Stew Smith is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL Lieutenant, and the author of several fitness and self defense books. Stew currently lives and works in Severna Park, Maryland.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at 5:30am Monday through Friday and grab a piece of fruit and a glass of water. I head to my local Severna Park Community Center where I meet typically 15-25 young men and women seeking to serve their country or community in the military, police, or fire fighter professions.
This is my Heroes of Tomorrow fitness group. A free program for anyone who wants to serve. Most of my group are seeking Special Ops programs in their near future (Navy SEAL, Army Special Forces, Air Force Pararescue, Marines, SWAT) so it is rather advanced in time and intensity. They keep me young and in a never ending supply of workout partners.
We start training at 6:00am. Depending upon the time of year, we do a variety of exercises, cardio events, and skills specific to the group’s future training and testing elements. For more than fifteen years now I have been cycling different elements of fitness throughout my year in order to not solely focus too much on any one thing.
The easier running part of the workout comes in the middle of winter and the toughest part is in the summer. Winter workouts do not mean you do nothing - they are just easier in time involvement, mileage, and repetition than the summer season.
- 1st Quarter: Calisthenics and cardio workouts.
- 2nd Quarter: Calisthenics and cardio workouts (advanced).
- 3rd Quarter: Calisthenics, weights, and cardio workouts.
- 4th Quarter: Near 100% weights, less running more non-impact cardio workouts.
Our workouts take an hour in the weight room in the winter or outside running and doing calisthenics in the summer. We also swim every day after the hour resistance training, as we have many future Navy SEALs, Air Force Pararescue (PJs), and Marine Corps Force Reconnaissances who need to master swimming long distances with fins (Stew’s workouts are broken down in detail below, ed.).
So in a nutshell, I work out from 6-8:00am Monday through Friday (on Saturday mornings we meet at 8:00am and usually run or lift, depending upon the season). By 8:00am on weekdays, I start writing. As a fitness writer, I get many of my ideas from my morning workouts.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
I’ve been doing this morning routine for over sixteen years now. Before that, I was always a morning person and worked out in the mornings before school in high school and college.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
We add new exercises all the time, but I have not deviated from the system that I use ever. New exercises include new equipment we test out like the TRX suspension trainer, weight vests, kettlebells, weighted jump ropes, and more.
What time do you go to sleep?
I try to get to sleep between 10-11:00pm. So I strive for 7-7.5 hours of sleep each night. I typically never have an issue falling to sleep within fifteen minutes.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
I usually relax, breathe deep, and do some stretching and mobility work. Trying to keep the lower back, hips, and ham strings loose is a never-ending cycle.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I do use an alarm, but rarely need it. I do hit snooze once and get out of bed at 5:30am. My clock is five minutes fast.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
Not a full breakfast - just a quick piece of fruit (usually a banana or orange) and some water.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
The Heroes of Tomorrow training program, in full, goes as follows:
- 1st Quarter - Calisthenics and cardio workouts: The goal of this cycle is to build a foundation of moderate-to-high reps of calisthenics or bodyweight exercises to improve fitness testing scores, but to also burn off some of the bulk you created during the winter weightlifting cycle. Progressing the running each week is critical to this cycle as well, and will help prevent over-use running injuries when starting back up again.
- 2nd Quarter - Calisthenics and cardio workouts (advanced): This phase takes the last cycle and builds upon it further with more maximum effort (high rep/mileage cardio) workouts. Typically, at the end of this cycle you will reach a peak in cardiovascular and calisthenics testing performance. At this point, you will be ready for a change.
- 3rd Quarter - Calisthenics, weights, and cardio workouts: So, you change your routine a bit. Decrease reps of calisthenics, but add weights incrementally each week to build up your strength. Cardio options grow by adding more non-impact to your running routine as you taper a bit to prepare for the weight cycle.
- 4th Quarter - Near 100% weights, less running more non-impact cardio workouts: The weight routine is more of a weight gain cycle, body building like workout. But as a former football player and power lifter, I have always enjoyed this cycle and found that within 4-8 weeks, I was back to my old max weight (1RM) in several exercises, including the bench press, power clean, and dead lifts. Usually weight gain will accompany this cycle and typical results are 10-15 lbs; especially if you like to watch football and eat! The legs will feel good on occasional runs after a few weeks of tapering down to more non-impact cardio.
Do you have a morning meditation routine?
No, sleep is my meditation.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
No, I don’t look at my computer until 8:00am.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
No. I work hard all day. I often get a second swim workout during lunch, and stop having any caffeine after 4:00pm. I usually drink a few glasses of unsweetened tea throughout the day.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Within a few minutes, but only to check to see if there is an immediate action text of someone needing directions to the workouts I run, or closures due to weather.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Work out, drink water, have a snack.
What and when is your first drink in the morning?
A glass of water, as soon as I wake up.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I sleep in until 7:30am on weekends. I take Sunday off completely. No exercise that is. But Saturdays are still two-hour workout days, I just start a little later.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Yes, but it depends on the time zone. I was recently doing a swimming workout at 4:30am on the West Coast as I am used to East Coast time. I try not to get out of my time zone, even when traveling within the United States.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I only miss a workout when I’m ill (very ill). I find my productivity at work is considerably less if I skip a workout. It may take me until 10:00am to get productive, versus normally being productive at 8:00am immediately after my workout.
On a normal day I will always eat something after my workout as I’m hungry and need to eat healthy brain food in order to start writing. I write for Military.com and About.com, and have a few books in the making this year, so when I’m not working out, I’m writing about it.
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