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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.  

Other Spec Ops Programs / Training Options



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. 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

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. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as personalized training programs member's only program and the new :

 Try Our Stew Smith Fitness Members Only Club - #1 Best Selling Tactical Fitness Programs

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