Fitness Tips for Beginners from a Former US Navy SEAL

The summer months are often the time when people get in those beach body workouts before giving up in the fall, but at DEFY we’re more concerned with how our bodies feel year round than how they fit into any predetermined standard, which is why we put together these beginners’ fitness tips.

We encourage you to use this season to spend your time and effort on achievable goals that will make you feel good, whether focused on muscle growth, burning fat, or anything else. And no matter what: you still want to prioritize staying hydrated with healthy energy drinks, alkaline water, and even CBD products for recovery! 

To help you get started, we recruited the help of our very own Eric Frohardt. Beyond being DEFY’s COO, Eric is also a former US Navy SEAL who knows a thing or two about how to prepare for rigorous challenges (to say the least). In this quick guide for beginners (and others too!), Eric shares some of his best practices, guidelines, and workouts to help you reach your fitness goals.

Before you begin

Before we dive deep into my fitness tips, I want to set some ground rules, for beginners especially. First of all, you need to have a goal when you’re just starting. Otherwise, you can do anything and think it’s working. It’s also important to have a realistic timeline. Don’t expect to undo years of inactivity or bad habits in just 6-8 weeks.

To get started, ask yourself these two questions:

  • What's the goal? It’s essential to set a goal. The SMART format is an excellent way to start. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. (Again, realistic goal in a realistic amount of time!)
  • What's the RIGHT goal? You can have a million different goals, but what is it right goal? If you have the wrong goal, what good is it to achieve it? Each person determines their own goals. I prioritize health (losing weight, body fat, bone density, etc.) or fitness goals (increasing strength, growing muscle, and improved conditioning, etc.)

Setting yourself up for success

As you plan your routines and workout schedule, consider a few general principles to help you achieve your goals.

Fitness Tip #1: Start by having a clear goal

Recently, on a fitness podcast, I heard a personal trainer/strength coach quote Lewis Carol: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Very well said. 

The same thing holds in fitness.

If you don’t have a goal in mind, anything will work. You can go to the gym and mindlessly spin the belt on the treadmill or walk over the machines and randomly move weight stacks. It will work...for a while, and not nearly as effective (or efficient) as having an actual goal. 

Begin with the end in mind. Then go down the path of objective-based training! Also, be sure the goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (Smart Goals). 

An example of how to start with a clear goal might look something like this:“I want to lose 10 pounds in three months by going to the gym for an hour every other day.”

Fitness Tip #2: Remember to be consistent (even during the fall/winter)

The best diet is the one you’ll follow. Better diets may be out there, but they won’t work if you don’t comply—consistency trumps intensity. 

The same holds for fitness. 

You could spend the time designing your program or the money having a coach/trainer create it. You won’t be successful if you are not consistent. So don’t commit to something you know you can’t do. 

If you haven’t been working out consistently already, don’t assume you will suddenly start training 5-6 days/week. Scale it back to 2-3 sessions/week and take everything else as a bonus! 

Be realistic.

Fitness Tip #3: At the gym, focus on function over form

Fitness has many definitions. To me, the best definition is ‘The quality of being suitable/able to fulfill a particular role or task.’ Put another way, being able to DO something. 

Most people who look at fitness through an aesthetic lens are less concerned about being capable. Don’t fall into that trap. Focus on what you can do, not how you look and the look will follow. 

My fitness goals are primarily about function, or the ability to ‘do something.’ An example might be to be able to do 10 perfect pull-ups and 20 perfect push-ups. If you can do either, you will be more ‘fit’ than most people AND you’ll look good in the process. Just be careful NOT to neglect your technique in pursuit of a goal. Good technique will reduce the likelihood of injury AND will ultimately lead you to better, more long term results.

Fitness Tip #4: Give yourself some breaks and time to recover

So many people hurt themselves in their training. This is a result of being over-zealous or unrealistic. If you get hurt, you’ll miss training sessions and thereby won’t be consistent. 

When in doubt, err on the side of doing less and ‘live to fight another day!’ (This is advice I needed to hear when I was younger). 

This point directly impacts everything. If you are hurt, you won’t be consistent, your form/technique will suffer as you overcompensate, you will not achieve your goal because you are missing training sessions, and it just won’t be much fun (most importantly). 

And recovery doesn’t have to mean lying on the couch like a sack of potatoes. You can try active recovery activities like a walk by the beach, a beach volleyball game with friends, or a nice yoga flow for stretching. I actually stretch or do active recovery at least 15 minutes every night! 

In addition to active recovery, remember to incorporate wellness products designed to aid recovery. For example, I use DEFY Recovery to help heal my muscle tissue and reduce inflammation between training sessions.

Fitness Tip #5: Ask for help and directions

If you don’t know what you are doing, get some help. There are many good online resources now and good trainers at most gyms. Come up with some goals, then find someone who has already helped others get there. 

“The path exists, and others have already found it,” a quote by Dan John that I love. Save some time and spend a little money to get there sooner. Plus, if you are paying someone to tell you or show you what to do, you are much more likely to stick with it!

Here’s one fitness routine that you can follow

Now that you have a solid foundation, you can start planning your training program. These workouts can be done in the gym or outside, giving you the flexibility to switch up locations and have fun while sweating. Out of the many ways you can focus on fitness, these are my go-to practices.

Prioritize resistance training above everything else

Strength training: 2 Full-body sessions per week

Most of us want to lose a little fat, even a former SEAL, but many think the quickest way there is the treadmill or bike. Cardio does have its place for both form (fat loss) and function (aerobic health), but we too often neglect the all-important strength training. Don’t!

At a minimum, do two full-body resistance training sessions per week. Warm up with a short walk or jog, then do light weight or bodyweight movement. Then, focus on compound movements like: Squats, Hinges (deadlift), upper body presses (bench, shoulder press, or even push-ups), and upper body pulls (rows, pull-ups, etc.).

Remember, ‘the best do the basics better.’ So focus on the basics first. 

I won’t try to move external loads around if I can’t move my body weight. If I can’t do 20 push-ups, I’ll stay off the bench press. Improving strength will lead to an improved aesthetic. More importantly, improving strength can help you live longer.

Mix in some cardio sessions

Cardio training: 2-3 sessions per week

Yes, strength training is crucial. But ‘cardio’ is important too. Those of us that avoid cardio do so mostly because it’s boring. The idea of getting on a treadmill or stationary bike for the next 30-minutes just doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you can do it, great. Some of us (myself included) simply cannot. 

However, there are so many benefits from doing aerobic training. You can reach many benefits at a much lower intensity and duration than you think. Everyone assumes it has to be running, biking, or swimming. All of these are great. For some, walking will be enough. If walking is too easy, try walking with a load (a weighted pack, aka ‘Rucking.’). Just be careful NOT to exceed your MAF (max aerobic function), and you’ll maximize your fat burning.

As always, extra points for doing it outside and extra points for doing your cardio with others!

Add sprinting to your workouts

Sprints training: 1 session per week

When ready, add the secret exercise for weight loss and longevity. Nothing cuts weight quicker than sprinting, and most longevity experts agree that you must go hard at least once in a while.

For me, this includes a sprinting session every week.

Do a good warm-up of walking and jogging. Then add some dynamic warm-ups like skipping or high knees. After that, try some short 10-sec sprints at about 50%. Do (4-8) 10-20 second sprints for the main effort. These can be actual running sprints (if you are ready for them), sprints on a bike/rower. Or even hill sprints. Expert tip: sprints uphill are less impactful. 

Mind your recovery times between sprints. This is a quality, NOT quantity, session. If you need the motivation, try some DEFY Boost performance drink to stay hydrated and power your workouts.