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"It IS a Running-man's Game"....but Also a Little More Than That

Stew smith

How Many Have Heard the Phrase,
"It's a Running-man's Game"
When It Comes to Selection Training?

Photo by D. McBurnett @mcteams3842 instagram

Over the years (since the 80s) I have heard this statement about SEAL Training. After experiencing it in the early 90s, I can say that the group that could run well did not have to worry about the class runs, nor the weekly 4 mile timed run on the beach. For those of us whose weekly game face was put on during the 4 mile timed run, we definitely agreed that BUD/S was a running man's game. Not having to sweat the 4 mile timed runs each week is a joy not often felt by many students. 

However, those of us who said that were above average in other events like swimming, doing obstacle courses, PTing, endless reps of pushups, and, in hindsight, and most importantly, not getting crushed under the logs and boats. Many of those who were good - really good - at running, definitely had their struggles under boats and logs and some with swimming, upper body strength or just handling the cold. The runner's who struggled under the boats or staying warm may disagree with the overused statement that it is a running-man's game.

Hindsight is 20/20

Looking back at not only my own journey but many others over the years, I tend to agree with the running man's game phrase as I have seen many stronger athletes (bigger mass) not meet the standards week after week. I am not saying you need to stop lifting as you definitely need a foundation of strength just for overall durability, but huge 1 rep max (1RM) lifts are not needed as much as running, swimming, and calisthenics are needed as you training for your final months of preparation. Neglect  a running weakness at your own peril as that weakness will be exposed before your first week is complete. Any weaknesses neglected will be exposed, but for some reason running preparation can be screwed up MANY ways:

1 - Run TOO Many Miles (too slowly) - People have failed to meet the 4 mile timed runs standards even if they ran 50+ miles a week prior to BUD/S. They ran too slowly.  Running 10 mile runs at 9-10 minute mile pace will only get you good at running slowly. Pick up the pace and learn how to run 6-7 min miles for timed runs of any distance. Don't fail your 4 mile timed run unable to run an 8 min mile in first phase.  Strive for 7 minute miles for some gravy time is recommended pace AND it not have to be a gut check to do it. 

2 - Not Enough Miles - Running nothing but sprints is not the answer either.  You need to put in the time and actually build some volume quite some time prior to arriving at BUDS just for overall durability as the first month of BUDS will test your ability to handle high mileage weeks from running, shuffling to chow, and running with logs, boats, and rucks. See spec ops running plan that build from 18 miles a week to 30-35 miles per week at pace. 

3 - Running Gut Checks Unprepared - Whether it is a marathon or ultra marathon done a whim, expect pain, injuries, and possible delays to your training timeline if you try too much running too soon without any progression.  The gut check of several hours of running may yield 50-100 miles, but mental toughness is going to be built one day at a time over several months - not a one time event. In fact, most people who do these get 50-100 miles in a weekend miss the next 2-3 months of running at least 100 miles a month of training. One runner will get 300+ miles in 3 months and the ultra-runner who is injured gets 100 miles in the same time. Missing out on training time in your last few months of prep is asking for future challenges and possible disqualification from service if injuries are severe enough. 

4 - Strength Athlete Turns into Good Runner But Still Too Much Lifting - This one may sound surprising, but even the bigger guys who could run well prior to BUDS (PST, 5km races, triathlon, o course races) and still lifted huge numbers (2-2.5x bodyweight plus type numbers) had a hard time with maintaining pace with 4 mile runs, 2 mile swims with fins, and other cardio events. Spending your last few months lifting heavy (real heavy) is not the best option in my opinion as the need for higher reps, lighter weight work capacity, and aerobic ability are more important to the prior strength athlete. My advice for this type of athlete is do calisthenics and triathlon training to cap off your cardio with 2/3 of your cardio being non-impact (bike / swim), but building up a solid 25-35 miles per week of running fast (that is not a gut check to do 7 min mile pace). Some people need to lift, but if you came from a lifting background, you will be surprised at how little you lose even with minimal lifts, more calisthenics, rucking, sandbags, logs, and other methods to do resistance training. 

5 - Goal Pace Running - Where most people initially screw up running is not learning a set pace and breathing properly. Big inhales (2-3 steps IN) and big exhales (2-3 steps) will help you keep your heart rate low.  Avoid too much caffeine prior to this type of running as the last thing  you need is an artificially elevated heart rate. YOu should know a 6 minute mile pace for 1.5 mile runs (90 second 400m / 3 min 800m) and be able to slow it down a little BUT maintain it for longer 4-6 mile runs at a 7 minute mile pace. Master these two paces and you will be in that running sweet spot. 

Lord knows, transitioning from strength / power athlete (football / powerlifting)  to a hybrid endurance athlete was not fun as I had to learn how to run and swim and handle high rep calisthenics. It took a few years to be honest and I still hate running (35 yrs later) but still do it 20-30 miles per week in my run cycles. If you can bring your game face to every running event, you can push through it but it takes significant effort and work during the preparation process to have that ability - you cannot just will it to happen without that work foundation. 

Depending on YOUR personal weakness compared to this assessment tool, you may find your own clever phrase as to what kind of "game" it is. The sooner you realize BUDS training is not a game at all - the better off you will be.  

Who Is The Tactical Fitness Coach / Author Stew Smith?

 I'm the former Navy SEAL that military recruits and special ops 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

Check out the Complete List of Training Programs (Spec Ops, Military, Police, Fire)

We Have Answers For Beginners to Advanced Spec Ops Level Training Programs (see below)

Most people who enter the recruiters' offices are seeking regular military jobs and on the beginner spectrum of fitness. Please consider the following before joining the military:

- Run - Learn how to run and get in shape to run 2-3 miles without stopping.  See beginner / intermediate running plan.  But, you may need to start off with just walking depending on your fitness level. If you played sports that had a little bit of running in it (football) or no running in it like swimming, you need to practice running regularly to get over the growing pains accompanied with impact cardio like running and rucking. To do well on timed runs, you need to practice that distance at a goal pace. Learn about GOAL PACE Running. 

- Calisthenics - You will be doing calisthenics not only throughout the day in basic training, but as a fitness test as well.  Get used to exercises like pushups, crunches, plank poses, pullups, squats, and lunges to work the entire body.  If you need some ideas, see the programs below that address all the physical fitness challenges you will see in preparation, testing, and basic training and beyond. The Boot camp, PFT, Bible, and Cals and Cardio are all encompassing workouts that will prepare you for the challenges of Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard basic training and fitness tests as well. The Army and Marine Corps will require more challenging workouts and fitness testing.  See links of the books below to see more details of the Combat Fitness Test you must be able to accomplish when you join. 



DO NOT RELY ON THE MILITARY TO GET YOU INTO SHAPE AT BASIC TRAINING.  You will get into better shape for sure during your training if you arrive in lower fitness form, but you need to arrive with a foundation of physical fitness that is specific to your future job in the military / fitness tests / training. If you show up out of shape, you could end up failing standards or injuring yourself causing longer delays or removal from training altogether. 

For You Special Candidates (Get in Shape LONG Before You Join) 

High Intermediate Military / Advanced Spec Ops
Building Programming:

Which Program is Right For Me?
It Depends...Special Ops Candidates

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. 

Other EBOOKS (Special Ops– Most of my programs tend to focus on getting TO and THROUGH a specific tactical training program.  So you may see a mix of all the seasons in some of these books, but if you are training long term, you can take advantage of Seasonal Periodization and save yourself some of the over-use, long term pains that tend to follow many of the tactical preparations - especially on the spec ops level of training. 

Start training today with workouts that focus on the specifics of getting to and through tactical profession training from firefighter, police, swat, military to special ops. We have programs to help you get TO and THROUGH training. We also have training programs to help you with training as you age in these professions (Tactical Fitness 40+ series).


Lifting Cycle Programs For Those Who Need a Strength Focus

You may have seen my Winter Lift Cycle that I discuss in the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization article as well as have our actual lift programs we have done over the years in the following books.


It is not all just calisthenics and cardio at Stew Smith Fitness

Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout, Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter Cycle, Warrior Workout #2Maximum Fitness

These programs as well as my online coaching programs have Winter Lift Cycles in them as part of our Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System. But, do not get these lift cycles confused with ACTUAL strength / power lifting programs, these are strength / power programs that also have a focus on cardio fitness maintenance BECAUSE you need to be good at all the elements of fitness and develop into an all-round Tactical Athlete.  

Most Recent Spring / Summer & Fall Winter Programs:
(click to read more)
Or Do You Want my REAL TIME Seasonal Periodization Training - Delivered Weekly?


Get Weekly Unpublished Workouts Tested and Evaluated by local Stew Smith Training programs. 

Stew Smith Fitness Membership – You have access to years of workouts for both beginner / intermediate and advanced / special ops levels of fitness. Each week you will receive new and unpublished workouts being tested by Navy SEAL veteran / Stew Smith CSCS and his local group of future tactical professionals in both basic training and advanced spec ops training programming. The latest videos, articles, and other programming will be part of the weekly data feed to members as well. We go through the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization program one week at a time.

Join the Online PT CLUB:
One On One Coaching with Stew Smith

If You Need a More Personalized Approach to Fit Your Needs, Goals, Time per Day, Days per week, Facilities, Abilities, etc...Try Online Coaching

Questions?  Just email me at

At - List of Products and Services

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