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Getting Back in Shape When Out of Shape for Decades

This week the question comes from a gentleman who was once fairly active, former military, but has not done anything in about five years other than an occasional weight lifting session at his gym.  The question is – “How do I get back into working out again without killing myself after a five year hiatus?”

What I recommend for situations like this is to start off easy.  So many times I have seen people start off Day One with a 3-4 mile run because “that is what they used to do.”  This philosophy can also be seen in the weight room with people lifting heavier weights than they should at first.  Depending on your goals and your chosen method of exercise, I would start off doing the following:

Week 1:  Add ONLY stretching to your fitness routine.  Walking and biking is fine too, but do not run or lift weights during week 1.  Stretching should be done twice daily for about 10-15 minutes each session.  Warm up your body and joints with a fast walk, jumping jacks, jump rope for about 2-3 minutes.  Once warm and just about to break a sweat, start stretching your arms, legs, lower back and abdominal region.  See the free workout for kids and adults with pictures of exercises and stretches at: Free eBook -

Add water to your diet – this week of hydrating will help you prepare for a week of additional caloric burning and keep you cooler during your first exercise day in Week 2.  For every 100 lbs of body weight drink ˝ gallon of water a day. I weigh 200 lbs roughly and I drink at least a gallon a day.  This helps the body burn fat more efficiently.  In fact it takes two things to burn fat as your energy source:  WATER + OXYGEN = FAT BURNING.   The oxygen comes from either the aerobic exercise of walking or running or anaerobic exercise of calisthenics and weight lifting.

Week 2:  If running is your ultimate goal try a safe running program as written in a article a few weeks ago:  More Running

This is a safe way to build up from not running in a while. In fact, it may even be wise to run a few minutes and walk a few minutes until you get accustomed to the demands on your heart, lungs, and legs.

If weightlifting is your activity, I would recommend using this week as a calisthenics base week.  Do pushups, crunches, lower back exercises, try some pullups or assisted pull-ups.  You can add lightweight dumbbells of bicep curls, triceps extensions, and military press with repetitions up to 10-15 times.   For your legs, do no weight squats or ˝ squats if your knees are previously injured.  This easy paced week will help alleviate the pain of working joints and large muscles groups for the first time in several years.  These exercises are all pictured in the above free ebook and will help you go from zero to sixty in a easy pace that will more than likely keep you free from injury.

Good luck and keep the questions coming.  Hope the ideas come in handy.  For great reference check out the Article Guide of my archived articles.

Thanks for the e-mails. Keep them coming at

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at



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Published Books / DVDs

Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness (Book / DVD)
Maximum Fitness

The Special Operations Workout

The SWAT Workout - From Recruit to SWAT Team Member
The Combat Swimmer Stroke DVD

The Pre-Habit Workout DVD
Clinic DVD for Navy SEAL PST
The FBI Special Agent Test Clinic DVD

The Complete List of Stew Smith's eBooks:

Fitness for All Levels of Fitness

The 90 Day Beginner Guide to Fitness
The Advanced Maintenance and Recovery Program

Reclaim Your Life - The Erin O'Neill Program

Veteran's Fitness - Baby Boomer and a Flat Stomach

The Busy Executive Workout Routine
The Advanced Weights / PT Workout (Fall / Winter Weight Gain Cycle)
The Perfect Pushup Workout

The TRX Workout
NEW - Circuit Training 101 ebook
NEW Obstacle Course Race Ebook


The Special Forces Physical Fitness Workouts
 Combat Conditioning Workout

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 SWCC Workout

The Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout 

The Army Air Assault School Workout

The Army Airborne Workout

Air Force PJ / CCT Workout

The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Workout

The OCS, ROTC, Service Academy, & Bootcamp Workouts

Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard OCS Workout
The USMC IST and PFT Workout
USMC OCS / TBS Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Bootcamp Workout

The Army OCS and PFT Workout
The NEW Army PRT and Combat Readiness Test Workout
The PFT Bible - Military / Police Standard PFT


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Test Workouts

The FBI Academy / PFT Prep Workout

The DEA Prep Workout

The FLETC Prep Workout - Ace the PEB

The State / Local Police Academy Workout

The Fire Fighter Workout

Why a 52 Week Workout Cycle?

  Seal Multi Men's Multi-Vitamin Multi-Mineral

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