Many people have developed a seasonal approach to fitness, adding or subtracting exercises throughout the year.
Someone who is just starting out may add fitness to their schedule during the New Year period, while others may wait until the weather breaks in the spring when it becomes practical to wear less restrictive clothing.
They can repeat that cycle with many months of inactivity between these “fitness seasons”. An athlete takes a similar approach with pre-season training, in-season maintenance and post-season training, rebuilding and recovery.
Others have found what works for them and have built solid and consistent fitness habits. The hardest part of this year-long journey is finding enjoyable activities that won’t bore you when progress stops.
Ultimately, a lifelong fitness goal must evolve as you age if, as Abraham Lincoln said, you truly want to “not only add years to your life, but life to your years.”
This article was inspired by a retired Command Sergeant Major (CSM) who lives in my area. When I moved to my current location about 25 years ago, I would see a gentleman cycling, running and swimming often in his 60s. He still competed in triathlons, lifted weights, practiced yoga and was an image of inspiration to many of us much younger than him.
Fast forward 25 years and I see him still cycling, swimming, lifting, walking and doing yoga in his mid-80s. He came up with a way that suits him perfectly and continues to inspire many of us who still share his bike path, running and walking path today. This CSM has found exercises he enjoys and turned them into a habit and lifestyle.
Similar inspiration comes from a 70+ year old bearded Marine I see at the gym. He warms up his lifting routine by juggling 4-5 balls in the air and stretching before lifting heavy weights. He looks like a Papa Smurf who has sharp hand-eye coordination skills to go along with surprising flexibility and mobility.
I often see him running for cardio on leg days, a practice that has given me many ideas on how to incorporate running and snorkeling on leg days for people seeking military/special service. This Marine has found something he enjoys and is therefore consistent in maintaining his lifelong fitness habit.
Personally, I also take a seasonal approach to fitness, but not in the way you might think. Each season focuses on a different area of fitness. The activity is year-round, but the seasonal changes bring variety and give me a way to maintain all the elements of fitness that are important to both tactical occupations and civilians who want to stay ahead when faced with them. life’s potential natural or man-made hazards.
My seasonal tactical conditioning periodization model has been a habit since I turned 30 and 23 years ago.
Focus on transitioning out of your winter lifting cycle by adding calisthenics and more cardio to your daily workouts. This means increasing your running mileage, swimming time or other cardio activities. You should also increase the intensity of gymnastics in steady steps.
Lighten up your lifts and switch to Weighted Vest, Sandbag and Hang (TRX) calisthenics. All seasons have a focus on flexibility and recovery.
Next season is a continued progression of the spring body and cardio cycle designed to peak during the longer summer days. Depending on your goals and cardio preferences, you may want to start using the triathlete’s non-impact running and cardio approach. Do two-thirds non-impact cardio and one-third cardio with running or a running/walking mix to limit the impact forces that plague many runners year-round.
This phase is about peaking in rep volume and a series of cardio miles to focus on muscular endurance, cardio endurance. Mixing in some maintenance lifts every few weeks can be a great way to decompress from high-volume, high-mileage cardio.
The next two cycles begin to reduce mileage and repeat to bring you to a point of maintenance instead of focused improvement. The weight lifted increases, the reps decrease and the miles get shorter (but faster).
Increasing the weight will reduce the overall training volume as the focus is on a combination of strength, power, speed and agility
The heavier lifting begins, but we still warm up with enough calisthenics to maintain our PT test scores and do enough cardio to keep a good pace in the timed runs. Running drops significantly to about 20% of summer totals, but replaces cardio with more swimming and cycling for low-impact joint care.
Depending on your goals, you can try lifting heavy for strength and adding power movements with speed and jumps as the primary focus, or keep the heavy weight limited to bodyweight lifts, pull-ups, and weight-running pace if you want to maintain your tactical fitness test results. and at the same time become stronger.
These seasonal changes offer many opportunities for anyone trying to be consistent with their training without burning out by following the same goals, exercises or activities month after month.
The variety of workouts will allow you to develop many fitness skills that will help you stay healthy for annual physicals, perform standard tasks around the yard and around the house, and stay ahead in survival situations.
If you want to make fitness a habit, you need to find a physical activity that you enjoy doing as much as doing nothing. It can be a difficult quest, but start each day by walking, breathing and stretching and take it one step at a time.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his fitness e-book store if you want to start an exercise program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to email@example.com.
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