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Tactical Fitness: How to Prep for Cold Water Training

Tactical Fitness: SEAL candidates endure surf torture.

Most young, highly motivated teens who are seeking a career in Special Ops do not need to be told what they need to do to prepare because they are likely already doing it.  What they sometimes need to hear is what not to do.

I am 17 years old and hope to become a Navy SEAL. I play sports and am fit for being 5'9" and 155 pounds. My weaknesses are swimming and handling the cold. I'm trying to prepare for BUD/S as any aspiring NSW would do, and the only thing my mind goes back to is the cold water in Coronado Bay.

I was wondering if there is any way I can help myself to cope with it, or is it blistering cold no matter what? I know I can never be fully prepared for what lies ahead, but I am trying my hardest to get an upper hand.

Hopeful Frogman

It is not that cold in Coronado, but it does get cold. The water in summer is 70 degrees (most waters get in the 80-90s, but not on the West Coast) and the coldest it ever gets in the winter is in the upper 50s while other places will freeze or be in the low 30s.

So – cold bath water resembles BUDS water temperatures best of all to be honest.
However, I would focus on swimming in a pool to learn the strokes efficiently (as it is safer than open water). But other than cold showers, there is no need to surf torture yourself for long periods of time in 50+ degree water.

You can become hypothermic very fast by sitting in water at that temperature. In fact, just sitting in 80 degree pool water for longer periods of time can cause your body temperature to get dangerously low.

At SEAL training, there are time and temperature tables that they use to know how long they can leave you in the water, plus they have medical professionals and highly trained instructors to help you if needed.

So, do not surf torture yourself!

Be smart – work on water confidence, and muscle and running stamina more than anything else. 

You are right to a degree – cold is cold, and you will be cold at SEAL training. If you find water in the 60's – then practice swimming with fins in it. Knowing what cold water feels like is not a bad idea, but, staying in for long periods of time is a very bad idea if you're an untrained candidate with an unsupervised preparation plan.

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Navy SEALs Stew Smith Fitness Swimming

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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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