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Tactical Fitness: Advice for Future Special Ops Candidate Teens

Tactical Fitness: SEAL candidates endure surf torture.

I often get questions from teenagers who do challenging things with the goals of building mental toughness and preparing for a future in Special Ops.  Let's just say there is a fine line between being mentally tough and being stupid.

Hey Stew,

I am 15 years old and want to be a Navy SEAL one day.  I was wondering, how can I replicate Hell week?  I hear it is the toughest week at BUDS and I want to prepare myself as best I can. Any suggestions?  Thanks,

Billy, I am all for getting comfortable being uncomfortable as a way to build mental toughness, but trying to replicate Hell week is a waste of a good week of training.  There are many other things besides kicking yourself in the nuts you should be focused on before joining the military with the goal of becoming a Special Operator.  Here is a list of TO DO's and NOT TO-DO's for someone at your age.

Learn from other's mistakes.  DO NOT DO the following:

DO NOT test yourself by doing potentially dangerous training like underwater swimming, soaking in ice water, staying up for days running and moving, or attempting a crazy workout without progressing properly.  All of these events will be tested in some fashion during BUD/S and other Special Ops programs and are done with the strictest of safety procedures and medical professionals standing by in case something happens.  Every year, a pre-Special Ops student dies from testing his breath hold ability or seriously injures himself with ailments like rhabdomyolysis, stress fractures, or joint damage.

DO NOT get into trouble.  Getting arrested, DUI's, and other criminal offenses can make your ability to join the military terribly difficult.  When the military can be selective with their applicants, they will be.

Gain real skills and experience NOW.  DO the following:

Now is the time to build your ability to be a part of a team.  Learning to be a team player through sports and other activities is an absolute must. If you cannot work together with others and earn people's trust in your abilities, you will never make it. 

PST Events – In between seasons of athletics, start preparing for events that will get you TO training.  That means ace the PST:  Swim 500yd, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile timed runs.  You need to be in above-average condition to score well on this test.  Not taking it numerous times is setting yourself up for failure.  So when in doubt, work on your PST events.

Work hard in school, maybe even learn a language.  Do well in math and science as you will be using basic algebra and physics during Dive Phase as well as geometry and math with navigation on land and sea.  You need to be smart to do well at BUD/S and in the Teams.  In fact, most enlisted are college graduates in the Teams or have some years of work experience after high school.

So – while you're a young teenager, enjoy it.  Be a kid, but work hard, play sports, and have fun.  Use these times to gain useful skills for the rest of your life, not just to try to help you endure one week of training.

Related Topics

Special Operations Fitness Special Operations Forces Stew Smith Tactical Fitness

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Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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