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Wait - It's All Preparation and Mindset? Always Has Been

Stew Smith

Wait - It's All Preparation and Mindset? 

Always Has Been

Your preparation matters - so does your mindset. In fact, you cannot get through challenging selection programs without both. Preparation takes time and patience and there is a four step process to prepare for your journey. Mindset or mental toughness is part born in you and part developed through hard work, trials, dealing with failure, and consistent effort and work ethic.

How big is your WHY?

You can be the most prepared tactical athlete out there crushing physical standards like a boss, but when pain / injury sets in and it is cold, dark, wet, and sandy, some of the strongest and best runners failed to finish due to mindset, grit, and not enough "want to".  On the flip side, some of the toughest mindsets ever who would never quit - failed to meet the physical standards, or lacked the durability needed and broke during training. Unfortunately, the healing process was so long that they had to be dropped from training. Mental toughness can get you through pain, but it is difficult to meet any physical standards with a real injury - does not matter how tough you are.  Durability Matters. 

So YES - it is ALL about preparation and mindset - always has been.

As Navy SEAL Will Chesney (ST6 dog handler of Cairo) simply stated in my To, Through, and After podcast, "you have to be willing to die to become a member of a SEAL Team" - that means pushing yourself beyond your perceived maximum effort when needed. That is a tough mindset and is a lot easier said than done, but that is the level of commitment that is required to get through these type of selection programs. It also requires a level of preparation so you have build a body that is durable and has a high level of work capacity. 

Notice the Venn Diagram on the many things you need to develop prior to getting to ANY selection program:

This does not happen over night.  In fact, it takes a lifetime of physical activity from sports, manual labor, personal workouts, and reducing weaknesses.  See where you stack up by doing the first step of preparation - ASSESSMENT.

After assessing your strengths and weaknesses and seeing how you stack up against successful spec ops selection students, set your goals and get to work. You need time to prepare properly - don't be in a rush - as turning a weakness into a strength may require learning technique, gaining or losing weight, getting stronger, or getting faster and more capable in multiple modes of cardio - run - swim (with / without fins) - rucking.  We call this the Spec Ops Triathlon that requires both strength and endurance. Not having a plan to get good at all the above is NOT preparing and your selection will expose these under-developed weaknesses in the first week of training. Put in the time. Plain and simple. 

Mindset, Mental Toughness, Never Quit Attitude, Grit...

Mindset, Mental Toughness, Never Quit Attitude, Grit or whatever you want to call it can be developed, but it requires a strong WHY. Your motivation to want to succeed at a goal has to evolve into discipline over time by creating good habits and dropping bad habits. You can only do this by outworking everyone in the room.  Do you want a good reason to train hard?  Check this out:

If this does not motivate you to push yourself harder, you may want to consider another profession outside the tactical world. Your fitness level may one day be the difference between life for death for you, your buddy, or someone you are trying to save.  Take the preparation THAT seriously. When you do that, you may see that the physical challenges you put yourself through will be the very thing to create a tougher mindset for you. The two go hand in hand, but your WHY is going to determine to what level you can take both your body's physical preparation and your mental capabilities. 

More articles on Preparing, Mental Toughness / Mindset

Prepare To Become Elite

Advice to Early Teens Preparing to Serve

For All You Spec Ops Candidates Out There – Read

The Moment of Truth – Just You and Your Will

Tactical Fitness – What You Don’t Know Can Crush You

Don't Set a Timeline to Join - Set a Performance Starting Line

Twelve Questions About Mental Toughness 

Ask Stew: If You Could Give Advice to Younger Self

Quitting or Not Quitting - The Choice is Yours

My advice for anyone who asks this question is this: 




DO YOUR RESEARCH - THEN join the military when you have successfully crushed the PT test and started on your journey to get THROUGH the training.  

There is More To than a You May Know

Who is Stew Smith CSCS? Coach, Trainer, Writer, PodcasterI'm the former Navy SEAL that tactical candidates go to for books, eBooks, local 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

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

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 not the only way to train. But it offers the opportunity never to neglect your weaknesses, helps with flexibility and mobility, and 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 run and do more calisthenics. When it is colder and not so lovely, we lift more, run less, and maintain our outdoor activities with shorter runs and rucks. Check it out: Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization System.  

Where Optimal Performance Will Be Tested Each Day

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/CFT 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


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

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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.


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