Stew - What specifically did you do to help you physically recover and deal with the pain/soreness at BUD/S? Was it just a combination of motrin, ice, and stretching?
Thanks for the email question. This is a great one that I talk about often but I realized I never wrote about it. There are many elements to recovery that are crucial to your ability to compete and survive the long months of SEAL training. Here is a list of what I did to prepare as well as actively aid in my recovery:
First of all, getting ready for BUD/S requires months, if not years, (like in my case) of preparation. Playing team sports, working out year round with running, swimming, calisthenics, some weights as well is first and foremost how you can prepare yourself for the long days and nights of SEAL training. See ideas more ideas by checking out my archives.
Second, being 22 years old helped tremendously. Both physically and mentally at that age I was mature enough to handle the stress as well as had a natural ability of a late-teen / early twenty year old to recover quickly. As we age we lose the ability to quickly recover from stress - mentally or physically.
Third, you have to rest and lick your wounds. Most days are quite normal and they start at 0600 and end after evening chow at 1800. When you do not have a night training op, get to sleep! Sleep is our number one recovery mechanism. When given the opportunity to get six or more hours of sleep - take it. Weekends are yours to continue to rest and recover. Take a few naps during the weekend after big meals. Try to limit your late nights and when away from the BUD/S chow hall, eat well - not junk or fast food.
Fourth, you have to stay hydrated and keep the electrolytes flowing. If you spent the day sweating, breathing hard, wearing wet suits, on top of running and PT, you need to be hydrated before, during and after the day. I always made sure I drank a gallon of water a day.
Fifth, that takes me into nutrition. BUD/S chow is not that bad actually. You will eat there three times a day and I recommend eating as much as you can each time you are there. Most guys at BUD/S actually lose weight even though they eat 5000-6000 calories a day. To aid in the above electrolyte issues, add in sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium rich foods. I used to make beans and rice snacks and peanut butter and banana sandwiches for extra calories and salts as well as carbs and proteins.
Sixth, as far as the pain of the day goes, yes you have to stretch afterwords. I found that a 15 minute static stretch after a long day at BUD/S helped break up some soreness. Then in the next morning before your day gets started, do some dynamic stretching to warmup like jumping jacks, butt kickers, high kicks, torso twists for a few minutes. Now, if I were at BUD/S as a student I would buy a foam roller and roll out my legs, hips, and back. Pretty much anything that is sore can be rolled out - see Key To Relieving Pain from Overuse Injuries
There are many things I did to aid in recovery and many things I wish I had known twenty years ago that would have helped. The foam roller is a God-send to my training. You can actually have some mild tendonitis stay mild and gradually disipate and not have to stop running using the foam roller. Sure motrin and other anti-inflammatories are OK if you have a problem with an injury but try not to use those too much or too often. Using some omega 3 fish oils or flax seed oil caplets will also help with inflammation. Or eat tuna and nuts since supplements / vitamins are not allowed at BUD/S. But when in doubt - go to sleep.
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. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.