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How to G.R.A.D.U.A.T.E.: Develop a Body and Mind to Succeed (Special Ops Candidate )

Stew smith

Are You Ready to GRADUATE? 

I have seen many like you over the years - in fact, I was like you myself - a candidate preparing for Special Ops Training. You have a big dream, a big goal, and a tough program to manage. You’ve started it with every intention of succeeding and giving it your all. You’ve been working hard, and you’ve made some great progress. You’re feeling energized and motivated. You are not even worried that you won’t be able to keep it up or if you are even on the right track yet. You are just excited! We all start off strong. But will you hit a wall and give up or work even harder to get over that wall?  

Because inevitably in this process, like so many times before, something happens, and you stumble. Suddenly, you’re questioning everything. You’re wondering if you’ll be able to make it, if you have what it takes, if you’re cut out for this. It is called being human. But before you give up, consider this: 

The only thing that separates those who quit from those who succeed is to use the preparation process as a learning tool. You are not failing – you are learning to succeed. 

If you’re a spec ops candidate, then you know that success requires a never-quit mentality. That’s why it’s essential to properly prepare for any challenge that comes your way training this never quit mentality. The best way to do this is to start with physical preparation and build ALL the elements of fitness first to a high level of being “good at everything”. This is foundational as we all have certain strengths and weaknesses when we start this journey. See Venn Diagram on all the elements of fitness and how they blend to make spec ops selection a success: 

Be Good At Everything (pictured above)

In addition to physical preparation, it’s important to also prepare mentally. This means developing a laser-focused mindset and the ability to stay focused on the task at hand, no matter what kind of feedback you are receiving (internal / external). It also means developing the ability to keep calm in the face of adversity and to think clearly under pressure. 

How to G.R.A.D.U.A.T.E: 

(G) Get Ready:  Prepare Yourself NOW. What you do NOW matters. What you have done in previous athletic history matters. You will have strengths and weaknesses when you start this journey. Identifying these and working on them so they are no longer weaknesses makes all the difference during your preparation time prior to selection. Start training YESTERDAY. 

(R) Resilience: Bounce back from failure and use it to propel yourself forward. Don’t let failure define you; learn from it and continue to strive for success. Develop an ironclad will to never quit. Push through pain and exhaustion, and don’t let temporary setbacks stop you. You are born with this and you can prepare yourself to develop it as well. Mental Toughness is going to be required at some point in your training when you cannot get faster, stronger, or smarter - you just have to get tougher. 

(A) Attitude: Always maintain a positive attitude and be humble and honest with your strengths and weaknesses - assess them properly. Being able to laugh during and after each day is a must. You will find humor in what is happening all around you and your classmates. You may actually have fun during some of the most grueling events - that is when you know you have a good attitude. Going into each day fired up like it is a sporting competition makes each day exciting and puts you in a mindset of going to win something. You will never think about quitting when you think about winning either as an individual or team event. 

(D) Durability: A foundation of strength will add to your overall durability especially when tested under load of log, boats, and other equipment carries. It is important to be able to take on the toughest of challenges and not be crushed under the load. It is about having the running durability as the impact forces on your feet, shins, knees, and hips will add up as the daily mileage totals increase each week. Durability is about having the mental and physical capacity to push through and still be a productive team player (under logs and boats).

(U) Unify: It takes teamwork to get through tough events. You have to work together especially when under boats and logs. Often students find these are the moments that will either build a stronger team or the team falls apart.  Understand that you are part of a team and that your success is intertwined with that of your fellow students. Work together, support each other, and lift each other up. It is not your job to get people to quit - don't be a dick. 

(A) Adaptability: Be prepared to adjust your approach to meet the demands of selection. Be flexible, think on your feet, and don’t get stuck in a rut. You will be tasked with new activities, skills, and have to learn quickly. Be flexible and adaptive in any situation - remember you are a student there to learn - so listen more than you speak.  With adaptability, you are able to thrive in any situation.

(T) Tenacity: Persevere and never give up. Even when the odds are stacked against you, never stop believing in yourself and your ability to succeed. How bad do you want it? Commit to your goal and never waver from it. Stay focused and never lose sight of the ultimate prize because there will be days that your WILL will be tested. You have to have an answer to why you are doing the things you are doing. Keep moving and don't look backwards. Don't let them get into your head. Yesterday is gone - forget about it. Focus on today BUT remember the ultimate goal on why you started this in the first place. IT IS WORTH IT if you can see the end it sight is just over this next hill.

(E) Endure:  You have to last until the end if you want to be what you dream of doing. You must be able to keep going even you don't feel like and the tank is empty. The ability to endure is a crucial part of handling life’s obstacles. Having a positive outlook on life and the confidence to tackle any challenge head-on will help you stay strong and focused on what matters most - graduating.

In order to graduate you need to prepare by training your body and mind. By understanding all the elements of  GRADUATE you can be sure that you’re taking the steps to achieve your big dream, goal, or project. 

Training to Get THROUGH the Spec Ops Selection Course (aka graduate)

This is where training usually transitions from focus on the elements of fitness (strength, power, speed, agility, endurance - run-ruck-swim, muscle stamina, mobility, flexibility, grip) to mastering specific events of your future training. Longer runs, rucks, swims with fins, treading, pool competency skills, load bearing activity (logs / boats / equipment), and others depending on your school of instruction.

If you want help, that’s what I do…. Check out these resources that have helped spec ops candidates succeed where others have failed for the last 20+ years!

Training is What We Do: 

Need Programming for Fitness Tests and Beyond?  We are all about getting you TO and THROUGH your future training program.  See how that works.  

There is More To than a You May Know

(In fact, there are more than 40 books, 1000+ articles, online coaching - and more) 

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, ebooks and online coaching to prepare themselves to get to and through intense tactical assessment and selection programs and qualify for service in their chosen tactical profession.  See More at

Where to Find More Information About Optimal Performance Training Programs

When you start training again, consider the seasonal tactical fitness model.  I call it A WAY to train and obviously not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity to never neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, but will also put you at a level of physical abilities where you are happy with your overall ability to do just about anything. We have a system where the seasons dictate our training. When it is nicer outside, we tend to run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so nice, we lift more, run less, and still maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

These Seasonal Tactical Fitness BLOCK Periodization programs will walk you through 4 x 4 weeks cycles with 16 weeks of each season in two programs. (32 total weeks)

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

These programs will walk you through 4 cycles with 12 weeks of each season in two programs. 

The Specific Military / Special Ops Physical Fitness Workouts 

Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4  Grinder PT
Navy SWCC Workout

Army / Air Force Advanced Fitness / Special Ops 

Army PFT Workout (Prep For Rucking, OPAT, ACFT)
Army Special Forces / Ranger Workout
Army Air Assault School Workout
Army Airborne Workout
Air Force Special Warfare IFT / OFT / Selection Prep


Advanced Running Program - Special Ops Supplement Plan
USMC OCS / TBS Workout


The Combat Conditioning Workout
Air Force PJ / CCT Workout  Battlefield Airman Prep Course
The UBRR Upper Body Round Robin Workout / Spec Ops version


The Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer / Navy SAR Workout
The Service Academy Workout (West Point, Navy, Air Force Academy)
The Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp Boot Camp Workout


The Law Enforcement Physical Fitness Workouts

The FBI Academy Workout  |   FBI Workout Vol 2  
The DEA Workout
The FLETC Workout - Ace the PEB
The PFT Bible: Pushups, Sit-ups, 1.5 Mile Run
The Fire Fighter Workout - Ace the CPAT


Online Coaching Options

Online PT CLUB - Weekly Workouts created personally for you.

New Member's Only Content / Services Program!

If you want access to years worth of workouts, many of the top eBOOKs, favorite workouts of the week, free fitness APP, closed Facebook Group, video / picture library of exercises, and more access to LIVE Q/A sessions check out the Stew Smith Fitness Members Section

The dashboard below has the links to all the information, archives, videos, and links to workouts, podcasts, live Q and A lessons. 

Consider this! - A Membership Program and Gain Access to Exclusive Content
(click for Fitness Club Dashboard - members only)

Best of all, if you have questions, email Stew Smith himself (  Join the tactical fitness group discussions, latest articles, videos, podcasts at the Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training Closed Group on Facebook.


Questions?  Just email -

At - List of Products and Services

  1. FREE Articles
  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos (Youtube, TikTok, Instagram)
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
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