Cart 0

Adapting Programs to Your Level of Performance and Still Reach Goals

Stew smith

Adapting Programs to Your Level of
Performance and Still Reach Goals

There is no one size fits all when it comes to fitness training whether doing large group PT or you preparing yourself by using a generic training program with the same goal you have. These may be a perfect fit for you or depending on your fitness level, may have to be used as more a recommended path with minor alterations needed at first.  

Generic programs that strive to reach an end result for the user like many of my published and self-published programs found at are solid road maps for many, but some may need to personalize them to fit their abilities. Blindly following a program (mine included) from books, internet, magazine, or a new work out partner risks you doing too much (or not enough) and potentially injuring yourself depending on your current state of fitness. Here are some solutions for you if you choose to go with generic training programs over a more personalized approach.

A quick answer for many - Do the workout you have as best you can and mark anytime you had to adjust the reps, sets, weight, mileage, or time swimming. Make them easier or harder depending on your abilities. THEN do the program again and see if you can do it without adjustments the 2nd time through. Countless people see their best results on round two of a training program. 

For many of my programs that prepare people for any of the tactical professions, there is a certain level of fitness you should have prior to starting. The harder the program (special ops level) the more you need to bring to the table with current abilities. For instance, you cannot be new to running / rucking or performing moderate levels of calisthenics and weight lifting as these programs are not designed for beginners.  That is why I made beginner programs for people who really need to build a foundation of fitness before advancing into spec ops level training programs.  

Prefer a Personalized Approach?

Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you. If you've ever wondered "Can online coaching really help me?" then work with Stew Smith - Former Navy SEAL - Online Coach since 1999 - and get it right the first time, stop wasting time, energy, and hurting yourself.

Buy any plan below and Stew Smith will contact you to get started ASAP.
Since 1999, we have been coaching individuals online focusing on basic fitness and weight loss as well as advanced level athletic training for military, special operations, police, and fire fighting professions. 

New Member's Only Content / Services Program! 

New to Running

However, I have worked hard to progress spec ops level programming logically, but often 15 miles a week of running is too much for a beginner runner. People new to running, may want to take whatever generic program they have and cut the miles in half when starting and even that depends on their current mileage. Blindly following a program that has a 20 mile a week run plan and for the last 6 months you have not run makes as much sense as playing Marco Polo in the pool to prep for SEAL Training. 

If you see 15 miles in a training week in any program you do and you are currently running at 5 miles a week, add 15% to your 5 miles (1 mile total roughly) to the week and replace all other running miles with another form of cardio. Think triathlon training and 2/3 of your cardio should be non-impact and 1/3 of your cardio can be running while trying to transform into doing more running workouts from your non-running athletic history. Be smart and get most of your cardio aerobic base training done with a non-impact option when you first start progressing into running. 

New to Swimming

People rarely hurt themselves swimming unless they pull weird and tweak a shoulder or kick awkwardly and pull a muscle in their leg. However, technique is KEY to improving your swimming. Watch videos, send videos in for critiquing (happy to do it and I offer it with any ebook/book purchase FREE) and practice often. Then once you are able to get the 50m down to an efficient 50 second pace, the next key is to get in swimming shape to handle the 500yd / 500m swim test in many military spec ops programs (Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver, Rescue Swimmer, Air Force Special Warfare, RECON)

Check out these article and videos and consider supplementing your swim workouts in generic programs with some of these workouts that get you in shape quickly IF you swim 4-6 days a week.

DUDE - You Are NOT in Swimming Shape

Swim and Tread Workouts 

Pull - Breathe - Kick - Glide (1 MS, 2 MS PULL)

New to Calisthenics 

Whether you are new to high reps of calisthenics needing to crush most fitness tests as a non-lifting / running athlete or a power lifter, you need to drop what you are good at doing to see progress in this muscle stamina development cycle. That means - runners - stop running 70 miles a week and focus on putting on some mass and PT / lift. For lifters, get out of the weight room and focus more on calisthenics and cardio.

For most runners, being lighter weight and an endurance athlete, calisthenics come easy. In fact, most runners can crush calisthenics within 6-8 weeks of a training cycle like veteran cals / cardio guys. However, the bigger guy may have issues with high rep sets. Sure the first few sets of a pullup or pushup is a strength exercise that are easy to the power athlete, but the 100th rep in a workout is a challenge and long progression just as running may also be to the bigger / stronger athlete. For people who struggle with calisthenics, do what you can from the programs, replace with easier versions like assisted pullups / pulldowns, knee pushups, assisted dips, or crunches when situps fail you until you build up the ability to handle more volume. See some of my favorite workouts to add volume. Many of my programs have such workouts programmed into them. 

New to Lifting

Many endurance athletes, or non-athletes too, do not lift and have never lifted with any frequency or consistency to get stronger. Having a foundation of strength is critical to enduring the load bearing events of tactical training. From boats, logs, LONG rucks, people carry, and other heavy equipment carries over long distances, the addition of strength is going to be needed for overall durability so you do not break under the strain. That is why we lift prior to being a tactical professional but all of that depends on the journey you are taking as to how much and how long you need to lift. See a few of my assessment tools to help you understand where you need to be in your lifts prior to joining (as my recommendation).  If you are a lifter, you will likely laugh at these standards, but if you are new to lifting like many swimmers or runners you will be challenged in the weight room - while you laugh at the lifters trying to run and swim.   

Turning Weakness into Strength

We all have our weaknesses and they will be exposed within the first week of any special ops selection program. Many are exposed during the PT test or Prep Courses of these programs and end people's journey before they even start because they neglected glaring weaknesses. 

Turn Weaknesses into Strengths by focusing a cycle on your weakness while still able to maintain your strengths.  Learn How. 

Finally - Are you a cardio machine?  You should be if you want to go into these tactical special ops professions. Run - ruck - swim.

Get good at everything with seasonal tactical fitness periodization - strength/power, speed/agility, muscle stamina / endurance (*run,swim,ruck), flexibility, mobility, grip

How bad do you want it? This is most important.


If you want help, that’s what I do…. Check out these resources that have helped spec ops candidates succeed where others have failed for the last 20+ years!

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.  

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

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

  1. FREE Articles
  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos (Youtube, TikTok, Instagram)
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
  6. Online Coaching  

Stew Smith Fitness 


Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published