Quarantine Fitness | StrongFirst
I grew up hiking, skiing, mountain biking and hunting in the mountains of southwest Montana. After college, I joined the military and served in the United States Special Operations Command for sixteen years before moving on to corporate employment in the private sector. When I was much younger and fitter, I experienced some of the […]

I grew up hiking, skiing, mountain biking and hunting in the mountains of southwest Montana. After college, I joined the military and served in the United States Special Operations Command for sixteen years before moving on to corporate employment in the private sector. When I was much younger and fitter, I experienced some of the toughest physical training the US military can offer. But now I'm a 40 year old middle aged former commando trying to maintain my fitness with a full time office job, wife and two young children.

Full Disclosure: I am not a fitness professional. In addition to taking several challenging military selection and training courses, here are some of my fitness accomplishments: over twenty ultramarathons (up to 100 miles away), Captains of Crush # 3 close (not certified because I used a parallel set instead of the hardest credit card game), 5 mile deep sea swim, multiple road and mountain bike races, Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim , 2009 RKC certification, 2012 CrossFit level 1 certification, 5.10+ climbing, TGU both sides with 48kg, and other random things like tearing a deck of cards in half. Among my peers, this training CV is nothing exceptional. I have friends who are much more accomplished physically.

Keep it simple, consistent, and efficient

I have been training regularly (five or more training days per week) since I was fifteen. I have never been "out of shape" and have always been intuitive in my training. I have a short attention span so I can rarely do a program for more than a week at a time. I have never suffered a serious injury at work or in training. When I was in the military, I had to be fit and injury free to meet the real world demands of my job. Now that I'm a civilian, fitness is just a habit. To be out of shape would be strange and, more importantly, it would be a disgrace to those still on active duty with whom I have served for so many years.

Paradoxically, I spent more time outdoors and in the mountains during my 40s. I am fortunate to live on the outskirts of town with great access to the open desert. Also, since I work from home, it is easier for me to go out and work out between meetings. This has allowed my quarantine fitness routine to remain the same as my non-pandemic fitness routine. In fact, this is the same routine I used when training for capture / kill insurgent missions in Iraq. It is the same as when I was locked in a safe house in the Middle East for four months. This is the same as when training for ultramarathons. And that's what I've used for the past three years as a business executive in a Fortune 500 company. I like consistency.

I didn't have any original fitness ideas. My training philosophy has been heavily influenced by the following practitioners and thinkers: Stew Smith (author of the Navy SEAL training guide), John Douillard (author of "Body Mind Sport"), Pavel Tsatsouline (StrongFirst), Scott Sonnon (CST / TACFIT), Tim Anderson (Original Force), Erwan LeCorre (Movnat), Wim Hof ​​(breathing, exposure to cold), Ori Hoffmekler (“The Warrior's Diet”), Jim Klopman (SlackBow, SlackBlock), Scott Glenn (Hollywood actor), Nassim Taleb (“Antifragile”) and Vladimir Vasiliev (Russian Systema).

An example of a training week

I am very unstructured in how I plan my training, but on average I try to get at least the following:

  • 3 kettlebell or calisthenic workouts per week. Some weeks I do two kettlebell workouts and one calisthenics. Some weeks I do the opposite. When I travel or go on vacation, I almost exclusively do calisthenics. Last week I did 30 minutes of Dead or alive with a 48 kg and fingertip pushups for a workout. The second workout was 30 minutes of: one minute crawling (forward and backward), one minute skipping rope, one minute on the farm with two 36kg kettlebells. The third workout was Scott Sonnon's Flowfit performed for twenty minutes. For calisthenics, my favorite workout is doing five burpees every 30 seconds during time. (I went from ten every minute based on Pavel's recommendation.) If I want more intensity, I do six burpees every 30 seconds and keep the workouts between ten and fifteen minutes. I will also do longer workouts of 15 to 30 minutes with 5 burpees every 30 seconds. For longer workouts, I usually eliminate the jump at the end of the burpee. These burpee sessions can be boring for some people, but I find the consistency and pace quite meditative. And if I want to do more work, I just add time.
  • 2 average endurance training sessions per week. Last week I did an easy 90 minute mountain bike hike and a 90 minute hike with a 60 pound backpack.
  • Once a week. I make an effort to do a sport or activity like a long hike or a mountain run, two to three hours of mountain biking, more than two hours of mountain biking, etc.

Concepts to consider

I am neither confident nor qualified to offer specific workout programming advice. There are many other books and articles on the StrongFirst site and elsewhere on the World Wide Web that may provide specific weekly programs for you. Until then, here are some of the “truths” that I have followed over the past 25 years that have kept me healthy, strong and resilient.

  • Big picture: I adopted a “health first” philosophy (Sorry Pavel!) After reading books by Scott Sonnon and John Douillard in my early twenties. I never train for failure. Most of my workouts are easy aerobic. When I train at high intensity, I do it alone, while I am my only competition, which helps prevent my ego from negatively impacting my training decisions. I prioritize recovery using breathing, cold exposure, heat exposure, flexibility and mobility.
  • Mostly easy, rarely difficult: 90% of my training consists of easy aerobic effort. 10% of the training is done at maximum effort (HIIT, sprints, maximum effort lifts, PR-pace running, etc.) I place Pavel's anti-glycolic training protocols in the "easy" category because my average heart rate rarely exceeds my aerobic zone.
  • Hot and cold seasonal exposure: I live in the Mojave Desert where in winter I regularly spend time in 38-50 degree water and try to spend two to five minutes there every day, first thing in the morning. In the summer I like to put on a 50-pound bag and walk in the heat of the day when it's over 108 degrees. Training in extremes makes it uncomfortable, comfortable.
  • Breathing: Except for rare anaerobic exertion or PR, I breathe through my nose during all workouts. I've been doing this for twenty years and I don't have to think about it anymore. I also practice Wim Hof ​​breathing, static apnea breathing tables, and pranayama breathing once or twice a week.
  • Mainly on an empty stomach: I train to be able to travel more than twenty kilometers through the mountains without food and with a minimum of water. I do not use any drinks, foods or special supplements before or after training. (Except Mezcal.)
  • Various training methods: I use kettlebells, clubbells, gymnastics, trail running, mountain biking, rock climbing and scrambling, slackline / slackblock, rucking, hill sprints, COC clamps, crawl and original strength resets, Flowfit, Systema mobility exercises, Wim Hof ​​breathing and yoga.
  • Wide variety of programs: My favorite workout routines include Simple and sinister, Dead or alive, Every minute on the minute (EMOM), circuits, calisthenic scales and pyramids. I do long, easy one to three hour hikes with 30 to 60 pounds. I do long aerobic mountain biking or trail running with brief bursts of intensity uphill. I go ski touring in the winter (one to three hours each way) to access untracked powder. I occasionally try more intense PR efforts, usually involving maximum effort running or cycling to the top of a mountain.
  • Preparation off the couch: I'm proud of that. At the risk of sounding a bit boastful, I can get up from my computer right away after drinking a quarter of a bottle of Mezcal and running a 26.2 mile marathon. (It won't be fast, and it won't be easy, but neither will it be difficult.) I can climb multiple lengths of 5.9+. I can participate in an ultra-distance mountain bike race. I can help a friend move furniture for eight hours. I can carry my 45-pound 4-year-old two miles over rough terrain after deciding she "doesn't feel like hiking anymore." I can go spear fishing in the blue water off Kona and comfortably freedive up to 60 feet.
  • Independent equipment: I am not dependent on a gym or a specific type of equipment. I am able to stay in shape and work out well at an Equinox Gym in Manhattan, or a Best Western hotel room in Duluth, MN. And I can sit at home for two to eight weeks for 40, feeling no stress from de-training or closing the gym.
  • I eat whatever I want: But I rarely have breakfast or lunch. Usually just dinner.

Your fitness truths will be different from mine. And they should be. But I hope that one or more of my truths resonate with you. Wishing everyone health, strength and resilience during quarantine. And after that!

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"Victor" is a former member of the US Special Operations Command. His personal information is classified.


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Coming up with your perfect bodybuilding workout program and diet to match can seem like quite the process. You have to plan how many days a week you’re going to workout, what exercises you will include in your program, how long your rest periods will be, how many reps you should perform for each exercise, and on and on it goes.

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While it is true that you have to push the groupes musculaires past their comfort level in order to see progress, you can run into a number of problems when you’re lifting to failure each and every set.

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