Top 10 Things to Know Before BUD/S

A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student wades ashore on San Clemente Island during an over-the-beach exercise.
A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student wades ashore on San Clemente Island during an over-the-beach exercise. (Kyle Gahlau/U.S. Navy photo)

Every week, most of my emails are from young sailors and civilians who wish to become SEALs one day. Though I try to focus more on fitness, I thought it was time to answer the several emails with my top 10 things you need to know before going to BUD/S - SEAL Training.

1. Arrive fit

Not just able to do the minimum scores but the above-average recommended physical fitness test (PFT) scores:

  • 500-yard swim: under 9:00
  • Push-ups: 100 in 2:00
  • Sit-ups: 100 in 2:00
  • Pull-ups: 20
  • 1.5-mile run: under 9:00 in boots and pants

If you need letters of recommendation from SEALs, most SEALs will not endorse you unless you can achieve the above numbers. It sometimes takes a solid year of training before you are physically capable of reaching these scores. You will have to take this PFT before going to BUD/S and on the first day at BUD/S.

2. Run in boots and swim with fins

At least 3-4 months before arriving at BUD/S, get your legs used to swimming with fins and running in boots. They issue Bates 924s and UDT or Rocket Fins at BUD/S. The fins are difficult to find, so any stiff fin that requires you to wear booties will do.

3. Officers at BUD/S

Go there ready to lead and get to know your men. Start the team building necessary to complete BUD/S. You can't do everything by yourself, so learn to delegate but do not be too good to scrub the floors, either. Be motivated and push the guys to succeed. Always lead from the front.

4. Enlisted at BUD/S

Be motivated and ready to work as a team. Follow orders but provide feedback so your team can be better at overcoming obstacles that you will face. Never be late.

5. BUD/S is six months long.

Prepare for the long term, not the short term. Too many people lose focus early on in their training and quit. It would be similar to training for a 10K race and running a marathon by accident. You have to be focused mentally on running a marathon -- in this case, a six-month marathon.

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6. Weekly physical tests

The four-mile timed runs are weekly and occur on the beach -- hard-packed sand next to the water line. They are tough but not bad, if you prepare properly. The two-mile ocean swims are not bad, either, if you are used to swimming with fins when you arrive. The obstacle course will get you, too, if you are not used to climbing ropes and doing pull-ups. Upper body strength is tested to the max.

7. Eating at BUD/S

You get three great meals a day at BUD/S, usually more than you can eat. During Hell Week, you get four meals a day -- every six hours. The trick to making it through Hell Week is to make it to the next meal. Break up the week into several six-hour blocks of time. In a couple of days, you will be on "autopilot," and it will be all downhill from there. And if you need any help with dieting before you go to BUD/S, I developed a new dieting aid that may help you:

Place This on Your Refrigerator

8. Flutter kicks

This seems to be a tough exercise for many. Practice four-count flutter kicks with your abdominal workouts and shoot for sets of at least 100. There may be a day you have to do 1,000 flutter kicks. By the way, that takes 45 minutes.

9. Wet and sandy

Jumping into the ocean, then rolling around in the sand, is a standard form of punishment/motivation for the class at BUD/S. It is cold and not comfortable, so you just have to prepare yourself for getting wet and sandy every day at BUD/S. On days that you do not get wet and sandy, it will be the same feeling as getting off early at work on a three-day weekend.

10. Did I mention running?

You should be able to run at least four miles in 28 minutes in boots with ease. If not, you will so learn to hate the "goon squad." The goon squad is to motivate you never to be last or fail a run again. You only get three chances with most events. If you fail three of anything, you will be back in the fleet.

Related Navy Special Operations articles:

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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

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