Adding Weights During High-Rep/High-Mileage Cycles

Airmen run on beach.
Members of Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, participate in an Air Force Assistance Fund 5K run at the beach here April 29, 2016. (Matthew Jurgens/U.S. Air Force photo)

When the goals are to get timed runs faster for future fitness tests or goal pace faster for future races, often athletes will miss weight training and feel like they are “losing their gains.”

The problem with doing a strength-training program to a muscle stamina and cardio endurance program is that neither will get better if done at the same time. However, there are ways to maintain much of your strength when increasing running speed and scoring higher on PT tests. Here is a typical leg day that will help the athlete build muscle stamina and cardiovascular ability without losing much of their strength.

Workout #1: Cardio and Muscle Stamina Leg Day

Squats pyramid 1-20 with 25-meter runs or dynamic stretches in between.

This is a great leg warmup that turns into a workout as you accumulate 210 squats with a mix of short runs and dynamic stretches to get ready for the running workout. It is best to try this one on a basketball court or field area and make the runs 25-50 meters between each squat set.

It looks like this: one squat, run 25 meters, two squats, run 25 meters, three squats, run 25 meters. Run back and forth until you reach 20 squats. Mix in leg swings, toe touches, Frankenstein walks or side steps.

  • Run a one-mile warmup jog/stretch
  • Repeat 12 times:
    • 400 meters at goal mile pace for timed run
    • One-minute rest with abs of choice (plank, sit-ups, flutter kicks, etc.)
    • This workout is a great way to learn how to run faster and build the cardio conditioning needed for timed runs of any distance. For more sample running workouts, see PFT Run Workout article.

Another option for the day of running is to do 3-4 miles in soft beach sand or a mix of hills to challenge the legs and lungs.

Swim with Fins

Repeat 10 times:

  • Swim 25-meter dolphin kicks underwater
  • Swim 25-meter flutter kicks on back
  • Swim 1,000 meters with fins

This swim portion is optional, but if your future requires significant swimming with fins, you need to get your legs and lungs prepared for the endurance challenges of long swims with SCUBA dives.

Workout #2: Later in the Day – Quick Lift

Repeat 3 times:

  • Deadlifts 10
  • Squats 10
  • Leg press 10
  • Stair farmer walks up/down 3x with 30-40 pounds

Do this leg lift twice a week as a supplement on big running, rucking or swimming days. Add a different lift in the mix if you prefer (hang clean, power clean, lunges, etc.).

The goal of this quick and easy leg routine is to keep these strength-training movements with lighter weight than a normal strength routine. This is a good way to top off the legs at the end of the day and make the avid lifter feel a little better about “all his gains” going away during a running cycle.

The reason why we cycle through different elements of fitness through the year is so you can build a better foundation in each. Then as you change the focus of the cycle, your previous focus will degrade less. See more information on Tactical Fitness Periodization.

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. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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