I've spent over 4 years now trying to reach a certain goal, and I've failed repeatedly due to my tendency towards being "over-motivated" and biting off more than I can chew, only to dip into overtraining and injuries.
So, I am humbly asking for any advice, guidance, or help with planning and programming my training. I've been debating whether or not to ask this question here for some time now, but I think it's best for me just to ask for help and do it right.
Josh Everett was kind enough to talk with me, and expressed that running will be the most important thing for me to develop. He also recommended to me the SEAL/SWCC physical training guide as a means for preparation:
Though he did note that the strength program was lacking.
Andrew was also kind enough to share his decathlon training with me as well:
However, I'm not sure how to incorporate decathlon training into my preparation because 1) I don't anything about track and field sports like pole vault or throwing, and 2) I'm not sure how to balance it with the PT program.
Basically, what I'm thinking about doing is scaling the SEAL/SWCC guide down some, so that I'd start with 1.5 mile runs instead of 3 mile runs, and ramp the mileage more slowly and cautiously since I seem to be prone to stress fractures. I'm leaning towards a model similar to Hal Hidgon's (www.halhigdon.com) novice program for the 5K where the weekly run distance is increased by .25 mile per week. I do feel that 6 days a week of running and swimming might be excessive, but having not run through the program before, perhaps the variations of interval, CHI, and LSD will help to balance the endurance work.
As for the PT. I was thinking that cutting down the volume and increasing the weight might serve me better. I've been stuck at the same number of pullups, pushups, and situps for a long time, so clearly just doing more and more sets of PT exercises is not helping me to increase my numbers.
Speaking of which, my numbers:
I'm 5'9" and 170 lbs. Low body fat, not sure what it is exactly, but I'd guess probably around 10%. I eat a paleo diet with some dairy, more specifically kefir and whey protein. Otherwise, I'm full on paleo, though I do tend to eat more fruit than vegetables 1) because I prefer them and 2) because they're just more convenient. I can carry an apple around, but I don't know too many people who like to carry a bag of kale around.
500 yd swim, CSS (combat swimmer sidestroke)- 8:12
Pushups in 2 minutes- 98
Situps in 2 minutes- 96
1.5 mile Run- 10:05
My goal is:
500 yd swim, CSS- sub 8
1.5 mile Run- sub 9
All and any help is greatly appreciated. Not limited to programming either, if anyone has something to add about diet or anything else, I'd like to hear that too. I'm really trying my best here to plan my programming properly so that I can avoid overtraining and injuries while making solid progress.
Is this goal related to something tangible, like acceptance into some sort of group or is this just for your own benediction?
How often are you performing the events you are testing at?
Yes, my goal, and the numbers I cited as my target scores are for the Navy's physical screening test. I have chosen the target numbers based on the competitive score ranges for officer candidates which is much higher than the requirements to simply pass the PST. The slots are limited, so if I could exceed those numbers, it would only serve to make me a better candidate.
As far as how often, right now there's really no requirement for how often I have to test. Should I be accepted into the program, I believe I will be required to test once a month until I ship out. The test is administered in this order:
500 yd Swim CSS
10 minute REST
2 minutes max pushups
2 minute REST
2 minutes max situps
2 minute REST
One max set of deadhang pullups (no time limit)
10 minute REST
1.5 mile run
Preparation training effect:
Weeks 1-14 general preparation phase (3 weeks on page 22 repeated)
Wees 15-20 transition from preparation to specific (3 weeks on pages 23-22 repeated for 5 weeks.
Weeks 21-25 specific preparation (2 weeks repeated three times pages 23-24)
Strength training is (only twice a week - tues/thurs or frid, found 3xtimes difficult to recover from):
Week 1-6 10RM, 3 sets
Week 7-12 8RM, 3 sets
Week 13-18 6RM, 3 sets
Week 19+ Special / Specific Strength Training
WRT = 1.0-1.5mi run
RE = Hurdle Mobility drills & ABC drills
1st week (of 14 weeks)
Monday: WRT+RE, 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x100m
Tuesday: Squat 10RMx3, Swim
Wednesday: WRT+RE, 3x150m hills
Thursday: WRT+RE, 6x1000m
Friday: Squat 10RMx3, Swim
Saturday: 4x2km outdoor, 6x50m jumping run
Monday: WRT+RE, 2x300m, 500m, 4x600m, 2x300m,
Tuesday: Squat 10RMx3, Swim
Wednesday: WRT+RE, 2x300, 4x1000, 500m, 300m,
Thursday: Squat 10RMx3, Swim
Friday: WRT+RE, 5x20m HS, 3x200m, 2x400m, 500m, 400m, 2x100m
Monday: WRT+RE, 3x150m, 1x200m, 3x600m, 4x100m
Tuesday: Squat 10RMx3, Swim
Wednesday: WRT+RE, 3x300m, 100m, 2x300m, 100m, 300m
Thursday: Squat 10RMx3, Swim
Friday: WRT+RE, 5x400m,
Saturday: WRT+RE, 4x100m, 3x100,
I started this right out of the gate from surgery and it shocked me pretty good the first few weeks, so I definitely recommend having a month of running at least 12mi per week under your belt before trying it, just so your nervous system and adaptive responses are up to par. Otherwise it's pretty savage. You'll appreciate your ability to transition into different speeds and energy systems mid run. The disparity of both really thin as you go through it. Also would recommend being cautious with overloading/overtraining and let the body catch up when its time to skip a training session, and have quality sprinting flexibility to prevent a hamstring pull. Swimming wise, the track work carries over so well to the conditioning aspect that not much swimming distance is needed. After three weeks I hit a 9:20, and at 9:08 right now with just swimming 500m twice a week.
What are the biggest barriers for you with regards to doing this test?
Specific fatigue/weakness issues?
Systemic fatigue/weakness issues?
Have you ever had swimming/running instruction? Do you think you could clean up/improve your technique if you did?
Have you thought about adding weight/resistance to both your push ups and your pull ups? This may give you enough boost to power through more reps.
What is the timeframe on this?
Andrew, thanks again for passing that along, the decathlon training really impressed me, and I like the structure very much, but I just don't think I'm ready to jump into it. I've been slowly and cautiously recovering from my injury since June, and I'm just starting to be able to run without pain now, so I think it's going to be a while before I can run 12 miles a week. That I've found that the sprint work definitely puts a different kind of stress on my tibia than just pace running. This is why I'm trying to find a way to take the best parts of multiple programs and combine them.
The biggest barrier for me with this test is definitely the run, and then the pullups. As you can see, my pushups and situps are close to where they need to be, so I'm confident that some focused work on pacing myself through the 2 minutes will improve my totals. The run, however, has always been my weak point. I don't know if I'm just out of gas by the end of the test, or if I'm overly anxious and so I come out to fast early in the run only to crap out before the end, but I consistently have trouble with the run. The pullups are giving me trouble because it seems that simply doing more sets of pullups is not increasing my one set max.
Fatigue/weakness, my legs hurt when I run like they do when I'm pounding out sets of air squats. Logic says my legs are too weak, but I have a max squat of 315, so I feel like I should have the strength to run. The swim gets me too, my quads are screaming at me by the end of the swim, and during the run, my quads hurt so bad I think it actually slows me down. Pushups, triceps always wear out first, pullups, grip seems to go before my biceps do, and for situps, I just can't seem to go any faster. My left tibia is my achilles heel, if I'm going to get injured (stress fractures) that's where it happens first.
Systemically, I think I tend to feel locked in to a training program, so I ignore my body when I'm starting to feel run down and I push on through as scheduled. This is probably why I become overtrained repeatedly. I'm not doing stupid shit like 3 WODs a day (Robb stopped me from that 2 years ago), and I'm not training 7 days a week anymore. My most recent issues arose when I chose a program, and then adhered to that program, to the letter, never skipped a workout, never took it easy, never took a day off. I seem to have a harder time recovering from running workouts than PT or lifting.
I have terrible running form, and I'm working on cleaning that up. The only instruction I've had was at the CF Running and Endurance Cert, but I never learned POSE then, and I still can't do it now. I've been trying to run barefoot for over a year now though, and I'm still heel striking, so it's definitely something I need to focus on.
As for swimming, I've never had formal instruction, but I've been fortunate enough to have a few SEALs take some time to actually show me how I should swim. My technique is good enough that the test administrators have never criticized or corrected me, but I'm still constantly trying to improve my technique and I use Total Immersion as my guide to work on rolling to breathe and keeping my body level.
I've been doing weighted pullups occasionally, but the programs I've tried to improve my numbers in the past have been ones like "Drop and give me a 100" where you do sets of pushups throughout the day, or pushup and pullup ladders. I tried tabata pushups and pullups, and it did very little to improve my 2 minute max. I'll try some progressive loading for the weight. In the past, when I added weight I was still trying to get more reps, so even if I was doing weighted pullups, the weight stayed the same week after week (25# vest), but I was focused on increasing reps. I think I'll give a linear progression a shot with increasing the weight each week instead of trying to increase the reps.
I'm going to keep my timeframe flexible. Last time I started a program to prepare for the PST and BUD/S, I gave myself one year, and as I drew close to that one year mark (August), I should've backed off, but I stayed on the program and tried to press through, which obviously was a mistake, and I ended up injuring myself in June. In a perfect world with unicorns and hookers with hearts, I'd like to hit these numbers by March/April. But I think it's more important that I focus on staying healthy, so I'd say conservatively I'd like to be ready by the summer, but I'm open to pushing that back if circumstances require adjustments.
The tricky thing I have to keep in mind is that I'm not just preparing for the PST. Just being able to swim a fast 500, pound out pushups, situps, and pullups in short time intevals, and sprint a mile and half isn't enough. That's the entrance requirements, but I need to build a base of fitness where I'll be able to run 6-10 miles a day, run an obstacle course daily, do an hour of PT at a time, log PT, carrying boats, and go for 1-2 mile swims over a 6 month period. So, I'm going to need to have some strength work, and I'll need to have some long distance work in addition to the PST distances.
If you or anyone have a better idea, I'm completely open to it, but my plan was to take the physical training guide from the SEAL/SWCC website, and just tweak it so that the distance increases were smaller increments, and I thought I'd try to alternate PT workouts and strength workouts. Josh Everett also made the recommendation that every 4th week, I take off from running and row the running workouts instead, that way I'd minimize the pounding and hopefully avoid stress fractures. I was thinking about making that every 3rd week though just to err on the side of caution.
I really just want to do it right this time. I'm tired of screwing up, I'm tired of getting injured, and I'm fed up with repeatedly dipping into overtraining. I've literally lost years to injuries and recovering from poor programming. I'm ready to overhaul and start from scratch.
Talking to guys like Josh Everett is probably a good start.
Chad, the problem you are experiencing is very common in guys preparing for SF roles.
Without fail the ones who make it through are very mentally tough and willing to push themselves hard for log periods of time and while this is a major asset it can also be their achilles heel and drop out from overtraining is pretty common.
Over the past 5 years i've written programs for a number of guys who have made it into SF units and there are a few things I've learnt in the process.
1. Trying to write a detailed plan more than 4 weeks at a time is very difficult. When training volume is high you need constant monitoring of your workouts to ensure you are doing enough to progress but not so much that you end up overtrained, sick and injured. I typically write a broad outline plan in 8 week blocks and then write a detailed program for 3 weeks up and a week of back off followed by a progress test then another 3 on 1 off block.
2. Strength training needs to be relatively low volume and very simple. I typically program 4 days a week consisting of 2 workouts each performed twice. Each workout has 3 or at most 4 exercises. Typically it's a big lower body lift (squat, deadlift or O lift and their variations) a big upper body lift (BP, MP, heavy rows, weighted pullups) and a core stability drill like KB TGU, Windmill, back extensions etc. Working volume varies from 3x5 to 3x3 and loads are waved over the 8 weeks but not with a great deal of rigidity.
3. At the end of each strength workout I include a short metcon workout of no more than 20 minutes. Some are borrowed from Crossfit, others are interval workouts, either running or rowing. This is where we do most of our pushup/pullp/situp training.
4. Depending on the nature of the SF selection course the volume of running, marching and swimming gets varied but at a minimum would consist of one medium distance run (2-4 miles), one longer run (4-8 miles) and one pack march or 1-2 battle PT sessions. If swimming is a big part of the course then I'll cycle between the battle PT and swimming with more swimming on the deload weeks.
5. Juggling all of this does get a bit tricky so I always monitor feedback and if someone complains of excessive fatigue we drop the volume and intensity back straight away.
From your current level of fitness I'd estimate that it shouldn't take much more than 3-4 months to reach your goal numbers.
If you want an example of one of the programs i've written recently just shoot me a PM with your email address and I'll send it over.
I've found the hardest part is juggling everything. I can definitely do any single modality by itself, but when I try to work on multiple things it just falls apart. I've always felt the hardest part of a training program is putting it all together.
Aside from that, I know I overpronate, and I have very low arches (bordering on flat feet). I've been going barefoot as much as possible for about 2 years now with very minimal improvement in my arches however. I think I need to put more focus into improving ankle flexibility and strengthening my arches.
I suppose I'm a lot like you, I've wanted to go SEAL every since I first heard about them at the age of 12. I didn't start preparing though until I finished college. At 14 I was too focused on hockey and girls to take anything else seriously, and in college, I had become focused on Marine Corps OCS, so that's what I spent my time preparing for. Now I realize not being selected for OCS was a blessing in disguise. Hopefully I'll dial in and do it right this time.
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