Big Cardio Workout Mix

Airman tries out for the U.S. Olympic swim team.
2nd Lt. Ryan Dunne, a member of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, tries for a spot on the U.S. Olympic swim team during the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 1, 2016. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

Two of the favorite workouts this week accomplished by many of the local special-ops candidates were mirror-image twin workouts called the Run-Swim-Run and the Swim-Run-Swim. The recommendation is to spread these two workouts into two days of the week; for instance, Tuesday and Thursday. Or just pick one of the workouts. The recommendation is to pick the workout that will challenge your weakness the most. Here are the specifics of the workouts:

Cardio Workout #1

Run-Swim-Run: With the run and leg PT. Swim with fins. This is considered a leg/cardio day.

Run #1: Run three miles. Stop every half-mile and do 20 squats/10 lunges per leg

Swim #1: Swim 1,500 meters or 30 minutes with fins, whichever comes first.

Run #2: Three miles at a steady pace (time either first or second 1.5-mile distance)

We typically call this workout above our cardio leg day. However, if you want to do a maintenance lift workout, here is a way to add a weight workout later in the day that takes about 20-30 minutes.

Optional lift PM

Warmup 5 minutes/stretch

Repeat 3 times:

  • Squats 10
  • Deadlift 10
  • Leg press 10
  • Farmer walk up/down a flight of stairs 5x with 40- to 50-pound dumbbells in one hand or do step-ups on a bench for 10 steps up per leg.

Cardio Workout #2

Swim-Run-Swim: This workout also is considered a cardio/leg day with the hill runs, sprints, leg PT and swims with fins.

Swim #1: Swim 1,500 meters or 30 minutes with fins, whichever comes first. The goal here is to swim a steady pace, but if in a 25-meter pool, each lap can be done in one minute, max. The ultimate goal is to finish the 1,500 meters in under 25 minutes when you are fast enough, but if you are fairly new to swimming with fins, try to keep it at 30 laps in 30 minutes (one lap/minute) at a minimum standard.

Run: Total five miles of hills and sprints, mixing with 200 squats throughout the run as desired. This is a local hill that takes two miles to get to. It is a quarter-mile uphill and a quarter-mile downhill. Only do two hills but start to mix in sets of squats on the top and the bottom of the hill, then complete the 200 repetitions of squats on the run intervals back to the start (two miles).

Arrange the five-mile run however you desire, as it is dependent upon your facilities and running area. You could even simulate the above on a treadmill if you must.

Swim #2 – Swim 500 meters freestyle at 6-8 strokes/breath, then 500 meters CSS timed or a stroke of your choice. The last bit of the swim can be a 500-meter or 10-minute tread cooldown.

Both of these workouts are great ways to build your cardio base as well as your leg endurance for these types of events. However, be smart and make sure you hydrate well and get your electrolytes. Many of the group were starting to get bilateral leg cramps during the second swim and had to cut short the swim to focus on hydration and electrolyte replacement.

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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