4 Ways to Rearrange Fitness Workouts for Your Unique Situation

Capt. Joel Lang, commanding officer of amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7), exercises on a rowing machine.
Capt. Joel Lang, commanding officer of amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7), exercises on a rowing machine, May 12, 2022. Tripoli is underway conducting routine operations in U.S. 3rd Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Malcolm Kelley)

Imagine transforming a generic workout plan into a routine perfectly adjusted to your current fitness levels, available facilities and equipment, and limited time each day. Some workouts may be too easy or too difficult, or too lengthy and use equipment you cannot access. It is up to you to rearrange these workouts and get creative to personalize them for yourself.

Circuit workouts with an active rest of moderate to easy cardio (run, bike, swim, etc.) have been a staple of training programs we like to use in group training. These programs focus on strength, muscle stamina and endurance, which are crucial when preparing for basic training and other military programs. Circuit workouts focusing on these three fitness elements are valuable to any training program, especially if you want to accomplish more in less time.

Here is a question from someone new to this type of preparation training:

Since many of your workouts at the Military.com Fitness Section are in a circuit format, can I skip the cardio exercises to save time and only do the resistance exercises? If I keep my rest periods short, will I still get a cardio benefit? Thanks, Steve

Yes, it is true that many of the workouts I create combine calisthenics and weights in a circuit format with an active rest of easy to moderate cardio. However, you should make personalized changes if workouts do not fit your facilities, equipment or abilities. For instance, you might have difficulty leaving the weight area to mix in cardio between sets.

Doing cardio during lifts and calisthenics is more of an active rest than anything, but the good news is, yes, you can rearrange and still benefit. Keeping your rest periods short can have cardio benefits from your strength/high-repetition calisthenics routine. But it is by no means going to help your overall cardio events such as running, rucking and swimming without doing those events. You should always make up the cardio time later if you combine the lifts and calisthenics session into a single workout. Later in the day, you can do the cardio events.

Sometimes, this rearrangement must happen simply due to pool availability. Our local training group will run and do calisthenics (lift, too) in the mornings but will swim later, mainly because the local swim teams have taken up the pools, which we would use immediately following our run/calisthenics workout. We now have an afternoon/early evening swim as a second workout. Also, if running is prescribed and you cannot run for any reason, replace any mile left undone with 10 minutes of another form of cardio. Add more swimming or replace completely with biking, rowing, the elliptical machine or stair stepper.

When starting any workout plan not personally designed for you and your ability and goals, remember that you can adjust it to fit your time, available facilities and equipment. Personalization is critical to getting as much done as possible without overdoing it; that means adjusting reps, miles and lifting events to fit your abilities.

Here are some ways to customize a generic workout plan:

1. Assess Your Schedule

First and foremost, determine the best times for you to train. Your workout should fit seamlessly into your daily routine to ensure consistency. Make an appointment with yourself and keep it consistent.

2. Do What You Can with What You Have

Check out the facilities and equipment you have available, whether at home, in a gym or even outdoors. Adapt your exercises accordingly to make the most of what's available. One such change is to switch barbell lifts to dumbbells, suspension trainers or even weight-vest calisthenics. Replacing running with biking or another nonimpact cardio activity can allow you to meet your mileage progression without overdoing it.

3. Align Your Workout with Your Goals and Preferences

Whether you aim to build strength, improve cardiovascular health or increase flexibility, ensure your plan reflects these objectives with your chosen programs. For instance, if you are trying to improve calisthenics and cardio events for a fitness test (push-ups, pull-ups, run, swim, etc.), you may want to avoid a cycle of heavy lifting and sprinting. Instead, focus on goal-pace running, cardio base training, and progressing with mileage and calisthenics repetitions.

4. Modify Exercises

Don't hesitate to adjust exercises to your fitness level or to avoid potential injuries. For example, if a particular movement is uncomfortable or risky, you can always modify it or do an alternative exercise. Many barbell lifts, such as the power clean and deadlift, may intimidate beginners from lifting. Use dumbbells or kettlebells first and slowly progress with weight and technique training as you feel comfortable.

Making these adjustments will ensure that your workout is efficient and effective in helping you reach your fitness goals. So shape that generic workout plan into something uniquely yours; you will save time and make your fitness journey more enjoyable and sustainable.

Don't settle for a one-size-fits-all approach. Visit the Military Fitness Section at Military.com and explore the week's workouts on Military.com for insightful strategies to tailor your workouts.

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