Archive for the ‘Special Operations’ Category
Every so often, I get asked how to train for a long run like a half marathon or marathon. Many young men and women prefer the accountability of a race and the thrill of competing in runs while preparing for Special Ops professions. If running is a weakness you must work on in order to succeed in future training programs, preparing for races that are also entertaining can be a great way to turn a weakness into more of a strength. Though a marathon is not necessary, it does make a great gut-check if you can keep from getting injured prior to your training. Here is an email from a young man who is making the transition from a collegiate power athlete and working on his skills to become a better long distance runner:
Stew, I just finished my senior year of college in AZ and have been trying to get better at running as I am preparing for Army Special Forces. As you know, this training requires you to run and ruck many miles each week, but I am having issues with keeping my focus during longer runs. Any suggestions? Should I try running different locations, races, marathons, different cities, elevation, beach/desert, trails? Thanks – Sean.
For over a decade and a half of writing about working out and acing fitness tests primarily, I often get questions that start off with, “Stew — what is the best way to (insert event)? The most common one is “run faster in timed runs”. Or “do more pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups” is often asked. And, of course, there is swimming times related question — “What is the best way to increase my swim speed / decrease swim times per given distance?” Or a very controversial topic — “What is the best way to build muscle?”
The reason why I bring up this topic is after reading an email from a young man trying to ace his situp test, I got distracted. He is seeking a goal to keep a pace of one sit-up per second or scoring 120 situps in 2 minute period. This is a great goal! It is not uncommon in the Spec Ops candidate world to see 120+ on 2 minute sit-up tests and there is a way to build up to get there. Is MY way the BEST way? I do not know — depends on how you define BEST. Here is the question:
“Stew — I have a sit-up test that a scored near the minimums on the first time (60 in 2 min), acceptable a month later (90 in 2 minutes), but I want to master this event as it once embarrassed me. The sit-ups — I overestimated my abilities and did not practice (like you said) and was ranked last in our group on sit-ups. Now I want to max it and not far away from it. What is the best way to get that max score in sit-ups?”
How do you define BEST? I Digress…
We all have had some form of psych test in our lives. Do you remember the Myers-Briggs test you may have seen in high school, college, or in the military as well. I know I have taken it at least three times in my life. A recent question brought back some of those memories and prompted a little thought on the topic of personality types. Here is the question:
What are some of the personality types that make it through Special Ops training programs and go onto to serve in various Special Ops programs for a profession (like SEAL, EOD, Army SF, SWAT Teams, etc)? I saw your article on some of the traits needed for Mental Toughness as well as the many fitness requirements you recommend, but what type of people finish the training?
If you have not seen or heard about the TED conferences you should subscribe — especially if you like to hear about new and innovative things occurring in the world with science / technology based research and development.
TED = (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference share the best ideas in the world for FREE by video. Check them out. This one is conducted by former Navy SEAL and current medical doctor — Kirk Parsley.
As many of the readers know, I use a method of periodization that evolves with the seasons. Some have called it the Solstice Running Plan, while I tend to just like changing my workouts every quarter (12–13 weeks) so not to burn out with any one type of exercise. For instance, each change of season brings in something new and gradually fades something out:
Spring (March — May): Progressive running build up as well as shift from winter weights to higher rep calisthenics, taper from longer swimming workouts, with shift in speed / agility training.
Summer (June — September): Peak build up of miles running, high rep calisthenics, high speed on swimming, only bodyweight exercise to include fireman carries, crawls, log PT, etc…(Almost no weights — focus is PFT testing scores)
Fall (September — November): Drop high rep calisthenics, introduce weight training, increase swimming distance / rucking, reduce running mileage over 12 weeks and focus on faster paced shorter runs.
Here is a swim workout that requires a video to best explain. The focus is on three events:
Life Saving Buddy Tow — 25m
Combat Swimmer Stroke 50m
Freestyle 100m (6–10 strokes per breath)
The goal is to push yourself on the buddy tow — recover with the 50m CSS — then push your heart / lungs with 100m freestyle hypoxic type swim set.
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?
For years, I have written about and discussed the fine line between training for Special Ops type programs and over-training. But until recently, I realized I forgot one very important piece of information:
TELL OTHERS AROUND YOU THE SYMPTOMS OF OVER-TRAINING.
Because, you will not notice it until it is too late (typically). Even though, over-training is actually hard to do by just training — it is easy to see symptoms pop up occasionally when your recovery balance is off: Not enough sleep, not eating or hydrating well, and too many crazy workouts in a week are just the things to push any training program into the over-reaching / over-training zone if not attended to.
Ok — this workout is no joke and not for beginners. This is one of our favorite combo circuits where we focus on the following type of exercise groups: Upper body PUSH, Upper body PULL, Legs, Abs, and Full body Movements. This one is a mix of a circuit and a max rep set of the pull, push, leg and the full body and abs are done to your wishes.
Pull, Push, Legs, Abs, Fullbody Max Reps Sets exercise circuit:
Max Reps sets of first 3 (Murph Workout*) — then “rest” with abs / full body each set:
Pull = pullups 100 reps
Push = pushups 200 rep
Legs = air squats 300 reps
Abs of choice 50
Fullbody exercise of choice: options dead lift, hang clean, power clean, push press, KB swings, etc…Heavy or light moderate reps sets. 5–10 reps of these fullbody exercises.
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.
The Special Ops Triathlon — Run — Swim — Ruck
This fine tuning of the challenging cardio events of the triathlon is now an all-time favorite workout. We even made it a quarterly competition with our Heroes of Tomorrow and Special Ops Team here in Maryland.
You can arrange the run, swim, ruck of the Special Ops Triathlon in any order, but we often like to make it like a simulated mission where you have the following phases:
If you are thinking about a career change and perhaps wanting to move out of a cubicle, travel the world, challenge yourself with a typical younger person’s profession, this email may resonate with you. There are some things to consider from the physical demands of the training you seek, strain on relationships, monetary issues, to just name a few. However, if you are seeking a career change to any of the Special Forces / Special Ops world, start training hard and specifically NOW! Here is the email question and related answers to many foreseeable issues:
Stew, I am considering a career change from a Phys. Ed teacher to Army Special Forces.
After a challenging workout on Memorial Day this year, I posted it in the Weekly Favorite Series and received a few comments from, “this is a crazy workout and too hard to think about doing,” to “it was not that bad if you paced yourself.” This led me to think about how fitness is ALL RELATIVE, meaning, depending on your fitness level, workouts can easily be accomplished or not.
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?
First, 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.
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.
I consider my sister-in-law, Dana, a real sister to me. She is kind, compassionate, fun, wonderfully opinionated and loves me unconditionally. I always welcome her advice and recommendations and she has never steered me wrongly. Last summer she said I must watch The Avengers movie. What a fun ride! It was cool to see so many of my favorite characters like Thor, Ironman, and the Hulk joining forces to fight evil. The only challenge was that I knew nothing about Captain America. Friday night, I finally watched the first Captain America movie and can’t wait to see the sequel that apparently was a blockbuster at this past weekend’s opener. What caught my attention was the desire this scrawny little guy had to serve his country and sacrifice for the greater good of mankind. Fortunately, you don’t have to look too far to find those willing to raise their shields to protect our country. From our incredible service men and women to every day difference-makers, we all have a little bit of Captain America in us.
Coast Guard divers have been performing hundreds of diving missions each year for decades around the world in support of the multiple maritime missions of the Coast Guard. Now, starting this year (2014), the Coast Guard created the Diver (DV) rating for qualified enlisted members. Until now, divers in the Coast Guard had different rating professions and diving was a collateral duty.
Stew, I recently heard you talk about adding thinking games into your workouts. What do you mean? How is that helpful to me being a better SWAT operator? John
Being able to think while stressed is a trait all tactical operators (military, special ops, police, fire, EMS) all need to be able to do their jobs. I have been experimenting with workouts over the years and realized that by training the brain to think while physically tired / stressed can help you when life or death situations occur. This can be a simple pyramid workout where you have to do math during your workout or more advanced workouts where you have to get creative and think your way through them. Of course, you also need the required tactical training to help perform your job, but when things are not stressful in “real life” you can simulate it in training and even your workouts.
Every now and then, I get motivated by a workout week that I created. This week I created a program that is centered around suspension training, but each day has a combination specialty that challenges you in a variety of ways. You need variety to your workouts, but make sure the workouts you select are still specifically developed so you will still reach your goals. Whether the goals are weight loss, military service, special ops preparation, or law enforcement, adding suspension training can enhance your overall workout experience. Below are some fun and challenging sample workouts recently tested by our group:
I was recently asked by an Army veteran if there were other fitness tests out there to challenge/ test people who want to be “Tactically Fit”. This particular veteran likes to stay as fit as he was while serving more than 10 years ago and still manages an above average Army PFT for age groups 20 years younger. These are great health and fitness goals to ace a basic PFT, but is it really a Tactical Fitness Test? No — See the multiple dimensions required in creating a foundation to be “tactically fit” in order to have the ability to perform some of the most dangerous jobs in the world — defending / protecting our country and communities.
Tactical Fitness is the new fitness genre and I personally define it as: The ability to perform military, police, and fire fighter job related skills such as running, rucking, swimming, buddy rescue, equipment carry, requiring upper body and lower body strength and muscle endurance. I have been wanting to make an all inclusive tactical fitness test for a while now. The test below has no scientific study behind it, these are simply my opinions what tactical athletes should be able to do. However, all these events are commonly used testing events used by many military, special ops teams, SWAT Teams, police and fire fighters.
These are the twelve events I call the Tactical Fitness Dirty Dozen that I pulled from various military, police, and fire fighting fitness tests to create an all inclusive fitness challenge for those of you who want to be ready for anything. There is a grading system that is quite generous in basic pass / fail standards as well as a max point system of 100 points.
The events justification:
25# Pullup — Weighted pullups are required as most gear a tactical operator wears will weigh anywhere from 15-25lbs minus the back pack. Minimum is 2 reps / maxing is 10 reps. 1 point for each rep for a total of 10 points and minimum of 2 reps.
Body Weight bench press — Upper body strength with combination of moving your body weight for multiple repetitions to test pushing power of the tactical athlete. Minimum points for 5 reps (2 pts) and maximum (10) points for 15 reps.
Dead Lift (1.5x BW) — Can you lift more than your own body weight. Practicing this event alone will help a tactical athlete learn proper lifting techniques and build a stronger foundation to move heavy weight when required. 1 rep P/F but 2 points per rep until 5 reps for more points. Minimum points for 2 reps (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 5 reps.
Fireman carry — Can you rescue your buddy and carry for 100yds? Pass / Fail criteria (5 pts pass)
400m sprint - Can you run fast (no gear)? 60 seconds max points / 80 seconds minimum standard. Sometimes speed is essential.
Minimum points for 80 seconds (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 60 seconds.
300yd shuttle run - Can you run back and forth quickly (6 x 50m shuttle)? 60 seconds max / 80 seconds minimum standard.
Minimum points for 80 seconds (1 pt) and maximum (10) points for 60 seconds.
Illinois Agility Test — You will have to zig and zag while running at full speed, changing direction often. Max points of (5) if completed under 15 seconds. Deduct a point for every second slower than 15 seconds until 19 seconds(1 pt). Slower than 19 seconds = fail.
Plank pose - Can you hold the plank pose for 1 minute minimum. Get extra points for every minute after that and max out at 5 minutes. 1 point 1 minute. Add a points for each minute up to 5 minutes. Max points 5 points.
3 mile timed run — The three mile timed run. Can you run 3 miles without stopping? Then you pass. If you get 18 minutes you max the test and can pick up a few more points if you can keep it under 23 minutes. 10 points for 18 min / 1 point less for each 30 seconds until max point time of 23 minutes.
50 lbs ruck in under 1 hour (4 miles) - This is the minimum standard for Army rucking times. Can you pace yourself at a perfect 15 min mile with 50lb back pack or weight vest. No need to go too fast on this event. It is about finishing on a steady pace. No extra points for getting under 1 hour. 10 points pass or fail.
Swim - Can you swim? - If you cannot swim you are ineffective on 75 % of this planet. Be an asset not a liability to your team, yourself, and your family. This is a basic survival skill we all should know how to do. 5 Points for just knowing how to swim.
500m swim — Any stroke. Swim 500m non-stop and you pass. Get 500m in 6 min or less and max out the swim test. You can get extra points until the 11th minute. 5 points for maxing the swim / 1 point less for every minutes until the 10th minute.
25m Life saving buddy tow - Can you dive to the bottom of a pool (8-9ft) grab a unconscious buddy and tow him 25m to the other end of the pool? Pass or fail — 5 points.
Here is a chart to make it easier to understand:
|Exercise||Pass / Fail Criteria|
|4 mile ruck (50lbs)||1 hour maximum time|
|25# Pullups max reps||2 – 10 reps|
|Bench press (bodyweight)||Pass or fail 1 rep: 5 reps — 15 reps for extra points|
|Dead Lift (1.5x bodyweight)||Pass or fail — 1 rep
(2–5 reps for extra pts)
|Fireman Carry (P/F)||100yds of equal bodyweight|
|400m sprint||60–80 seconds|
|Shuttle run 300yds||60–80 seconds|
|Plank pose (P/F)||1 minute minimum / 5 min max|
|3 mile run (P/F)||18 minutes to 23 minutes for extra points|
|IL Agility Test||<15 secs to >19 sec|
|Swim – can you swim?
|Yes / no|
|Swim 500m timed||6 minutes – 11 minutes|
|Swim – Buddy Tow||Pass/fail – 25m rescue swim|
Max points is 100 points if you ace everything. You can still pass with as little as 40 points. You must pass all events to pass the test. Give it a try and see where you stand. Practice and your weaknesses and think your way through this test as you can arrange to best fit your optimal scoring potential. The interesting thing about this test is you can arrange the events in any order you wish. Get creative and develop your own strategy for better performance. The test can be broken up into two sessions or challenge yourself and go for all events in one long testing session.
“The Dirty Dozen” Tactical Fitness Test eBook is here.