Archive for the ‘Special Operations’ Category
Training in the summer months takes some special consideration especially if you live in a hot and humid environment like the South, East Coast and Midwest. However, training in arid and hot environments like the Southwest and Western U.S. require the same considerations. Dryer climates can actually be more dangerous as you do not sweat to stay cool (it just evaporates almost instantly) — but you will notice salt stains on clothing just the same.
Here is a question from a trainer down in Charleston, who needed some ideas other than the typical “stay well hydrated, avoid the heat of the day, etc…”
Stew, I train mostly fighters. I believe outdoor training-pt and running / rucking for regular marines gets red flagged here around 92 degrees F. Do you have any thoughts on training in the heat for elite athletes, like SEALs or Marine Force Recon. My question is limited to upper limits of training in the heat. I train athletes, all kinds, for max performance, and then some for specific conditions, like altitude or heat as an event approaches. I don’t want a fighter overwhelmed by heat in the ring or on the field– but I want them performing like they trained in ideal conditions. Any advice?
I have found through experience and studies that half of fatigue is related to body heat so if you can keep the fighter’s body heat down the better they will be no matter what the temperature is outside. We train year round but in the Summer we get most of our workouts done in the early AM so it is always bearable on the heat scale but we do a few acclimatizing workouts in the later day to get used to 90+ degrees. Eventually, if you do it right, your fighters will say, ” Hey it is only going to be 89 degrees today, better bring a sweater.” I used to think the SEAL instructors were just putting us in the water as part of the cold water torture program to get us to quit, BUT I remember so many times that after a long beach run in the heat of the day, that getting into the cold Pacific Ocean was reinvigorating once we were finished. It did not seem like Surf Torture then.
As you know hydration is the key before, during and after. And when profusely sweating (or producing salt stains) you need the salts (electrolytes) even more that normal. Sweating is the key to staying cool BUT if in arid environments or humid as well you need to get them soaking wet in a pool, lake, river, water hose — that really helps too and almost gives the students a second wind.
We typically will workout in the heat — feel completely burned out and very hot then jump in the pool to start a swim workout. After about 3–4 minutes of cooling down all members are ready to go again almost as if they were fresh and did not get hot prior. Like I said — half of fatigue is body heat. Stay cool, hydrated, well-fueled and you can go all day.
So our heat busting workouts look like this:
Limit time to one hour in the heat / humidity finding shade as much as possible to do PT / water breaks etc.
My Spec Ops groups and I will typically run 5–6 miles with mixed in calisthenics of pullups, pushups, abs, squats for that 45–60 minutes. Then go to the pool and continue with swim PT.
Hydrate / electrolytes / carbs can be added now — jump in the pool and cool down 4–5 minutes.
Typical Swim PT Workout:
Repeat 10–15 times
plank pose for remainder of 2 min pushup set
rest with abs of choice 1 min
Prior to getting in the water we do not feel like doing part two of this workout BUT after that pool cool down it really helps.
So in a nutshell, keep them cool with some form of water not just drinking water but some form of getting soaked water methods. When you can, PT in the shade. Start harder workouts in the early morning, but as the group gets used to the morning heat, push to later in the morning and into the early afternoon. Always follow hot workouts with a way to completely soak your body and find a way to cool down.
Special Consideration for air quality. Often in the heat of the day if the smog pollution level / ozone levels are high, it can actually be harmful to train in the bad air. Upper respiratory infections can quickly follow as “they say” it is like smoking a pack of cigarettes when you run in poor air quality so it depends on your geographical location as well.
Every so often I get an email from a future Special Ops student who is preparing for the challenges of some of the toughest training programs in the world (SEALs, Special Forces, AFPJ/CCT, RECON / MarSOC and foreign groups for SAS, SBS, and the Foreign Legion):
Here is the question: Stew, I have been training pretty hard mixing in weights, calisthenics, running, swimming, and a few non-impact cardio options for additional heart / lungs work. I find myself not keeping up with others in the group or even meeting max repetition / faster times standards in the PST. I am feeling pretty discouraged with the workouts but I stay motivated to train with my buddies. Any advice?
Here is an article from a friend of mine after having this discussion at a conference a few weeks ago on nutrition for military, police, fire fighters — our tactical athletes. The need for more carbs for highly active people but it goes deeper than that:
Nutrition and the Tactical Athlete
As a firefighter understands fire, the warrior must understand war. Maintaining combat effectiveness via proper training and nutrition is a big part of this.
Nutrition is the one factor affecting each person multiple times per day and therefore has the greatest impact on a person’s overall health and fitness level. Scientists agree that 70+% of diseases known to man are caused by lifestyle factors and many can be treated via lifestyle changes. Nutrition being the number one approach.
For the tactical / endurance athlete this fact does not change. Being fit does not mean being healthy and the level of proper nutrition should address both of these factors.
The level of combat readiness literally translates into life and death. This fact makes the tactical athlete an extreme endurance athlete. Long hours of high stress from limited sleep, MRE’s and massive physical demands provide very unique nutritional demands.
Combat is high stress. The modern day tactical athlete often operates night and day for months without rest. This massive amount of stress not only results in mental breakdown leading to PTSD but also physical breakdown leading to physical injury and less combat effectiveness. This high stress results in elevated cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol causes 3 main problems in the warrior. One, lowered immune functions thus making the warrior more susceptible to illness, two, protein breakdown from muscle to keep blood sugar steady which leads weakness and to number three, increased body fat.
The three issues can be offset with proper nutrition in the field. For years ultra-endurance athletes have developed techniques and products for maintaining endurance days on end during a race. Polysaccharide gels, powders and liquids aimed at keeping blood sugar levels steady along with hydration and electrolyte balance are the key. A tactical athlete must maintain steady blood sugar, water and electrolyte balance. MRE’s do not do this and often have the reverse effect of maintaining combat readiness.
How does a tactical athlete maintain steady blood sugar? First, start by figuring your personal caloric needs. Google is full of BMR calculators. Second, plan to eat 65–70% of your diet from a polysaccharide source. (whole grains, sweet potatoes, brown rice, beans). Third, calculate your caloric intake of starchy carbs. 1 gram of carbs is 4 calories. Finally, use an online resource to calculate the carbohydrate intake from your food.
Example: BMR = 2000cals per day. Add 600 calories per day for moderate activity levels = 2600 calories per day consumed. 2600 x .65% of carbohydrate = 1690 calories from starchy sources. Each gram is 4 calories, 1690 / 4 = 423 grams of carbohydrate consumed per day. Finally to calculate how much carbohydrate is in the food you eat I suggest the online resource myfitnesspal.com.
There is much more to understand regarding nutrition. But, much like a firefighter studies and understands fire those whom wish to become or are tactical athletes must study and understand nutrition. We will further expand on this topic in the next edition.
Dr. Stephen Erle is the training director for the civilian BUD/s program, SEAL Training Adventures, as well as the Strength and Conditioning Coach and team physician for a Virginia University. In addition Dr. Erle instructs tactical athletics, sports medicine, sports nutrition and tactical combat casualty care medicine (TCCC). He can be reached for comment at Steve@SEALTrainingAdventures.com.
Hey Stew, I am working on a project and was curious what your opinion on today’s warrior and Special Ops fitness and which training disciplines best achieve this?
Great question! Over the past decade Special Ops Fitness has morphed into a new fitness genre along with military, police, and fire fighter fitness called Tactical Fitness. In fact, the National Strength and Conditioning Association has created the Tactical Strength and Conditioning Certification Program and hold some of the best conferences I have ever been to. Speakers include those physiologists and athletic trainers who train active duty Special Ops Team such as Delta Force and SEAL Team Six. But the real progress in training is in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, FBI, Border Patrol, and other federal law enforcement programs. Now many of our nation’s branches of service are hiring sports team trainers to run their indoctrination (boot camp), special operations maintenance and injury / rehabilitation programs for instance.
Is Cortisol bad? Is it only related to stress and gaining weight? In this article we’re going to discuss why athletes and trained soldiers have and need higher cortisol. We’ll also talk about the role of recovery supplements.
So what are recovery supplements and why are they needed for physical and emotional stress? For most people, when you mention the word “cortisol” they think about stress and gaining weight. This is because main stream media often links the two. This leads everyone to believe that cortisol and stress are bad and should be avoided. But is that really true? And…is avoiding stress even possible for someone that actually gets out of bed in the morning?
Stress is not all bad. It’s unmanaged stress that causes all sorts of problems.
A soldier considering Military Training for Elite Operations like Buds Seal usually focuses first on physical strength and endurance. And while that’s important if it’s all you focus on then you are likely to fail. To succeed and thrive you need something else. You need “extra”.
Just like there are a lot of talented singers with a good set of pipes; not all have what it takes to become even mildly successful, rich, or famous. They fall to the wayside at the local karaoke bar.
There really is more to being a SEAL than meets the eye. A muscular body and a crew cut are not going to be what gets you into the most elite force in the United States. You need heart (as in dedication, perseverance and steady will), and you need a strong heart (as in a strong cardiovascular system to support the physical and mental demands of being in Special Ops).
Buds seal training has gained a lot of exposure lately thanks to Hollywood. The general public fills up movie theatres to be entertained by big screen heroes and villains. Batman and the Joker, Spiderman and the Lizard, Hans Solo and Darth Vader. Sure they are made up, but the big screen can make even the highest office in the US believe that heroes and villains are meant for Hollywood.
But ask any soldier working special ops like the Navy Seals and you’ll know that the U.S. has real-life heroes with real-life villains to conquer. And Hollywood is usually nowhere to be seen when it happens.
After the capture of what may be one of modern-day history’s biggest villains, Osama Bin Laden, and the success of the Box Office hit Act of Valor, men all over the country are interested in joining ranks with this elite class of hero. But what does it really take to become part of the most elite military force? You may be motivated by the movies – but do you have the conviction to do the job? What does it take to get through Navy Seal Training?
A question posted about the training of the Tactical Athlete this week sparked some debate and with the help of Dr. Steve Erle, we came up with a very thorough answer. Nutrition will be addressed in a following post:
THE TACTICAL ATHLETE: How specifically does a tactical athlete train?
Here are some specifics on the physiology of training, example tactical specific exercises, and design of a tactical athletic program.
The tactical specific program is going to revolve around high capacity for muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance and elevated cognitive function under high stress, elevated heart rates and often depleted nutrients.
This week, a random group of questions crossed my inbox from our Allies from across the pond and I thought it would make a good discussion on the Fitness Blog. I look forward to hearing people’s experiences with this topic on both sides: the Young vs the Old. Here is the first question / topic:
1) At what age does the average man reach his full physical strength and fitness like agility,speed,stamina, strength etc? You can give me a range of age.
There is some research out there on this topic as well as evidence that men peak later in life physically than one might think. Just look at the ages of the fastest times in marathons, triathlons, Olympic weight lifting etc…for the fastest times and strongest lifters.
Lauren prepares to take on her toughest challenge yet — training with former Navy SEALs at Extreme SEAL Experience in Chesapeake, VA. No woman has ever completed this training — will Lauren be the first? Find out in this three-part episode, launching on October 31.
Join fitness model Lauren Berlingeri as she takes on a crazy new challenge each week. Whether training with the FDNY, tossing axes with STIHL Timbersports legends, or bounding through parkour routines, our fearless host manages to land on her feet with a smile (well, most of the time!).
The questions of how to gain weight and do I need to lift weights are often thrown around by Spec Ops candidates preparing for the upcoming year or more long training pipeline. There are many avenues to get the results you seek. I will recommend a few but our military / spec ops audience may have some more ideas to pass around in the comments section below. Here is the question:
I’m a freshmen in college and plan on joining the Navy to go for the SEALS afterwards. My PT scores are pretty good and I’m working on getting them better, but my real question is do I need to gain more weight and muscle. I only weight 141 lbs and am 5’11″. I know you say weight lifting is not needed to prepare, though I feel like I do need to gain more weight by lifting and taking massive amounts of protein. Also, your opinion on Creatine would be greatly appreciated! Thanks,
Here is a very commonly asked question about adding calisthenics like pushups, dips, and pullups into a standard weight training program. The answer is that is can be done but it is not recommended one of the ways it is asked in this question:
“Stew, I am a little confused about adding pullups and pushups into my weight training program. I mean should I mix them into the days I do upperbody like bench press and pulldowns or should I do them on separate days in between?”
Here is a commonly asked email from military members who are placed in charge of their command’s group PT program, but this one is a request for more advanced workouts for his hardcore group at his command. See his request:
Stew, Thanks for your numerous articles / books as I have used them since I was a civilian several years ago. Now, I am placed in a position to spice up our Command PT and we have many advanced level athletes who spend much of their free time at the gym, running races, or preparing for their future Spec Ops careers. Any recommendations for tougher than average workouts we can do as a group?
When people first try the combat swimmer stroke, a fancy nickname for what is really a modified side stroke, they can often look silly. Even swimmers have issues with this stroke. Athletes and non-athletes both share a few weeks of difficulty getting the timing down of this common stroke used by Special Operations communities.
Here is a series of students who did not know how to swim very well in the first place, yet alone the Combat Swimmer Stroke.
When you buy or get issued a pair of boots you have to break them in before you run / ruck for miles in them. Over the years I have tried many methods. Military.com veteran community — share some of your methods as there is more than one way to get your boots ready for action.
Here is one method that worked for me for at least ten pairs of combat boots.
Get them soaked and walk in them for a day. Soak your feet and boots in some form of water (ocean, lake, river, bathtub, even shower with them). Just get them soaked. Then take them off after about 30 minutes of walking in them and replace your wet socks with dry socks so your feet do not get too soft and start to fall apart.
I thought I would follow up last week’s blog post with a Q and A session that was inspired by a squared away high school student doing a project on Special Ops professions.
I received a letter in the mail from a high school junior who was doing an English project on Navy SEALs and Special Operations. What I appreciate from the young man who sent me the typed letter through “snail mail” was the perfect use of English. Usually, I receive these requests for information in text language often a paragraph of 15–20 lines with NO punctuation, NO capitalized letters, and littered with misspellings. Many (not all) requests are just a mess of words like last week’s email. Since this young man, took the effort and cared enough to actually write, I am going all out to answer his questions as thoroughly as possible.
Getting ready for Army Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), the first step to attending the Special Forces Qualification Course, requires commitment and a near life time of preparation. I recently spoke to a Special Forces operator and we discussed the top ten things a SF candidate needs to know before they take the SFAS challenge. He spoke of many different elements you should focus on during your training preparation. Here is the Top Ten List:
A new system used by Naval Special Warfare has been helping to screen recruits before they get to SEAL or SWCC training. It is called the Spec War Draft. Please do not get this confused with Vietnam era draft. It is more like the NFL draft process and the PST is now considered the Spec War version of the combine. See email from a young man confused by the terms being used:
“About the Navy SEAL draft — I don’t see how this would make sense. This is strictly an all volunteer group in the Navy. Plus, if there would be a draft for SEAL candidates, that would just mean more guys quitting, wasting more tax payers money. The reason that SEALs are not mass produced is because SEALs cannot be mass produced. This just seems completely ludacris. ”
Stress makes us stronger both physically, mentally, and spiritually so not all stress is bad. However stress not dealt with properly or metabolized over time becomes chronic. Consider stress like a perfect storm of events that can hit all at once and break the strongest of wills.
Physiologically, stress wreaks havoc on the body. The same thing happens to your body when you are stressed at work or family issue as it does when you are in an emergent fight or flight situation. However, when in an emergency usually you are able to physically exert yourself to help relieve the stress hormones that are rushing into your bloodstream that some say is equivalent to 5–6 Red Bulls! In a nutshell, Adrenaline and Cortisol are some of the stress hormones that affect our response to a stressful situation, but can also affect our health long term if not dealt with properly. When at a home office or cubical during work, it is difficult to exert yourself physically in order to reduce these stress hormones. Don’t get me wrong, there are good things that come out of stress hormones like getting pumped up for a presentation or competition or the rush of adrenaline before a fitness test. These hormones help you perform better. But after several years of not actively adding in recovery periods, you will break physically or emotionally or both.
People often ask about my saying I use with the Heroes of Tomorrow organization — Train to Compete — Not Just Survive. I have been using this one for years — even when I went through training. I found that there is a big difference in going through life merely surviving and trying to compete at everything you do.
My first experience was when I was about to run a marathon — My goal was to just finish and finish under 4 hours (I was in survival mode). I noticed some gentlemen loosening up probably 50lbs lighter than I was, likely from Kenyan descent and their goal was not like mine. They were getting ready to beat a personal best — compete with each other and try to drop a minute off of their best time. They were in Competition Mode!