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Don't Set a Timeline to Join - Set a Performance Starting Line

Stew Smith

Don't Set a Timeline to Join -
Set a Performance Starting Line

It is not possible for me to share how many young people tell me they have a 4-6 month deadline before they join a challenging tactical profession. For most people, that is not a logical path for adequately preparing for this journey, especially if your choice of tactical profession is in the special ops arena. Face it - you may need more time than 4-6 months - but that is not a problem because most people do.  Don't set a timeline as a deadline to join, set performance goals as the determining factor before engaging the official enlistment process.  Think of it as a "performance line" you need to reach and don't be like most people. 

 Sure, I get it. You are excited to serve your country or community. You are "ready" to leave your current situation.  You just turned 18 and are an "adult" now - time to get a job.  All of these are valid points on why you set such a short timeline, but depending on your current fitness level and job you are pursuing, you could be several months or even years away from actually being truly ready to endure and perform at the level you need to. 

Ask Yourself - Are You REALLY Ready to Serve? (read this)

Because if you are not ready - it can be the Perfect Storm for Failure

More information with Stew Smith LIVE Q and A Video:

What is a Performance Starting Line? Ask yourself the following:

1 - Are you finished growing?  This is not a boy's game. Too many 17-19 year old's attend tough training and most do not make it. 18 maybe legally an adult, but for most people, they do not finish growing into full adult until 20-21 years old. Once again - the article above (Perfect Storm for Failure) applies to this age group as there are more than physical factors that come into play for the teenager today. Get through puberty first - then join.  Some success stories of teens making it through training are impressive. There were typically earlier to manhood, grew up hard working / hard living and had the mindset needed to endure at an early age. 

2 - Training Life - How long have you been physically training? This counts for manual labor jobs, sports, running, swimming, lifting, martial arts, etc for your entire life.  Anything you have been doing and for a long period of time helps with your ability to endure challenging selection programs.  But, the longer you have been training or specializing in something / neglecting other activities, the greater your injury history as well as your strengths and weakness divide. This divide could increase the need for longer periods of preparation for instance if you need to learn how to swim or cannot run far or fast enough due to over-use injuries. The less you have been training is also an issue.  If you are just getting started with athletic movement, you WILL need significant more time to prepare that could be on the 1-2 year time frame.

Related Articles:  What is Good Enough Spec Ops?  (Run, Swim, PT)
                            What is Good Enough -Strength?  (Lifts, plus load bearing)

3 - Where are you now?  Not just on the PST (or physical test you need to pass to get TO the training), but where are you on all the elements of fitness:  strength/power, speed/agility, endurance (run, swim, ruck), muscle stamina, flexibility / mobility, grip.  Are you good at all of these?  The graph below shows how important they all are to building the type of durability and work capacity needed to graduate physically / mentally challenging selection programs:

Use this Physical Assessment Tool to test yourself and discover any weaknesses you may have on the spectrum of the tactical fitness elements.  

4 - Can You Crush Selection Events? Once you have mastered the PT test, that is the first step to get TO the training.  A significant part of your preparation time, should also be to start preparing for future selection challenges which will include longer runs and rucks, longer swims with fins, pool skills, and load bearing of heavy equipment (logs, boats, backpacks, other gear, and even people).  For instance - 4 mile timed runs in under 28 minutes (boats, pants, beach), 2 mile swims in the ocean (70 minutes or less?), rucking at 10 min mile pace, grip strength to endure rope climbs, obstacles, gear carry, and other events like these will be required of you regularly (not just once or twice) WEEKLY.  Are you ready for that?

Finally, if you are still in high school and planning to enlist into special ops pipeline, assess yourself for real. Are you really ready because statistically speaking you are not. Getting TO the training is not the same as getting THROUGH the training. Both phases of tactical fitness require time and persistent preparation to make your body and mind hard enough to withstand the long days and cold, wet, sandy, nights. 

If you are good to go and meeting all the performance levels, feel confident and ready to leave home, get going with the enlistment / officer candidate process.  My opinion is from my own experiences knowing I would not have made it at 18 years old as I barely passed USNA Plebe Summer physical standards and I was a 3 sport athlete in high school and starting training at age 12 with weights and calisthenics.  I also noticed in my own BUDS class is we started out with nearly 75-80% teenagers, but only graduated a handful of them as our class went from 120 starters to 28 graduates over the six months training of BUDS. 

But, if you are planning on going anyway - prove me wrong.  I hope you prove me wrong. 


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




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

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

The Pipeline of Training Options: 


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. 

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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