Stew’s Favorites: The Special Ops Triathlon

A senior airman completes a swimming workout.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Megan Stanton, 366th Medical Operations Squadron medic, completes a swim workout July 11, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. (1st Lt. Bryant Davis/U.S. Air Force photo)

This fine-tuning of the challenging cardio events of the triathlon is now an all-​​time favorite workout. We even made it a quarterly competition with our Heroes of Tomorrow and Special Ops team here in Maryland.

You can arrange the run, swim and ruck of the Special Ops Triathlon in any order, but we often like to make it like a simulated mission where you have the following phases:

Insertion: Via swimming one mile with fins. If you use fins, you have to carry them with you on the run/​ruck, and there is no changing into dry clothes. Stay wet.

Infiltration: Four-mile ruck to your target.

Actions on the objective: We like to add in a mystery PT session. Usually a PT pyramid, Max Reps Workout or another 30- to 40-minute PT session.

Exfiltration: Four-mile run

Extraction: Make the last mile a hot extract. Run 4 x 400-meter sprints with a 100-meter walk rest.

So in this order, the Spec Ops Triathlon is a swim, ruck and run with some added PT/sprints for a full challenge.

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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