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When There is No Time to Get Stronger or Faster - You Need to Get Tougher

Stew smith

When There is No Time to Get Stronger or Faster, You Need to Get Tougher

There will be a moment when you are taking part of a Special Ops selection level evolution, that you realize that "this sucks" and may have to engage your mental toughness just to get to the end of the event. This is the gut check that is all yours. Whether it is just a natural weakness or you failed to properly prepare, all you can do now is focus on your recovery each day, avoid injury, and bring your game face to that event the next time it occurs. During Spec Ops training is not the time to try to add supplemental workouts to build strength and cardio endurance.  You can work on pacing strategies and techniques however but in the end you have to suck it up. 

Common Issues

Running Faster - On a four mile timed run or a class run that you fail to meet the standards and either get placed in the "good squad", there is not much training you can do on your own to get "into better shape".  You can get "better at running" though. The last thing you want to do is run more when you are going through a selection program that engages a high volume or running and/or rucking. Your job is to bring your A GAME to the next event, focus on your nutrition so you are fueled and hydrated properly for the next event and "well rested" so you can be recovered from the previous day's events. Actively Pursue Recovery.  Learning to breathe, fix your running stride are techniques that may help you, but coming in ready and focused to run at a high level on game day is how you get through these gut check events. 

Load Bearing - Logs, Boats, Rucks, Equipment / Buddy Carry

Not Getting Crushed Under Loads - There is no additional weight lifting routine that is going to help you when you are going through a selection program seeking to get better at log PT, boats on heads, rucking or other load bearing events. First, there is no time for you to add in lifting and still be able to handle the load of selection. Second, even if you are weeks from starting, you need months to truly add strength that will make your load bearing more bearable. Once again, you can only get tougher at this moment and realize this is your gut check, then each day and weekend, focus on recovery for the next week. Be well-rested and you will be well-tested. The good news is that eventually the load bearing tasks will end. At BUDS, the log PT, boats on heads all end after Hell Week (week 4). But you will continue to ruck, carry dive tanks, and buddy carry for events in your remaining 5 months of SEAL Training. Having some strength will add to your overall durability, if strength is your weakness having some toughness is your best bet. 

Swimming Skills / Speed - There is some good news.  You can practice techniques that help you with swimming (with fins, without fins, underwater, treading, open water guiding - swimming straight). Spending extra time in the pool practicing these skills is a great weekend event that will help you with the specifics of your next week's tests. Practice until you are comfortable with these events as any signs of panic will bring the instructors on you like sharks to blood. Also getting in the pool is helpful for your recovery especially if you spend some time treading, aqua-jogging, and doing dynamic stretches in chest deep water.  


Grinder PT - The same goes for the PT sessions with having to suck up these events.  Expect to be wet and sandy regardless of your performance, but if you are failing to meet the standards that the instructors are setting for you, you could be flagged with a "failure to perform". Once again, there is not much you can do other than adding a few reps of pullups or dips, but most importantly your recovery and nutrition (fuel) is paramount to your next day of training.  Additional reps or miles could affect that next performance negatively. It is smart to maintain your conditioning if you feel you need more but do it with moderate reps and nonimpact cardio (bike, elliptical, swim) if needed. Your knees and shins will thank you. 

Obstacle Course Events - The obstacle course is also something that can be improved by extra practice focusing on a few obstacles (not the whole thing at once). Watch your classmates and learn the most efficient technique to manage each obstacle and practice until you cannot get it wrong.  Common failures or time increasers:  The Dirty Name, Tarzan Swing, Slide for Life. As you spend weeks at training,  you will find that your obstacle courses times are improving not because you are getting into better shape but because you are learning skills and techniques to efficiently move through the course. 

Related Articles:

How to Recover from Intensive Training

Recovery Options Before, During, and After Training

Be a Better Recruit / Candidate (Before the Training)

If you want to get bigger, faster, stronger so you can handle some of these specific events so you do not have to GUT CHECK it everyday, you need to do it long before you arrive at your assessment and selection. We all have a GUT CHECK we have to deal with and you can still get through this training / selection just fine as long as you realize that and bring your game face everyday to that event that you could have prepared better for. 

If you are considering special ops level of training when you join, the preparation will require greater effort and time especially on the physical fitness spectrum (see related links):

 Be a Better Recruit (Spec Ops Level)

For those seeking Special Ops Level advice on being a better recruit see the links below:

Be a Better Spec Ops Recruit / Candidate

Four Steps to Get Prepared for Spec Ops

Spec Ops One Stop Shop Research Article


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 / 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.  

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


and even more at Complete List of Books / eBooks...

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. 

Who Is The Coach, Trainer, Author Stew Smith?

 I'm the former Navy SEAL that military recruits and special ops candidates go to for books, ebooks 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

Check out the Complete List of Training Programs (Spec Ops, Military, Police, Fire) 

 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.

Join the Online PT CLUB:
One On One Coaching with Stew Smith

If You Need a More Personalized Approach to Fit Your Needs, Goals, Time per Day, Days per week, Facilities, Abilities, etc...Try Online Coaching

Questions?  Just email me at

At - List of Products and Services

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  2. Podcasts and Swimming Videos at page  
  3. eBooks
  4. Books and eBooks in PRINT
  5. Stew Smith Fitness Club membership site
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