Archive for the ‘Navy Fitness’ Category

Top Reasons Why People Fail Special Ops

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I love getting email questions that require me to think and recall over the years some of my experiences to share.  These questions are from a future SOF candidate, who asks a simple question, “Why is the attrition rate so high?”  Here is his specifics:

I was curious Stew, why are the attrition rates for SOF so high? It seems that to get into any SOF training program you have to pass a physical examination to show you can handle training, academic tests, and reach a pretty high level of fitness. Therefore; all those who start should technically be able to complete the course? But of course most end up quitting. Through what means do trainees feel that the course isn’t for them? Or is it that people believe the workload isn’t worth the reward? Is it naive to think that because you only meet the minimums that you cannot succeed in the course? Is it more of a solid success-​​driven mentality requirement?

In my personal experience and after talking with recent graduates as well as failures from various SOF training programs that include:  BUD/​S, EOD, Ranger, Army SF, RECON, AFPJ, and various SWAT training programs, I have developed the following list of reasons why people do not make it through SOF training.  Let’s call this the Top Ten Reasons Why People Fail in Special Ops:

There are many ways to fail out or quit any of the Special Ops programs utilized by our military as well as city, state, and federal police departments.  But typically the biggest reason someone fails is the candidate is not prepared in some way.  Here is a list of reasons why most people do not make it through the various Special Ops training programs available:

Physical /​ Mental Toughness Failure: I have discussed this term “mental toughness” and tried to define it many ways, but it is critical in your success in any of these programs.  You have to understand that the physical challenge gets so overwhelming that you have to dig deep into your “how much you want it” pocket to find the fuel when the tank is empty.  It does not matter how great a runner, swimmer, lifter, shooter, etc…if you are not tough mentally — you will likely not make it through training. See related articles:  Top Ten List of Mental Toughness /​ Science of Mental Toughness.

Physical Reasons People Fail:

Running – Face it – it is a running man’s game out there.  You have to be a good runner with a solid foundation of long distance /​ fast paced running no matter what your size.  I have seen 220+ lbs men run 18 minute 3 mile runs and sub-​​200lb men fail.  If you cannot run well, you will be the first to leave typically – either by failing to keep up or by over-​​use injury caused by not being physically prepared to run.  I list this one near the top, because almost every graduate I talk to comes back and says, “I wish I had run more – it is a running man’s game.”

Swimming – You do not have to be a world class swimmer to ace even the toughest Spec Ops swimming programs including BUD/​S and AFPJs, but you have to be in good swimming condition, have solid technique, and be comfortable in the water.  Failing to swim well typically keeps you from getting INTO Spec Ops training, but one of the less likely events to fail during training.  Now the swimming skills – that is a different story.  See water confidence below.

size0Rucking – If you are training for the Army and Marines, you will be rucking.  The Special Ops world is the same.  Even at BUD/​S that used to start rucking once doing land warfare (3rd phase) are now rucking in every phase to prepare their graduates for future rucks in mountain /​ sandy regions of the world.  So start rucking if you have not started yet.  Finding how to wear your ruck, how to pace yourself for longer distances is as critical as conditioning yourself for endless rucking days.  Most people who fail rucks did not practice rucking, had weak legs and core strength to carry the ruck at a passing pace.  See - What is a Ruck article.

Lack of muscle stamina /​ endurance – It is great to be strong, but having the ability to move your body weight countless times up and down, over and under objects comes with specific training.  High repetition calisthenics is needed more than heavy weight training.  I am not saying you should not lift, in fact you should do both, but with a focus of muscle stamina not 1 rep max lifts.

Injury – Injuries happen sometimes due to lack of preparation for runs, rucks, swim, carrying boats /​ logs, sometimes it is an accident that could happen to anyone.  Sometimes it was not meant to be.  It is true but injuries happen to the best candidates.  If you have performed well to the point of your injury, you will likely be rolled and allowed to heal and join the next class.  However, if you are borderline failure or failed a few events (eventually passing) over the course of training and you get injured, you will likely be kicked out of training due to failure /​ performance combination.

Ocean /​ Land Navigation /​ Tactical Skills (physical /​ academic tests) – Some find it difficult to do proper ocean, land navigation or underwater navigation for that matter and fail tactical training tests.  There are several academic tests one must take when navigating land, ocean, sub-​​surface (SCUBA) as well as combat medical courses, dive physics, weapons system nomenclature and more.  All of which are stressful and many are oral /​ performance tests under duress.  The academic tests can also be tough to someone who is a poor student and the tactical tests can be stressful when placed under the clock and you have to perform to a certain standard.

Mental reasons why people fail:

11surfWater confidence – Like I said earlier, you do not have to be an All-​​American swimmer, but you have to not be scared of water and be able to move comfortably in any situation.  Drown-​​proofing, life-​​saving, underwater knot tying, SCUBA, underwater swimming are just a few of the skills a maritime Special Ops candidate will have to endure.  These claim many Special Ops candidates statistically and probably one of the biggest deterrents why some people choose not to attempt Special Ops programs that involve underwater operations.

training for military fitness 6Fear (water, darkness, claustrophobic, underwater at night, heights) – If you are a student at a Special Operations school, you will be introduced to many of your fears and forced to deal with them.  Many people fear cold, wet, and dark water forcing you to either successfully navigate through the fear and conquer it or the fear will conquer you.  I remember our first night swim (boogie man swim they called it), we had quitters that night and they were not even wet yet.  I personally never liked jumping out of airplanes, was near ill every jump. Many others and I shared the same feeling and somehow dealt with it until it became more natural to us and actually felt weird landing in an airplane.  What is your fear?

Instructor /​ Event Intimidation (aka mind-​​game) – Usually the instructors will make every pass/​fail event one of the toughest events ever that no one ever passes.  Having an instructor critique you constantly and making you pay physically for any errors or indiscretions is stressful and can get under your skin if you cannot handle negative feedback.  You will be told you are the worst student ever and it is up to you how to process that and come back stronger.

General Physical Discomfort (Cold, Hunger, Exhausted, Sleepy, Wet, Sandy) – This last one is borderline mental and physical.  Sometimes the thought of being cold or wet or both can cause people to quit while still dry.  Sometimes you just cannot handle being cold, wet, sandy, and being tired anymore and just want to call it quits.  This one is part mind-​​game and part physical pain /​ discomfort.  Spending days uncomfortable and tired will either make you stronger and appreciate those nice warm nights under a blanket, or completely break you mentally so you lose focus and cannot continue.

As you can see, there are many reason why people do not graduate Special Ops programs.  In fact, there are many more than these I just listed like not being a team player or mature enough to handle high levels of stress.  Though pre-​​screening of Special Ops candidates has advanced over the last few decades, the REAL TEST is the actual training course.  Testing to get TO the training will never insure someone gets THROUGH the training.   Though all Special Ops recruiters are getting better at picking those that have the highest potential for success, there is no test to date that can measure a candidate’s heart and will.  It is the Special Ops training course that does that.

Workout of the Week #14

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Workout of the Week #14:

This is a way to mix in running mile pace runs with PT Pyramid training:

Pt Pyramid /​ Mile Goal Paced Runs

Run 1 mile timed  

Do 10 sets of

Pullups x 1

Pushups x2

Abs x 3

(do ten sets of the pyramid of the three exercises in circuit fashion selecting your abdominal exercise of your choice — for example situps, crunches, flutterkicks, plank pose (per second) Sample Set 1:  pullups 1, pushups, 2, situps 3  each set progresses until set 10 = 10 pullups, 20 pushups, 30 situps.…

How to Workout the Most Neglected Muscle Group

Come on, you know where the back machines are in your gym right? Well if you don’t, it’s the group of machines that rarely have anyone on them. That’s because people like to work muscle groups that get attention, like biceps and abs.  However, those with strong backs will be the first to tell you it is one of the most important muscle groups on your body, not only for posture, but for any type of athletic movements.

7 Fitness Hacks That Could Change Your Life

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There is so much to learn about workout properly, it can be as confusing as you want to make it. However, there are some simple tips, tricks and hacks that anyone can do to make working out easier and more effective. Below are some simple fitness hacks that you can incorporate today to take your fitness to a higher level.

Ask the MD — Becoming a Stronger Runner

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Angela Duff, 62nd Aerial Port Squadron

Military​.com Fitness is starting a new section where we reach out to various medical and science professionals to get advice on fitness, injury prevention, injury rehabilitation, nutrition, and many other topics that will help our readers. Many emails ask our writing team about running faster, running injuries, and how to prevent them.  I am pleased to introduce Dr. Michael Cassatt who is a former Navy corpsman and now a doctor of Sports Medicine .  Dr Cassatt answers our “How to prevent running injuries” question with the following explanation: Injuries in runners are common.  Injuries from the waist down can range from 1 in 4 runners, to 2 in 3 runners depending on training volume. Most of these injuries are preventable given a good training plan, quality running form, and a few specific exercises to help supporting muscle groups. There are a number of injuries that can occur from running including:

  •  Hip– Hip flexor tendinopathy, impingement, and bursitis.
  • Knee– IT band syndrome, runners knee (Patellar tendinopathy), and meniscal tears.
  • Tibia– Shin splints, compartment syndrome, and stress fractures.
  • Foot and ankle– Achilles tendinopathy, peroneal tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis.

United We Stand

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I come from a family of patriots.  We all support our Veterans, our military service men and women and our country regardless of the date on the calendar or the status of world events. My grandfather is part of the Greatest Generation as a WWII Veteran. My uncles are Veterans of the Vietnam War.  I am a the spouse of a GWOT Veteran who served our country valiantly during a career that saw both peace and conflict. So, during a time when we celebrate our Nation’s birth, it seems fitting to also thank those who graciously and unselfishly support our troops, respect our flag, and serve our Veterans.  This week, while we’re spending time with family and friends,  I want to introduce you to a couple of patriots & patriotic organizations that have inspired me. 

Lose Weight /​ Get Fit to Serve

2012 Obesity

As the Military Gets Pickier With Recruiting, showing up to see your local recruiter out of shape, overweight, and/​or with less than average ASVAB scores will quickly crush your dreams of serving.  During the past 15 years of writing about military fitness, this is not a new problem (overweight /​ out of shape recruits), however in a period of downsizing, the military has the ability to select only those who are ready to go and fully qualified.  Here is a very common email from a young man seeking to serve his country but knows he has a journey to get there:

I want to lose weight to join the Navy however, I barely workout now, and I’m over 300 pounds. Any advice? — Rob

A Cool Trick to Redirect Calories to Muscles Instead of Fat

glut4Want a cool trick to help your body decide how to use those calories you just ate? Exercising right before and shortly after a big meal can help to activate a protein inside your muscle cells called Glut4. GLUT-​​4 is a protein that, when increased, tells your body to put calories into muscle tissue, instead of fat cells.

Service Academy Summer Seminar — USNA

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Each year during the summer, the Service Academies offer a week long “summer camp” to incoming high school seniors interested in becoming Midshipmen or Cadets at the Naval Academy, West Point (Army) or Air Force Academy.  I have had the honor of being a guest PT instructor at the USNA Summer Seminar on one of the 0600 am workouts for the past 16 years.

With over 800 students of varying fitness levels, the PT becomes part education and part workout — teaching and practicing time tested skills to the candidates that will help them score better on fitness tests.  We also push those who came physically prepared with a challenging workout while at the same time give sensible options to those who are not physically prepared to train at a basic fitness level yet.  For instance, some will resort to knee pushups when they fail at regular pushups or do crunches when they cannot do situps fully.

New: 100 Push-​​Up Variations [Infograph]

Ah the push-​​up, probably one of the best exercises of all time. Who could disagree with that? (Ok, maybe the squat, but the push-​​up is certainly up there as one of the best!).  To build solid muscle and strength you need to keep you muscles guessing, which means varying up your routine and the below interactive infograph does just that! Each silhouette leads to a video of the push-​​up being performed.

The 100 Push-​​Up Variations infograph was developed by Sergeant Mike Volkin of Strength Stack 52 and Dan Delisle of PushXpro

 

Busted! 6 Weight Loss Myths that will Make You Cry

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This guest post was written by Michael Volkin, inventor of Weight Loss Stack 52 (currently undergoing crowdfunding), the most unique and fun way to lose weight.

Are you tangled in the web of weight loss fads and endless contradicting information on the web? Hopefully you haven’t fallen victim to one of these fads, wasting money and time with the hopes to lose a few pounds, only to gain more back in return. I know, it’s frustrating and millions of people share your pain.  Below I explain several myths that you might be doing right now to try and lose weight. If you are, then stop wasting your time and money.

Favorite Workout #4: Last Week

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This week, we did an all-​​time favorite workout that we have been doing for decades.  It truly is a classic workout and if you are ever in the area where we train, you can join us.  Especially now, as we are cycling out of the weight /​ strength cycle and merging into the running, swimming, higher rep PT cycle to prepare for crushing any fitness test.

An Awesome Secret to Finding New Workout Products

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Ever get tired of the same workout products being pushed out by massive business conglomerates? Luckily, with the help of crowdfunding, just about anyone with a new product; or even idea to bring to market can showcase their imagination, and you would be surprised at what you can find!

Never contributed to a crowdfunding campaign before? It’s easy, simply click the “contribute” or “back this project” button, and when the campaign ends (if it reached its funding goal) you will get the product you chose.

Take a look at these innovative crowdfunding campaigns going on right now.

Try the DCN Rules for Getting and Staying in Shape

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Fitness expert and inventor of Strength Stack 52 fitness cards,  Sergeant Michael Volkin, has only three main rules for staying in shape. He refers to all three of these rules as the DCNs of fitness. “If you use my rules of DCN, you will have a killer body and be healthier than ever” he claims. So what is DCN? We wanted to know too, so we asked Sergeant Volkin.

Favorite Workout #2 from Last Week

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Here is a new favorite combination of running /​ swimming /​ weights and calisthenics done in a two part workout or one long session of 2–2.5 hours.   Remember there is no 30 minute gym workout that will prepare you for a day of ANY military training.  You have to put in the time /​ distances in many activities.

Use these Workout Tips to Get a Beach Body in Half the Time  

The warm weather is upon us and the skimpy clothes are coming out of the closet.  If you always wanted to look great in skimpy clothes but didn’t want to spend an hour a day at the gym, then use the below time-​​saving workout tips to tone up and look great.

Adventures in Travel

Family travel

I’ve been going a bit stir crazy the past few weeks and just recently figured out why.  The long winter and a late spring have left me with a prolonged case of cabin fever.  I partially blame my restlessness on my ethnic roots.  My ancestors rarely ever stayed in one place for an extended period of time which may be why I’m genetically predisposed to being a perpetual travel bug.  Much like military families, I learned a lot about travel early in my life.  My parents were always loading us kids into the station wagon to destinations unknown, well, at least it felt that way to four kids in sweatshirts, jeans and hushpuppy shoes. So, while I scope out travel brochures and exotic destinations, I thought it might be fun to figure out if travel is good for you after all! 

Favorite Workout #1 — Last Week

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“Stew — What was your best workout you did last week?” asks an Army ROTC cadet.  “Anything new? Something classic?  I would love to hear what you come up with in your Spec Ops Team sessions.”

Many readers have been asking to post some of my favorite workouts we come up with each week with my pre-​​Military /​ Spec Ops PT groups.  Sounds like a plan.  I will post my favorite workouts of the previous week here on Monday’s each week.

This workout will vary each week as I tend to pick favorites that are a combination of upper body /​ lower body weights /​ calisthenics, or swim or run PT mix, or mix it all together for a challenging full-​​body /​ cardio burnout day. So without over-​​talking it — here it is:   “The Modified Murph with TRX and Kettlebells”

If you are into these type of workouts, you may have heard of the “Murph”?  It is a workout in honor of Navy SEAL officer Michael Murphy (MOH recipient) used often as a “Memorial Day Murph” workout in the CrossFit world.  It is actually a classic workout done my future Special Ops guys for decades.

Military Swimming — How Good Should You Be?

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People all shapes and sizes with varying backgrounds join the military each year.  Many are great swimmers, most are average swimmers, some cannot swim at all.  Here is an interesting question that prompted a longer explanation in order to accurately describe “How Good at Swimming You Should Be?”

“Stew, I am a three sport athlete about to finish high school, but not a great swimmer.  I can swim, but having issues with reaching the faster times Navy Spec War (SEAL) recommends on the BUD/​S PST.  I am heading to college to likely focus on football and track, but would like to be able to go to BUD/​S and become a SEAL after I graduate (either enlist or OCS).  How important is getting the 500yd swim time down to 8 minutes vs. maybe 9 minutes and being comfortable in the water?

armsFirst, congrats on soon to becoming a collegiate athlete.  I tell people all the time, learning to be a team player (in something) is one of the most critical skills you need if you want to join the SEAL Teams as well as the military in general.  You will be a part of a team when you serve — being a good team player will help you tremendously.  You could even say it is more important than swimming — BUT you still need to be able to swim and swim well.

Top Ten List: Mental Toughness

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After this article, a friend of mine asked about what I thought the Top Ten List of traits for mental toughness would be.  After some thought and discussions with some successful, mentally tough people, we came up with this.

Mental Toughness – How do we obtain it?  Make it stronger?  Many young people ask these questions of me each day and I wish it was a simple answer.  I wish you could be mentally tough by figuring out a magic solution of phrases or training programs.  But it is not that simple.  Being mentally tough requires you to keep competing when your mind wants you to quit.  Humans have a “safety switch” in our brain that tells us to stop in order to prevent us from hurting ourselves.  We are natural born survivors built to conserve our energy, store food, and just simply live to survive another day.  There are times you can actually shut that part of your brain off.  When you do this, you realize your body is ten times stronger than your brain will let it be. Training programs in the Special Operations world helps you tap into this mindset, but often your life experiences and habits can build a mental toughness and resilience that no one can beat.