensive fitness guide for greater mobility, flexibility, and performance—designed for the men and women serving in military, special ops, law enforcement, emergency services. Tactical Mobility is a perfect fit for any fitness program as a stand alone "Mobility day" supplemented into your regular routine and will help you reach the pain free level of fitness. Gaining flexibility and mobility is the goal of the program and it will help with performance and help reduce injuries.

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as 
personalized training programs member's only program and the new :


Try Our Stew Smith Fitness Members Only Club - #1 Best Selling Tactical Fitness Programs

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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