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Things I Learned After Spec Ops Training I Still Use Today (29 yrs later)

Stew smith

If you are a special ops candidate who wants to know how to gain a competitive edge through training or knowledge, then here is a list of what I learned going through the journey.   

 The Point With This List Is to Help Special Ops Candidates Realize You Learn More About Yourself After Training Than You Think

Everyone needs to understand that you need all the tools you can fit into your back pack when going through a military special ops selection program that has a 70-80% attrition rate on average. Some of these things I learned will give you a better understanding of the challenges and requirements that are in front of you on this journey.  The biggest thing you have to realize is that BUD/S IS the test, and these are the things you will learn by taking that test.


What I Learned:  # 1 - Your Body Is Ten Times Stronger Than Your Mind Will Let It Be

  • Being mentally tough requires you to keep competing when your mind wants you to quit. We all have a “safety switch” in our brain that tells us to stop in order to prevent us from hurting ourselves. We are natural born survivors built to conserve our energy, store food, and just simply live to survive another day. There are times you can actually shut that part of your brain off. When you do this, you realize your body is ten times stronger than your brain will let it be. Training programs in the Special Operations world helps you tap into this mindset, but often your life experiences and habits can build a mental toughness and resilience that no one can beat. See One Stop Shop for Mental Toughness Training Skills  


What I Learned:  # 2 - I Found The Fuel - When The Tank Was Empty

  • What is your why? If you do not know  your why, you will not find the fuel when the tank is empty.  In the end it comes down to HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT? Also, do you have a good answer to tell yourself when you are cold, wet from sitting in dark ocean water, sandy, tired, and there is no end in sight? What do you say when your WILL is challenged?  Do you keep going? Or head toward the warm blankets and coffee / doughnuts in the back of the ambulance? There is always warm blankets and coffee / doughnuts in the ambulance…

 What I Learned:  # 3 - Have Faith In Yourself

  • If it is meant to be it is meant to be. Eventually your desire will outweigh any obstacle in your way if you build a strong foundation, determine your WHY, and have faith in yourself. You have to learn that you cannot listen to the quit demon inside your own head, you have to turn it off by changing the communication flow. Like a radio, you need to be transmitting positive thoughts, not receiving negative ones.  Be in transmit mode!  So, yes - actually "Talk to Yourself - Don't Listen to Yourself."   This is all done with your internal dialogue as long as YOU are the one talking POSITIVELY! Sometimes it is not meant to be. Have faith that there is another opportunity in the next chapter.  


What I Learned:  # 4 - Train To Compete - Not Just Survive

  • In special ops training programs, athletic events, or even business — this is the biggest difference in those who graduate training or succeed and those who do not. You should try to be in the type of shape and mindset that will allow you to win or be in the top 10% of the class in many events — at least some of the time. I developed this saying, shortly before I ran a marathon for the first and last time. My goal was to finish a 26 mile run. I saw a skinny kid from Africa warming up and I realized he was about to run the same race as I was but his goal was to drop a minute off his best time. My goal was to survive the event. Who has a better chance and finishing the race? The kid who was in competition mode – not me. I succeeded with my goal and was able to use the Compete – Not Just Survive quote many times that day and ever since in my life. Too many of us, in general, just get by each day “putting in their time” and barely living. Knowing that you are stuck in survival mode is a realization that can be the first step to learning how to change your life and compete for the first time in your life.

What I Learned:  # 5 - Make It To The Next Meal - Best Advice For Graduating Hellweek.

  • Break down your day into more consumable blocks of time. During hellweek, you eat every 6 hours. I cannot tell you how many times, I have started big projects and set sub goals on daily progress. It works for everything you do in life and was effective in enduring the toughest week in training.


 What I Learned:  # 6 - You Have To Do It Yourself, But You Can’t Do It Alone

  • This is old saying was personally experienced by every student in training. Team work is a requirement - your ability to work well with others is a skill you must have or acquire quickly. You and your fellow students endure training together. While it is true no one but YOU can carry you through training, there will be moments when you need the team. Even if for only a moment of humor, an assist on a piece of gear, or to advise on a new skill that is currently challenging you, the team you have before, during, and after training is everything. Don't think you are alone, but also realize you have to do it yourself. 

What I Learned:  # 7 - You Never Think About Quitting When You Think About Winning

  • It is true. In a program that boasts an 80% attrition rate from those who make it TO the training, you have to strive to be in the top 20% of the class in as many events as possible. You may have some natural strengths that allow for you to win or be in the top 10% of the class.  And there may be an event that requires a personal gut check to stay in the top 20%. Any small victory is a HUGE win. If you stay in this competitive mindset, you will NEVER think about quitting. It is fun to reminisce with my old frogman friends and ask them, "was there a moment you thought about quitting?"  Everyone gives me either a funny look at such a foreign question or a joke about quitting at boot camp or maybe that one time we were doing pushups... No one thought about quitting. You can't.  You cannot have a plan B.


The next step here is to realize that SEAL Training is the gate into the community that you want to serve.  BUDS is the test. When people say that "BUDS is not for them" I always say "yeah - it is not for anybody – it sucks." It is the test for how bad you want to be in a special ops community. 

Oh, one more thing, The Assessment Tool for Selection and the What Program is Right for Me – Special Ops answers your questions on where you should start with your training preparation. If you want to gain a competitive edge through training or knowledge. Grab the program that specifically addresses your physical requirements of your training to get TO and THROUGH BUD/S.

Also check out the social media platforms: 

Instagram: @stewsmith50 for swim critique videos, workout inspiration, and specific information for your training. 

Youtube - @stew50smith for swim critique videos, Tactical Fitness Report Podcasts, exercises, and LIVE Q and A. 

Facebook: StewSmithFitness  and Closed Group Stew Smith Tactical Fitness Training

 Specific Training for the Special Ops Pipelines

Try Workout Programming Specifically Designed for any Tactical Fitness Goal:

Which Program is Right For Me -
Special Ops Candidates



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. 

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.


Seasonal Tactical Fitness Programs 

Especially These That Are Used For Local Spec Ops Candidates Last Year


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

 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.

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At - List of Products and Services

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  3. eBooks
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