My Transition from Military to Civilian Life as a Trainer and Writer
Before I discuss my transition from the military to civilian life and my current profession of fitness writer in the tactical fitness genre (military, police, fire fighter), here is a brief history of my transition from high school student to choosing to serve the United States as a Naval Officer.
I always knew I wanted to serve in the military in some capacity since a young age and had many plans from grunt, to pilot, to special ops. All intrigued me at some point in my life. I realized in high school as well as at Navy, I was actually good at writing or maybe just enjoyed it as I do not really consider myself a good writer. I am just able to get my point across better in written word vs other methods. Having a Father who was a journalist / newspaper publisher and a Mom who was an English teacher, maybe it was more of a gifted skill or constant pushing in the writing projects that helped develop my ability for writing. Also, when I was in 2nd grade we lived in an apartment complex with a pool so naturally my first request was for a set of mask and fins. And that is when the frogman seed was planted.
High School Years
I was a little intense in high school, played sports every semester (football, power lifting, track, baseball, wrestled) lettering in three of them but I also focused on working hard academically to make A and B grades. I grew up in a great, small town called Live Oak, FL in the heart of the Suwannee River country where I enjoyed my time with friends fishing, hunting in the woods / swamps of FL, water skiing, swimming in lakes and rivers and working out for sports. We worked hard in the summers either on watermelon farms or picking tobacco. I preferred the melon patch as it was all day long of bending over, picking up, and throwing 20-40lb watermelons. Then after 12 hours of that, we would go lift at the high school to get ready for upcoming football season.
After visiting some older friends at their colleges (University of FL and Florida State), I realized I needed a little more structure when I moved on after high school, so I started looking into military professions and training. It just so happened around the same time, I started getting recruited for football from West Point and the Naval Academy. So my service academy education began.
(Click images for Admissions Department Requirements)
I was now focused on going to military college and becoming an officer in the military and maybe even get to play football as well. Seemed perfect! I quickly looked into where I would live when I graduated from the service academies while I served in either the Army or Navy. Growing up in FL, I liked living close to the beach and quickly noted that Naval Bases had to have a beach nearby. After visiting family members in Fort Benning and Fort Bragg, though I liked the remoteness of the bases, I still liked the beach. However, I will say I have been to fantastic Army bases such at Fort Carson in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and a variety in Germany, so there are some great places to live in the Army. I just preferred Naval Bases on the coast.
In the 80s, times were different. There was no internet, popular books / movies, or workouts for military preparation. There was however, TOP GUN! My first mainstream look at the Navy. We did have this awesome USNA recruiting catalog back then though!
My Naval Academy Years
My first goal was to go to the Naval Academy and become a pilot and play football while a student there. Well, to make a long story short, after getting my butt kicked with physical and academic challenges, I was very quickly near failing out and did not make the football team. I did figure it out over the next year and found my saving grace at Navy - RUGBY. Not only did I enjoy the sport, but I met many classmates and upperclassmen that were preparing for SEAL Training and graduated. I saw the level of commitment to preparing that was required to crush BUDS or at least not let BUDS crush you. This also took the "impossible factor" out of the thought process for me. Sometimes, you have to see it to believe it. These men were who I wanted to be so I upped my game in order to stay there.
Iron Sharpens Iron - In this motley crew, there were SEALs, EOD Officers, Marines, Pilots and several are now CEOs, doctors, lawyers, even a few Admirals / Generals! This group made me work harder and be better than I ever thought I could.
After meeting and joining group PTs with the Midshipmen wanting to become Navy SEALs and of course the Navy SEALs stationed at the Naval Academy, I had a change of plans. I learned all I could about SEAL Training for the next 2-3 years.
My last two years of preparation for SEALs:
My last two years at the Naval Academy were spent busting my butt preparing for SEAL training. My 1991 USNA classmates who wanted to go to BUDS totaled about 50, yet there were only 20 slots. We trained together during those years prior to graduation. After hearing stories from the USNA class of 1989 and 1990 BUD/S students as they progressed through BUD/S, we got excited to challenge ourselves like our mentors did. Then one day, we heard four Academy grads quit during Hell Week. This sent shock waves through the community as the Academy grads get pre-screened to go to BUD/S quite thoroughly for two years prior to graduation and not many ever quit!. Many of my classmates, changed their minds about going to BUD/S as it rattled the Class of 1991 midshipmen who were seeking to go to BUD/S too. We knew the guys in 1990 who quit were tough as nails. "What was it that got them?" "Is this possibly our future too?" We all asked, "How do we better prepare ourselves for Hell Week?"
We kicked around getting colder during our workouts, staying up later and sleeping less, getting under the log more in our workouts for log pt. We did this for a while and then our SEAL chief stationed at the Academy - Rick Black said. "Hell Week is like a kick in the nuts - you can't really train for that wisely." We laughed and agreed, but we made our workouts harder and prepared well that last year. We sent 20 strong SEAL candidates to BUD/s in 1991, all ready for the challenges of BUD/S and wanting to prove ourselves worthy as Academy Ensigns at SEAL training. All 20 of us made it. See my Hell Week Story for more details:
After BUD/S, I went on to spend a short time in the SEAL Teams and as a SEAL instructor back at the Naval Academy (7.5 yrs total). There are many reasons for resigning my officer commission, but the main reason was I lacked the personal commitment to make the military a 20 year career. After getting married and having children, my priorities changed in the late 1990's. It was a different world back then. Our military makes personal sacrifices no matter how long they serve, so I am always honored to meet and thank people who served a full 20+ years for their personal sacrifices. I really did not know what I wanted to do. The economy was good, the military was downsizing and paying people early retirements. It was a weird time.
So - where do you go when you have no clue what you want to do? I woke up one Sunday morning and rushed to church. I typically go to church but rarely do I feel the urge that I cannot miss a particular sermon. Sure enough, I found guidance. The reading was from 1 Peter: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Gods varied grace. I took that as - I was given some gifts. I liked to write. I liked to workout. I enjoyed coaching. Was working out and writing about it my gifts? My strengths? I had a lot of experiences with athletic training and military special ops training - maybe I could share my experiences and create programs to help others serve. So, I started writing my first book, The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness.
After some moderate success with the SEAL book, my publisher wanted to write more military, law enforcement related fitness books. I realized I needed to diversify my training skills and started training men and women who wanted to become anything in the military, law enforcement, or fire fighting communities. The Heroes of Tomorrow Program was born. Now, for over 20 years, I have been coaching / mentoring people as they prepare to serve. This is still a FREE service but it gives me great training ideas to write about.
This gave me access to training people for specific goals - getting TO and THROUGH training / selection programs. If I was going to write about training for a living, I needed to train people to pass fitness tests and the following selection training programs. These workouts still inspire me to develop new programs and continue to write daily.
I also created an online personal training program for non-local clients that quickly grew to an international business training hundreds of people all over the world for various goals. More books and training specific ebooks followed like the Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, Maximum Fitness, the SWAT WOrkout and over 40 ebook / self published books. All were simply successful programs recorded for each group I trained personally or online coaching programs. Now with over 13 published books and 40 self-published, I have created a small niche in the very big fitness industry.
My advice if you become a trainer is to write down or even video ALL the workouts you ever do personally or with clients. One day, you will be sitting on a data base of workouts that helped someone achieve a personal goal such as military service, massive weight loss, or compete in a race. All of these are very marketable items that can become generic resources for people to buy or you can advertise with it and give it out for FREE.
I have now been writing workouts that prepare people for serving in the military, special operations, police, SWAT teams, and fire fighting units since 1998. There are over 1000 of my articles on Military.com Fitness Section and I still write three articles a week for them. Over the years, this genre of fitness evolved into what is now called Tactical Fitness.
It has been a fun journey with a few appearances on television shows such as: The National Geographic Channel Fight Science and in several newspaper and magazine features to include Washington Post, Men's Fitness, Men's Health, and Sports Illustrated.
I did upgrade my trainer certifications with the NSCA CSCS - this is the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and speaks at the Tactical Strength and Conditioning Conferences held by the NSCA. I have been blessed to be part of the journey for thousands of students for Navy SEAL, Special Forces, SWAT, FBI, ERT and many other law enforcement professions.
Contact Stew Smith CSCS - If you have any questions, feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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Questions? Just email me at Stew@StewSmith.com
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