The Secret Benefits of Fitness Training

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Soldiers navigate an obstacle course during the Army Best Warrior competition.
Oregon Army National Guard soldiers take on the Camp Rilea Obstacle Course Feb. 26, during the Army Best Warrior competition for 2021 at Camp Rilea, Warrenton, Ore. (Master Sgt. John Hughel/Oregon National Guard photo)

Numerous books have been written about how to prepare for and accomplish military fitness goals, but not much is written about the intrinsic hidden benefits that are developed during the training process.

One of the biggest components to your success that is developed is a healthy perspective that springs from a hard work ethic and confidence. To build a positive perspective on all things around you requires several things to work in your favor.

Here is a list of a few of the many positive characteristics that can be developed throughout the evolution of training and preparation for a goal:

The journey: The journey to reach your goal is going to be difficult. When you sacrifice a significant portion of your time and energy to achieving a goal, you have to drop bad habits and develop new, good habits that will make you better. This is not easy as outside forces can distract you from your path to achievement. However, if you manage your time well and prepare properly, you can build the physical and mental foundation necessary to accomplish any goal.

Overcoming limitations: The journey to your personal success and achievement will require you to overcome many personal limitations and obstacles while learning new skills. You may need to learn how to swim, get more comfortable in the water, become a better runner, improve your strength and get faster. You may need a piece of humble pie, and you will receive that typically during the process of getting accepted into challenging special-ops selection programs.

There is always someone better than you at something -- maybe everything. However, don’t lose confidence and hope; just work harder. You now see your weaknesses exposed in comparison to other successful students ahead of you, and you have to get back to work.

Building the "never quit" attitude: Any adversity builds character and helps you persevere, especially if you can turn your weaknesses into a strength -- or close to a strength. Your weakness has to exceed the standard. The further you are away from borderline failing and the minimum standard, the better. When you train to compete to exceed the standard, you never think about quitting. In the process, you move past the survival mode that most people are in during special-ops training. 

Seeing results and teamwork: There will be a point in your journey where you are competing with the best and meeting the standards to move on to selection. You now see the results of your labor, and your instructors will start to rank you accordingly in your performance within the class. This is a time when you need to remember your journey and your struggles with elements of training.

Help your classmates. Be a team player. Being a good teammate and classmate to others in your class will help all of you work together as a team to get through selection. Some top performers can go overboard with their confidence to the point of arrogance and forget about their teammates.  Don’t be that guy. You will not last long once training starts.

Changing your perspective: A healthy perspective comes from the confidence in your abilities, which is gained from preparing for your goal. This is somewhat of the “attitude adjustment” many get through a long process of growth. The healthy confidence in your abilities comes with many humbling events along your journey that you had to overcome. Plateaus, obstacles, injuries, administrative issues and years of training will humble you quickly, which will make the self-confidence not cross the line of arrogance.

My realization of perspective: After several years of preparing for my personal special-ops journey, I had a realization within the first few days of training. First, my training had paid off, and I am meeting and exceeding the standards set out by the instructors of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. That was a confidence boost. It was not easy, but it was what I expected.

Second, after the day was done (many days end with dinner at 5-6 p.m.), I realized that I no longer had to work out after a day of work and school.  Prior to BUD/S, my day started with an early morning workout, a full day of college classes, rugby practice, a second workout, and then a night of studying for tests until midnight most days. My day at BUD/S was now done, and it was still daylight.

I had a few things to do in preparation for the next day of events with gear prep, but mainly it was just stretch and take care of any aches, pains or wounds, then sleep. All I had to do was be a student. My journey to becoming a BUD/S student was challenging, which gave me a perspective that life is good while a student.

Once again, nothing was easy at BUD/S. I am not saying that. But having a difficult journey to get to the training made all the difference to getting through the training.

Related articles:

Motivation and Discipline

To and through Training

Five Phases -- The Evolution of Mental Toughness

Defeating the Quit Demon

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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