Staying on the Yellow Brick Road - Six Weeks to Superior Conditioning

“Never let your physical conditioning be the reason for defeat” – Dan Gable

Whether you’re preparing to come to the FBI National Academy, currently at Quantico, or just looking for a relevant and efficient training program to boost your health and operational readiness, this article is heavy on the practical for physical conditioning.  I’ve outlined a six-week program with sample workouts listed in Table 1 using the following methods:

  1. Extensive interval training: a combination of moderate- to high-intensity work intervals with fairly fast recovery intervals designed to increase aerobic power (the type of fitness that would help lower your 1-mile run time and increase longevity).   The goal is to accumulate several minutes at an intensity that would be hard to sustain by interspersing low intensity recovery bouts.
  2. Intensive interval training: high-intensity, short bursts of exercise useful for improving athletic speed and power interspersed with much longer periods of rest.  We’re looking for maximum disruption of your energy systems with minimal disturbance to your joints and soft tissues.   Non- or low-impact training methods are preferred, such as stationary bikes and deep-water running.  Remember to keep the easy parts easy in order to keep the hard parts hard.  Since you are working at very high intensity, allow time for a 5-10 minute light cool-down.
  3. Circuit training (think interval training with weights): a metabolically-demanding resistance training workout combining to increase overall physical work capacity in fundamental movement patterns (squatting, bending, pushing, pulling, etc.).  The best circuit workouts are simple, strenuous and standardized in terms of movement to track your progress.

Table 1: Conditioning Workout Descriptions

Conditioning Planner Overview:

Why six weeks?   There’s a saying in physical training that “everything works, and everything works for about six weeks”.  In addition, six weeks is a suitable timeframe to upgrade your cardiovascular conditioning following a progressive training program. In reality, think of this program as two different three-week cycles.  The first cycle focuses on increasing your aerobic fitness by emphasizing extensive intervals (Category A), while the second cycle is more balanced between the different methods.  If you need additional emphasis on the aerobic power, bias the training program towards Category A.

The program is based on a four-day per week training schedule, with ideally no more than two consecutive training days, such as Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday.  If you’re training for three consecutive days or more, you’ll likely need to reduce the training intensity and volume.  Whenever possible, insert a day of active rest between training sessions to maximize recovery.  If you only have three days per week to train, then this becomes an eight week program.

Use a rating of perceived exertion chart (Figure 1) to gauge your training intensity.  Pay attention not only to the intensity of you work intervals, but also the recovery intervals.

Each conditioning session should take no more than 30 minutes to complete.  You will need to warm-up thoroughly, especially before the intensive intervals (Category B).  For example, “B3” is only two minutes of hard training but the intensity is at peak capacity.

Table 2: Conditioning Planner