• I’m a 33 year old male.
  • 5’11. 156 pounds. I'm approx 14% bodyfat.

I’m looking to get ‘fit’. I’ve worked out (5km-half marathon, swimming, squat, bench) at various times in my life and tracked calories, macros etc.

Current Stats Have not worked out in a few years.


  • Can run 5km in about 23 mins
  • Can do half marathon in around 2hrs

Strength (have not lifted in a few years) - 1 rep max

  • Prob Bench around 100 pounds
  • Prob Squat around 100 pounds (squat has always been relatively weak compared to bench)

I’ve lifted weights before, including squats and bench. I’ve got the starting strength book.


In general I’m looking to improve functional strength and cardio. I’m not looking to be able to lift really heavy in gym. Or put on a ton of size. I’d prefer to optimize first for cardio, then for aesthetics, then for strength, In order of priority:

I’m confident I can hit the right meal goals, as I’ve dropped down to 11% body fat fairly ‘easily’ by heating a bit cleaner.I may get a BodPod test

Meal Plan

  • 1g of protein p/pound:
  • 120G - 150g protein
  • No sugar, sweet, snacks except on cheat day
  • Breakfast: 3 eggs, smoothie
  • Lunch: Rice, Chicken, Salad
  • Dinner: Sandwich, Pasta, health protein
  • Supplements: Whey Protein, Caffeine


  • M - Starting Strength program (beginning from start)
  • T - rest
  • W - Starting Strength program (beginning from start)
  • T - rest
  • F - Starting Strength (beginning from start)
  • S - Swim
  • S - Run


  • Anything you’d change?
  • Should I be looking to run more crossfit type programming than Starting Strength, if I'm looking to build functional strength?
  • The fact that you're going with starting strength, and have incorporated rest days as per the program, is great. I think your squat/bench ratio will figure itself out as you progress along a sound program.
    – Eric
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 22:04

5 Answers 5


I’m only going to be able to address a small subset of what I’d have clients do. Cross-fit – is backwards.

Starting the most technical and power centeric Olympic lifts and doing them to exhaustion is sloppy and dangerous.

My abridged recommendations are as follows:

Proceed all workouts with a 5-10 min dynamic warmup

On Lifting Days

  • Dynamic Lifts (Unilateral to Destabilize) as your routine Progresses decrease stability (heavy lifts first).
  • Alternate Push/Pull and UE/LE exercises
  • ~30 second rest period between lifts
  • ~10-15 reps

  • Sun Rest
  • Mon:Steady State Run 1.5x Target Distance (Best Time Focus)
  • Tues: Lift & 3:1 ratio as tolerable ~ 20-30 min Intervals
  • Wed: Lift and Steady State Run to 3/4 Target Distance
  • Thrus: Rest
  • Fri:Intervals 3:1 ratio as tolerable ~ 30 min
  • Sat: More Intense Lift – Light Steady State Cardio
  • THANK YOU! Are you a fan of starting strength?
    – drc
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 2:20

Sub 20 5k run is in my opinion not that difficult if this is your main goal.

I have reached 19'50 5k without looking at my diet.

Build your aerobic Base (aerobic treshold), increase your lactic treshold (treshold training) and work on your running technique (might require an external coach). Then plan strength training around that and rest accordingly.

Read good books to get an understanding of Training in both endurance and strength and you will be good (Chris hinshaw, Cal dietz triphasic are ressources I recommend)


Absolutely, more functional strengthening in your case.

II'd focus on improving all major energy systems and raise your bodies H+ tolerance -- it's actually not lactic acid that causes the burn, it's a build up of excess H+ atoms.

Just a few meal things -- Post workout you want simple sugars (dextrose is best but table sugar is just fine) to spike you insulin levels so protein can be delivered to your muscles post workout.

Healthy fats before bed to to increase natural hormone production.....

Good luck!

  • Thanks so much. Do you have a preferred snack/supplement post workout?Also for healthy fats before bed? Also, do you think my program is reasonable?
    – drc
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 2:30
  • @MikePSU Just to add on your post Workout suggestion. The book "The low carb myth" by Ary Whitten suggests that there are no differences really in insulin spikes between a high protein meal and carb meal. Also amino acids spike GH contrary to carbs which have the opposite effects. That's why many bodybuilder's coaches (Georges Farrah being one) make their athletes only have Protein Post and no carbs.
    – Idri K
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 3:27
  • Humor me, what is H+? Also, it has been proven fairly unanimously that the "anabolic window" aka "protein timing" is a myth
    – John
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 6:38
  • Haven't read that book, not sure what point you are addressing -- I was suggesting you want simple sugars (high GI) to spike your insulin levels post workout to maximize protein absorption. Yes I agree there have been various studies showing an array of results -- expected. There are also study's showing "Sandwiching" protein pre and post workout lead to ~35% gains in lean muscle mass. The research is mixed from what I've seen. H+ = Hydrogren Atoms dailyburn.com/life/fitness/truth-about-lactic-acid-lactate
    – Mike-DHSc
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 20:49
  • H+ is actually a proton, or you could say a hydrogen ion. Not a hydrogen atom. It is what is produced by lactic acid when it is dissolved in water/bloodstream, or indeed any other Bronstead acid (defined as an H+ donor, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid etc are acids of this kind). So it is the lactic acid that causes the burn but it is because of its loss of H+ upon dissolution.
    – RobChem
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 7:54


Why should you listen to me? I have created fitness plans that, most importantly, people have stuck to and seen progress on. There is no point prescribing a program you won't follow for more than 3 months. I am a level 2 fitness instructor (UK qualification). In terms of DYEL BRO I am at the top end of intermediate in all lifts (Power/Olympic/Crossfit).

Background Fitness

You clearly can run well, I'm personally training for my first half-marathon and my running is very average but I know that a sub 20min run take a lot of dedication. Fortunately running programming is fairly simple to plan and to follow.

You aren't fat but want to get a lower body fat, this makes that task hard. What also makes your task harder is you want to make strength gains while losing body-fat. It is do-able, just hard.


Your goals are a bit all over the place, you have quite a few conflicting ones: you say you want functional strength but tote the starting strength book and a arbitrary strength standard you want to meet.

In order of difficulty (for you) here are your goals:

  • 9% bodyfat
  • Run 5km in sub 20mins
  • Squat: 200lbs
  • Bench 150lbs
  • I’d like to put on 5-10 pounds of muscle
  • Increase swim performance


Some of them work well together and we should pair them up. You have also expressed a interest in starting strength so we should include that (aside, I personally am not in favour of SS for most clients, however you want your squat to go up a lot more than your bench so it is suitable).

Running takes significant time to get good at, you might see a 30 second improvement on your 5k time after 6 weeks running. Especially since your run times are fairly good already (diminishing returns).

Your strength goals aren't really that aspirational though and at most 6 months of training should get you there.

Personally I would recommend the following: 2 running days to build up distance and experience while you work your way through starting strength (3 days a week). If you feel that is too easy and feel restless then you should look to move onto 3 days running and 3 days strength training (this is what I currently do).

You week would look like this, I have purposely not given rest days as its up to your schedule when you take them (take them between any of the sessions):

  • Day 1: Starting Strength 1
  • Day 2: Alternate Weeks Easy/Fartlek Runs (40-50 mins)
  • Day 3: Starting Strength 2
  • Day 4: Long Run (50mins-1h15m)
  • Day 5: Starting Strength 3

I personally would cut out the swimming for now but you have explicitly said you want to do it, so if you do then do it on one of your rest days.


  • CrossFit is a workout, nothing more, nothing less. I personally have done 6 months of it and became frustrated with the lack of a consistent program where I can see clear progress over time. The movements are usually fun (plyometric, gymnastics, Olympic lifts) but the coaching isn't high level (you won't often get a Olympic weightlifting coach leading a CrossFit gym). However, the social atmosphere is often very good and can help you keep coming back.
  • Yoga, seriously. Every person should be doing yoga. Even more so if they are regularly (>4 times a week) doing exercise. The benefits are enormous and the time to be mindful and relax is great. Depending on the instructor you can have good fun too (ours always does handstand holds). Only downside is the cost of classes. 1 session a week can make a lot of difference.
  • Don't go overboard with the exercise. Never go full 7 days a week.
  • When you run out of progress with starting strength look at 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler.
  • 'Your goals are a bit all over the place, you have quite a few conflicting ones: you say you want functional strength but tote the starting strength book and a arbitrary strength standard you want to meet.' - Good point. Is there a better target to aim at for functional strength? I thought starting strength will give you full body work out that build functional strength. But maybe I should be thinking of it differently? In general I'd be looking at strength for running, swimming, surfing, hiking and fighting.
    – drc
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 20:17
  • Starting strength is just that, a start. There are some muscle groups it overworks (legs) and some it underworks (back). Calisthenics are best suited to "functional" strength IMO, there is a good workout here: reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/wiki/kb/recommended_routine
    – John
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 7:01

You indicate that you'd "prefer to optimize first for cardio, then for aesthetics, then for strength", and that you're "looking to get ‘fit’".

Increased strength and muscular bodyweight will help you run faster and burn more calories. I suggest first training for strength, including gaining muscular bodyweight (and some bodyfat, inevitably). Contrary to the BMI calculators, etc., you are underweight for your height.

Cardiovascular adaptations occur much more quickly than strength adaptations; decreased bodyfat depends primarily on a caloric deficit, which is most-effectively achieved by consuming fewer calories.

I'm glad to hear that you have Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. I see three "Starting Strength" days per week in your workout schedule. Please consider using these to do a "novice linear progression".

Contrary to another answer, you can indeed use "Starting Strength" even when you're no longer a novice (that is, you can't add weight to the bar on each successive workout). You can use the barbell lifts to gain strength for years; you will need to adapt your programming of those lifts as you progress.

But, keep it simple (and hard!): lift heavy, get stronger, gain muscle. Your other goals will come more easily thereafter.

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