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Ask Stew: If You Could Give Advice For Your Younger Self

BOLD APS advice buds preparation

Looking back 15, 20, even 30 years ago for some of us is not an uncommon activity.  Thinking “had I known then what I know now” or “if only I would have done this” what would I have become. But a fairly common question young students will ask their instructors, mentors, and teachers is “what advice would you give 21 year old yourself as you prepared for your next challenge?” Here is a question recently asked that I thought was a fun mental challenge and journey through time:


My goal is to get to and through BUD/S and serve in the SEAL Teams. I was curious, what advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time? I am also a similar athletic back ground as you (football, rugby, lifting) and think my preparation will be pretty much the same as yours. I have read your Change Needed article about your training journey, but anything else I need to consider for my athletic history?  Thanks Jacob S.

Great question as this takes me back to 1990 when I was about a year out from starting SEAL training. If I could go back, I would first say, invest your money in Apple and Amazon and ride out the 90s. But seriously, I would really focus more on recovery health more than performance health. The following list would be my top five items I would share and try to teach my younger self if such a thing were possible:

1 – Take a recovery day.  When you are 20-21 years old, your body may feel invincible.  That is great and push hard obviously, take a day off and learn how to cycle the elements of fitness throughout the year versus trying to get good and stay good at everything every day of the year.  Pull back and learn how to lick your wounds one day a week. Related articles:  20 Year Periodization and Recovery / Sleep / Rest.

2 – Mobility Day – Add in mobility days, get massages, and get the encyclopedia out (pre-google in 1990) and learn about myofascial release.  This technique will be very helpful in post workout recovery, pain from running, log pt, boat carries, and general overuse.

3 – Eat Well – Drink Less – Turning 21 is a fun time, but can take you down a slippery slope if you do not exhibit some discipline in your training.  Enjoy the social scene and unwind, but not so much you get in trouble, feel like crap for two days, as the drinking can take its toll on your training.

4 – Slightly modify your running. As a powerlifting football player, I was rightly concerned about not being in good enough cardio vascular shape and having enough muscle stamina to handle the runs, swims, and high rep PT sessions. Instead of running long slow runs, make your runs a little shorter (4-6 miles – no more) and focus on running them faster – at least 7-minute mile pace.  Try to push some 6-minute mile paced runs too. Going in at 190-195 lbs. will prove to be a good weight to keep you warm, sturdy under the logs and boats and will be light enough to still run at a moderately fast pace.

5 – Mindset – You will doubt yourself, everyone does. But do not think for a minute what you are about to undertake is impossible.  Many people every year graduate BUD/S training and other special ops selection programs just as tough, why not you?  You are prepared, have a good plan, turning your weaknesses into strengths, and will build your confidence this year one day at a time, one workout at a time.  Keep moving and trust in the system.

But also – keep doing your plan.  You and your teammates will do fine, but you have to put in the miles of running and swimming, get those reps of calisthenics in each day (upper / lower body splits), and stretch. Keep working hard (but not overdo it) because it will be from this work and preparation that gets you through, not you coming from the future telling you that you are good to go. One final thing – make sure you ask Denise out on a date senior year – that goes real well for you.


Programs That Are Cycles of Periodization

What elements of fitness do you need to focus on to have the ability to get TO and THROUGH Training and stay operational?  ALL OF THEM.  Do you have to gain weight or lose weight? Getting good at all the elements of fitness is required and as your tactical journey continues, being able to structure your training so you can recover and have meaningful longevity within your career is the ultimate goal. After all, you will be older longer than you are younger in any career you choose. 

For over 20 years now, I have been coaching and writing about a form of tactical fitness periodization created for the tactical athlete candidate as well as the active duty operator.  Many questions occur during the transition from one cycle to another.  Some prefer a sharp change from running to non-impact cardio cycles, which is very helpful when feeling the peak of running overuse injuries starting to occur.  Some prefer a gradual bell curve approach to building up to a peak and a reverse progression during the transition of one cycle to another.  Here are some options as you progress through calisthenics cycles into more lifting cycles, running cycles into non-impact cardio cycles, or into sprinting high intensity interval training cycles. 



The Heroes of Tomorrow program was developed by former Navy SEAL Stew Smith, fitness author.  We can help prepare you for ANY profession that requires a Physical Fitness Test and YOU pay nothing for the training!  Warning - it is rather advanced but we can scale it back a bit and teach running and swimming techniques and help you build up to your goal level of fitness.

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


Navy SEAL Weight Training Book
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book  

It depends:  The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness is a classic and focuses on high rep calisthenics and running and swimming base.  You will build up your running over 12-18 weeks to 20 miles but very fast paced focus on both the 1.5 mile run for the PST and the 4 mile timed run for weekly run test at BUDS. If you are an athlete with a strong power / strength background in lifting and not running or swimming, Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you. IF you need some place to start Navy SEAL Fitness is ideal for you as well because a calisthenics base / running / swimming progression is a good place to build a foundation.  Though you will likely need to spend some time in the Navy SEAL Weight Training Book OR if Navy SEAL FItness is too challenging, go with Navy SEAL SWCC, EOD, Diver, PST Phase 1 Workout.  Phase 1 is a good starting point if Navy SEAL Fitness program is too tough. 

Navy SEAL Weight Training - This is part two (winter lifting phase) of my SEAL Prep program. If you have done the Navy SEAL Fitness (12 weeks to BUDS) program a few times and need a break, this is the next program that integrates lifting with the Navy SEAL Prep training. This is ideal for people who have come from an endurance athlete background.  Athletes like swimmers and runners will also require some strength training as you will be exposed to challenges under logs and boats during the first phase and many miles of rucking 50+ lbs of backpacks and gear in 2nd and 3rd phases of BUDS.  Do not skip lifting in your year of training prep.  However, if you are coming from a powerlifting / football background, supplementing a few lifts into your endurance / muscle stamina focus plan is something you may enjoy especially if training for a year or more during your prep phase. 

Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver Program Series - Phase 1 is what I call a beginner guide, but it is still challenging.  It is geared toward those who are scoring minimally or failing their Navy PST test - 500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, 1.5 mile run.  It is easier than The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness and a good prep course before attempting it. 



Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week

Phase 2 and 3 of the Navy SEAL / SWCC, EOD, Diver program is about the same level of intensity as Navy SEAL Fitness and is also a good follow-up plan after Phase 1

Phase 4 ot the Navy SEAL Key to Mental Toughness is by far my toughest workout ever created.  It resembles a day of BUDS, complete with "wet and sandy", runs after eating, high rep punishment push-ups, 4 mile timed runs, 2 mile swims with fins, log PT simulation, and even a HellWeek Simulator with 3 workouts a day.  

Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

Tactical Fitness - At the core of this program is the Tactical Fitness Test which measures 12 standards for your physical capacity, including: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, muscle coordination, and stamina. Tactical fitness means having the skills needed to save lives and extend the limits of your endurance whether you are in the military, police, firefighting professions, or just an everyday hero. Also featured in the Tactical Fitness Test called the Dirty Dozen.

Tactical Strength - Tactical Strength is the lifting program used by Stew Smith and his Military, Police, Fire Fighter fitness program called the Heroes of Tomorrow. It is designed to build strength in the upper body, legs, and core to prepare you better for any load bearing activity (rucking, boat carry, log PT, etc). The program also does not neglect cardiovascular activity and will end workouts with rucking or swimming (or other non impact options (row, bike, elliptical) if needed. The cardio workouts will be quick and fast focusing more on speed and agility than long slow distance. We also use the Tactical Strength Test to test elements of speed, agility, and strength / power.

Tactical Mobility is a comprehensive fitness guide for greater mobility, flexibility, and performance—designed for the men and women serving in military, special ops, law enforcement, emergency services. Tactical Mobility is a perfect fit for any fitness program as a stand alone "Mobility day" supplemented into your regular routine and will help you reach the pain free level of fitness. Gaining flexibility and mobility is the goal of the program and it will help with performance and help reduce injuries.

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as personalized training programs member's only program and the new :

Try Our Stew Smith Fitness Members Only Club - #1 Best Selling Tactical Fitness Programs

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Prep: Spec Ops Periodization


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