No matter what goal or challenge we take on in life, there tends to be that moment that occurs along the journey where you make a decision because you are forced with a choice of quitting or not quitting. The goals, the timelines, the processes are different for each of us, but we typically have to rely on pure will, guts, determination, and remember “our why” in order to be successful with the personal or team mission you are trying to accomplish. The process that we have to consider is how do we best utilize our past, present, and even the future to help us get through what feels like sticking points in personal, professional, team, or military selection goals.
The Past Experiences Build You Today – Prepare You for Tomorrow
The past successes give us confidence to move forward and our failures teach us even more. To keep trying when times get tough, persistence regardless of outcome, and a never quit attitude can be learned from both successes and failures. You learn what to do and build good habits around them and you learn what NOT to do, but build some resilience for future issues that occur. This is how mental toughness is built – one day at a time - by failing and not quitting and getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Humility is also learned and maybe the most valuable lesson for your future. Eventually, you will learn that you cannot do everything by yourself, you need a team, a training partner, a mentor especially when your goal is highly challenging with large fail / attrition rates (special ops, medical school, law school, weight loss, etc).
However, after all the preparation, soon it will be game day – the day when you have an option to keep moving forward in the program or stop. Here is a useful sports psychology skill you can use to pull from your past and bring to the future when you feel like you are done and have nothing left. It is called the Performance Cue – To make a cue word or performance cue work best, you have to tie it into a moment of excellence from your past, a moment of excitement, or some other feeling associated with a great accomplishment. For instance, a walk off home run to win the game in the ninth inning of a baseball game, sinking a buzzer-beating shot to win the game, or catching that interception and running into the end zone. All of these are sports related but you can also tie the word into the feeling of the birth of a child, graduating school, or some other long-term accomplishment. Give that feeling a name like “game winner”, “game on”, “Let’s roll”, “Let’s do this.” My personal one was “train to compete” because I figured out if I was thinking about winning something, I never thought about quitting. That one worked twofold – it kept my mind off of quitting and pushed me to perform harder and actually got me excited to perform versus dreading that next event.
The Present – Game Day and the Moment of Stopping or Keep Moving
When you are in that moment of quitting or not quitting, you typically have a series of obtrusive thoughts that are starting to cause some self-doubt. It could just be actual physical pain and discomfort, but that moment of the first self-doubt will quickly evolve into “this isn’t for me” or “I quit, I can’t do it.” You have to be aware of this and stop it immediately before it becomes overwhelming to control. You have to “Remember Your Why” at this moment, think of all of the hard work to even get where you are now. Why are you doing this? Have a good answer ready when you ask yourself that. Then answer it and keep moving forward thus shutting down that Quit Demon that kept popping in your head as you roll out of bed, before you start moving, get wet, or are just plain tired. Just keep moving. Another trick to help you get out of that moment is the Name IT – Tame IT skill. Obtrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or moments of self-doubt is really more of a survival skill for you – not a sign that you are weak or crazy. These thoughts are designed to keep you from hurting yourself, keep you alive, and survive what the brain perceives as potentially dangerous, uncomfortable, or tiresome. You need energy to survive and the brain wants the body to be more efficient with that energy use. But, when you are 100% putting out (physically, mentally, emotionally), you have to shut that down real quick or it can stop you in your tracks. Do this – give that obtrusive thought or image a name and it will help the brain find its proper place in the filing cabinet in our own heads. I personally like funny names like “fuzzy bear” when my kids have a nightmare about a monster chasing them. For those long nights, I used the term “compete mode”. When the thought of “this sucks” or “why am I doing this” came in, I quickly shut it down with “Compete Mode” or “Beast Mode” or “Bulldog” to pull back some emotions from high school sports with our mascot.
The Future – Seeing the Light at the End of the Tunnel
The use of future actions can help you endure long and painful moments in the present. For instance, whether it was long practices in sports, staying up late to study, or an 18 hour day at SEAL training, I always knew that there would be a moment when I am done for several hours. I can shower, eat, stretch out, and go to sleep. Seeing yourself graduate especially after watching a graduation of the people in front of you. Seeing is believing and sometimes you have to see it in order to believe it possible for yourself. Taking that attitude into a challenging moment and viewing the future as you are either done for the day or completely done and fully accomplished a long-term goal and graduated is a strong way to look into the future when that present moment is beating you down.
Notice the word “motivation” did not occur in this article. In long term goal accomplishment it is great to be motivated and you will be once you realize the path you want to take, but in the end your habits and discipline will pull you through when the days are long and motivation is low.
Training Options for Your Journey
This is a very common question and the answer is always - "IT DEPENDS."
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.
Questions? Just email me at Stew@StewSmith.com
See more info at the Navy SEAL Articles Page