Vail Daily column: Take inventory of your fitness |

Vail Daily column: Take inventory of your fitness

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

Fall seems early this year. It feels cooler, and a little brighter on the hillside than in years past. Autumn is a great time to take inventory of your fitness and clean things up as winter is soon approaching. Our fitness needs and desires change with the seasons, so let’s fill in the gaps throughout these golden months.

“Change the volume, not the radio station.” Does fitness progression require variety and random modifications in exercise selections? Not really. The magic happens when you keep things simple, train the same basic movements hard and progress by increasing the load and volume. However, I have found that generally between six to 10 weeks, most trainees will plateau on any given program. This is when to change things up. Here’s how to do it.

First, recognize what you need based on a professional opinion. Starting with a thorough investigation of your needs will save you time and resources down the road. Regardless, everyone should be striving towards competency in the fundamentals; pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, lunging, walking and running. Assuming you can demonstrate these basic movements, here is how to progress the workout without changing the station.


The following is a workout I performed last week: one get-up per side; 15 kettlebell swings, 10 kettlebell swings and then five kettlebell swings; five goblet squats. That was one set; I performed 10 total sets. In between each set, I performed 10 pushups. At the end of the workout, I executed one-hand kettlebell farmers walks, switching hands at failure, for five minutes. This workout covered all the basics. The get-up includes so much in one movement, but in particular trains a very aggressive lunging component. Swings cover bending and pulling. The pushup is the most basic, fundamental pushing movement there is. Weighted kettlebell walks cover the pattern of walking and running with load. The workout volume? Ten get-ups, 50 goblet squats, 90 pushups, 300 swings, and five minutes of loaded walking.

This workout took an hour with reasonably long rest periods. I might perform this program two days per week, for the next six weeks using a 32 kilogram bell. In six to eight weeks from now, it will be time to move on.


Most trainees at this point will completely “change it up” and pick all new exercises. This is shortsighted. Using my above example as a foundational workout, I might do something like the following in November. Workout A: 12 get-ups; 10 sets of five goblet squats; and a walk continuum — holding a kettlebell overhead like a waiters tray, I’ll walk until I can’t hold the weight overhead any longer. Continuing to walk, I’ll bring the weight down into a rack position at the shoulder and keep moving, and then finally I’ll hold the weight at my side and walk until I can’t hold on any longer. Switch hands immediately. Workout B: A few sets of one-arm pushups; kettlebell swings for 10 reps on the minute, every minute, for 20 minutes. I will perform workout A and B, two times per week respectively with a 36 kilogram kettlebell. Each week, I will add a rep to the swing program. After 10 weeks, this will come out to 400 swings in 20 minutes with a heavy kettlebell, each workout.

This example shows how I can greatly progress my fitness by building on a previous cycle. I’ll have gotten stronger by the end of the second cycle without changing the exercises drastically. A few tweaks here and there. After the first cycle with 32 kilogram kettlebell, I will have a weekly volume of 3,200 kilograms in the squat, 640 kilograms in the get-up, and 19,200 kilograms in the swing. By the end of the second cycle, I will theoretically have a total weekly volume of 3,600 kilograms in the squat, 864 kilograms in the get-up, and 28,800 kilograms in the swing. A 12 percent, 35 percent, and 50 percent increase in the squat, get-up, and swing respectively. This is right where I want to be.

Notice my volume in the squat didn’t increase as much as the other two exercises. This is important as I have found the squat can beat you up, and can increase unnecessary weight gain. Not necessarily ideal for mountain outdoor enthusiasts. Also consider this is merely an example of how I might go about my training. The same principles apply to any compound exercise. Make these adjustments to your program without having to completely change the station, and enjoy the music!

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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