Vail Daily column: Prioritize your fitness development |

Vail Daily column: Prioritize your fitness development

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

Last week I discussed the idea of why it rarely makes sense to prioritize too many different fitness qualities during a training block or time period. A general training cycle typically lasts six to 12 weeks, although specific circumstances can qualify a training block for shorter or longer cycles of time. Again, if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Show me a typical trainee who trains all fitness qualities at the same time including but not limited to strength, endurance, power, speed, anaerobic work capacity, body composition and sports specific skills, and I will show you an individual who is over trained and lacks any substantial development in any one of these specific qualities.

How then do you prioritize what you need right now in your development? Find out who you are below, and dedicate six to 12 weeks working on the suggested guidelines. Let’s dig in.

Wellness, longevity and durability supported by sustainable workouts should be at the forefront of any worthy fitness program regardless of your age or your current level of fitness development. Unless you are getting paid for your athletic abilities, doing no harm to your body, mind and spirit should be the overwhelming priority. As a general disclaimer, if your workout today at age 25 isn’t sustainable at the age of 65, it’s not worth doing in my opinion. I’ve seen too many problems with the aging population who were reckless when they were younger. Sustainability and compliance to a fitness program need to be considered regardless of where you are.


Given the necessity for health and vitality first, and as long as your movement health isn’t problematic, leanness should be addressed initially in the quest for fitness. It’s quite clear from supported literature the No. 1 health related risk factor for lifestyle related diseases is excess fat tissue accumulated around the stomach. Particularly if you are apple shaped, the first order of business is fat loss.

Instead of using fancy BMI numbers, scale weight, or body fat percentage measurements, take a tape measure and measure your waist circumference around your belly button. Your waist circumference shouldn’t exceed half your height in inches. For example, a 5 foot 10 inch individual, or 70 inches tall, should not have a waist circumference greater than 35 inches. If you are above this mark, take warning, and fix this right away. Whatever it takes — cut back on food and alcohol consumption, and get on a program twice weekly consisting of a few big exercises like deadlifts, farmer’s walks, and one arm dumbbell bench presses. In addition, pick one of the following and perform twice weekly; jumping rope, kettlebell swings, interval sprinting, trail running, snowshoe climbs, cross country skiing, or spin cycling. The key here is to maintain strength and preserve whatever muscle you have, as you aggressively tackle body fat through caloric reduction and increasing metabolic conditioning. Keep the workouts short and intense, and focus on diet maniacally. Follow this for 8 weeks.


For trainees age of 35 and younger who don’t have any movement deficiencies and have an appropriate body composition, gaining as much muscle size and strength are top priorities. This is so important because young individual’s hormones are peaking that support muscle and bone strength. It’s easier to build muscle size and strength while you’re young, and maintain it throughout your life. Trying to build muscle and bone strength in your golden years is difficult, and a lack of strength contributes to falls, breaks, long term disability, and death. Exercises like barbell military presses and back squats performed 3 days per week for 5 sets of 5 repetitions while increasing caloric intake will get you there.

For the aging population, pay attention to strengthening and lengthening phasic and tonic muscles respectively. For example, phasic muscles are prone to weakness as we age; glutes, deep abdominal muscles, middle back, shoulders, and the back of the arms. Tonic muscles tend to tighten as we age; chest muscles, biceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, and the upper back around the neck. In general, strengthen the phasic muscles, and stretch the tonic muscles. Exercises like bent over rows, planks, and overhead dumbbell or kettlebell presses are excellent for the baby boomer. Exercises like toe touches, spreading your arms to the side in a doorway, the runners stride stretch, and hanging from a pull-up bar are simple stretches you can perform mostly anywhere.

The above guidelines are overly general, but valuable for the specific scenario you may find yourself. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out, if so reach out to me at, and I will continue to answer your specific questions. Have a great week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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