- The Mark Divine BLOG: 4 Exercises for Developing Mental Toughness
We head into the new year full of hope and New Year’s commitments… many of which we will ditch like a candy wrapper soon. There are many reasons for the lack of follow-through on good intentions. Perhaps it won’t be a surprise to hear me say that taking on a new habit requires mental toughness, and mental toughness is a skill.
So, though we want to forge a beautiful body and healthy lifestyle, the reality is we must first forge mental toughness… then those other things we desire follow naturally. It is true that mental toughness is cultivated through a tough life, tough choices and tough experiences. Ask anyone attempting BUDS or Special Forces training and you will note that they develop toughness and resiliency through the commitment and preparation for these programs, as well as by enduring the hardships of them. The good news here is mental toughness can be developed by voluntarily accepting tough things into your life, and facing them with discipline and courage.
However, mental toughness can also be cultivated by practicing a few skills daily, which may be more practical and less painful than going through BUDS. I submit that practicing these mental skills daily, learning the workings of your mind, will ultimately develop the same toughness as a Navy SEAL. After all, mental toughness really comes down to making the right choices at the right time for the right reasons, no matter what is happening externally. It is about developing control over your mental and emotional domains, like the ancient Stoic who ignored the outside in order to refine his or her inside. There are four key skills in this training, which we teach in depth in my Unbeatable Mind Inner Circle.
Control your breathing: Awareness of our breath, and control of it, is the best tool to bring initial control over our mind. Breath control will bring a present moment awareness absent of fear or future unknowns. We are just present when we practice breath control, and our minds begin to focus and able to tap into greater energy.
Maintain a positive mind: What wolf are you feeding, right now, fear or courage? Once we have control of our breath, and hence our minds, then the need is to reinforce positive self-talk. I recommend asking yourself ten times a day: “What wolf am I feeding now?” and activating a positive internal dialogue to feed the courage wolf.
Envision your desired future: Envisioning is the skill of winning in your mind before you step foot onto the battlefields of your life. Envisioning involves developing your imagination and then imagining a more complete or desired future for yourself… and then practicing that daily.
Set goals aligned with your purpose: Your goals need to be connected to your ethos, or defining your purpose and stand in life. Many times we commit to new year resolutions that have no connection to our ethos, so when the newness wears off we can’t answer “why am I doing this again?” Your goals should endure the challenges to their need, so that when the going gets tough and quitting sounds like an option, we can persevere easily because our major driving aim, or purpose in life, is in the line of fire.
Practice these four skills daily and you will develop the mental toughness of an elite warrior. Then those New Year resolutions will be easy to stick to, once the commitment is made. I hope to see you in training in 2019 with SEALFIT or Unbeatable Mind so, together, we can make this an amazing year.
— Mark DivineContinue reading →
- The Mark Divine BLOG: Simple Is Not Easy
Simple is Not Easy
Once upon a time a benevolent ruler, interested in educating his subjects, sent his wise men into his realms to discover the meaning of life. They returned a year later with seventeen volumes of information. Thinking there must be a simpler truth, he ordered them to condense it to a single volume, which they did after much consternation and deliberation on what to cut. The King was impressed but pushed them to simplify further by condensing it to a paragraph, and then again to a single sentence. The work was considered impossible by the wise men, but with the incentive to keep their heads, they prevailed. The results did not impress the learned of the kingdom, who took pride in their ability to comprehend the unnecessarily complex. But the words were priceless to the “ordinary people.”
The late Steve Jobs is quoted as saying: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. When you start looking at a problem, it seems really simple—because you don’t understand its complexity. And your solutions are way too oversimplified, and they don’t work. Then you get into the problem and you see it’s really complicated. And you come up with all these convoluted solutions. That’s where most people stop, and the solutions tend to work for a while. But the really great person will keep going and find the key underlying principle of the problem and sort of come full circle with a beautiful, elegant solution that works. And that’s what we wanted to do with Mac.” (Wired Magazine, November 2011)
So, according to Jobs, simplicity is found on the other side of complexity. The wise men would not have been able to find that one sentence meaning of life had they not first unearthed the seventeen volumes. The work of finding simplicity on the other side of complexity requires trial and error, a distilling of essential truth from the mass of data, information and knowledge. Complex knowledge comes when data is collected, sorted and compiled into information, then analyzed and presented as knowledge. Knowledge must then be challenged, tested and stripped of all non-essential elements to get to simple. It is the work of the poet, the expert coder and the musician to find simplicity on the other side of complexity, to see the beauty and elegance in the center of clutter, and to not just resist the urge to add, but to induce a subtraction.
In a world of almost unlimited choice and diversity, it is easy to be enamored with complicated products, projects, and concepts presented to solve our many problems. But once in a while, a Steve Jobs comes along and reminds us that keeping things simple can bring us freedom. Some simple challenges for 2019:
• Seek the simpler plan
• Subtract rules and regulations; instead, lead with intent
• Answer email in less than three sentences
• Use simple tools that don’t need to be plugged in
• Eat simple foods, avoid complicated diets
• Simply smile, and resist the urge to fill space with irrelevance
Clearly simple is not easy. It takes discipline to constantly ask what else can go, what can we say no to, how can this be simplified? I often frustrate my team by asking, “does it pass the KISS test?” when presented with an offer or plan that makes my brain hurt. I want them to do more work, ask more questions, and seek the simplicity beyond their complexity, to find that one sentence solution.
Discipline, focus, concentration, and creativity are the deep skills of simplicity. The Unbeatable Mind training will cultivate these skills. Sitting in a quiet room, away from distraction to allow your mind to settle into a challenge is a good way to start. Then ask some probing questions, such as:
• How is this adding value?
• Why is this necessary?
• What can I eliminate?
• What would happen if I killed this part or idea?
Simplicity is a skill that can be practiced daily. Oh yeah, still wondering what that one sentence meaning of life was? So am I! Share your thoughts on what the one sentence was with me on Twitter.Continue reading →
- The Mark Divine BLOG: Will You Take the Road Less Traveled?
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.”
I read those lines as a young Navy SEAL Ensign. They are from a classic by Dr. Scott Peck called The Road Less Traveled. I am sure many of you have read it, and appreciate the simple, yet profound message as I do.
Dr. Peck was an Army medical office and later served as Assistant Chief of Psychiatry and Neurology in the office of the Surgeon General in Washington D.C. He knew all too well about how difficult life is and surmised that the mental toughness to deal with life’s inevitable challenges started with deep self-awareness.
Peck teaches that self-discipline, self-discovery, and brutal self-honesty, are the foundations of sustainable personal and spiritual development – the type of development that leads to the success experienced internally as a peace of mind, rather than success found through external measures, which is always fleeting.
I felt a kinship with Dr. Pecks words then and now appreciate even more how profound this simple truth is. Even today, as I kicked off an SEALFIT Special Ops Academy, I marveled at how few take the road of known hardship, where the challenge is accepted for the growth that will ensure. Those that go toward challenge experience growth physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I felt so humbled that 14 warriors had traveled from as far away as Australia, to challenge themselves in the most severe way for their own growth. They are taking the road less traveled.
I have personally found that the best things in life are often the most difficult things to consider. They include things that require the type of choice where you have to pause and take a deep “ok I got this,” breath. Those pivotal moments inevitably lead to the best decisions and outcomes. This was true when I left my career on Wall Street for the much riskier (and broker) career as a SEAL. It was also true when I chose to leave the SEALs for a woman I loved. It continues to be true to this day as I reinforce this idea that the road less traveled is always more gratifying, even if it is more challenging.
So my question for you is: Where do you stand on this? Do you take the hard road, the one that requires discipline and sacrifice, or do you stick to the status quo?
It might interest you that five principles I live by, and teach, make taking the road less traveled an imperative. When mastered they lead to twenty times (20X) more power and success. In summary, these are:
Find your Why: This sounds so simple but is yet elusive for most of humanity. Your “why” is a deeply felt sense of purpose, a purpose that can only be experienced by tapping into your Essential Nature. When you find your why your entire life becomes clear and focused.
Live Warrior Disciplines: It is no surprise that warriors are disciplined. But where did this discipline come from? And how did they develop it? And, by the way, what exactly are they disciplined with? These are questions that don’t usually get asked. It is just assumed that this elusive discipline is just working hard day in and day out. While working hard is certainly a warrior discipline, it is but one of many. Others warrior disciplines include simplicity, humility, self-mastery, and service. These require patient practice every day, which is the real hard work!
Develop Leadership Grit: Leadership is about authenticity and trust. Grit is about mental toughness and resiliency. When you combine authenticity, trust, mental toughness and resiliency you get transformational results. That transformation is experienced by both individuals and teams.
Become Sheepdog Strong: Most people live like sheep…minding their own business and oblivious that the wolves who are watching, waiting to pounce. The only ones looking out for the sheep are the sheepdogs. Up until now the sheepdogs (police, first responders and military) were enough to protect them. But no longer. Now we must all step up to be the sheepdog for our families and communities. This can be trained.
Take Massive Action: Too often we put our toe in the water, try things out, give it a go. But these lukewarm efforts usually fail, or at the least produce mediocre results. When the inevitable happens, we chalk it up to the fact that we weren’t really committed anyway, or it wasn’t meant to be. The whole point is you shouldn’t commit to ANYTHING unless you intend to dominate the mission and WIN! This requires massive commitment, massive focus, and massive action. Anything less is not a serious effort.
Clearly it is not easy to live these five principles, just as it is not easy to take the road less traveled. These qualities are not something that just you are born with, nor can they be learned by reading a blog, or listening to a podcast. They must be transmitted through training, then practiced diligently.
If you are interested in learning more about these five principles and reflecting upon what it means to take the road less traveled, check out our online programs to dig deeper into the SEALFIT Lifestyle.
I am committed to helping you achieve 20X potential, and find huge success while having balance across ALL areas of your life.
Hooyah,Continue reading →
- The Mark Divine BLOG: Five Morning Rituals To Keep You Productive All Day…
In my last two posts, I have been discussing my new book, Kokoro Yoga, and the program Catherine Divine and I are launching by the same name. One of the key strategies of Kokoro yoga is the integration of physical, mental, emotional, intuitional and spiritual training. Every strategy has a series of tactics used to accomplish success, and one of my favorite tactics to integrate is the morning ritual.
As an active Navy SEAL, my daily battle rhythm was dictated by the mission my team was preparing for or conducting. No matter the mission, the one thing that was always a part of our morning routine was team physical training or PT. That training, an invigorating (to say the least!) combination of full-body calisthenics, running, swimming and an obstacle course, provided a power-packed morning ritual for myself and my team as a whole. Starting my day with a highly-charged, functional fitness workout, just like in the SEALs, is a habitual routine that I have carried into my professional life after military service. But the way I do that routine now and how I teach it in Kokoro Yoga is somewhat uncommon.
My experience in the SEALs taught me that how you train is equally important as to whether you actually train. Many people struggle daily with “whether” to train. As a SEAL I have that covered—it’s on automatic pilot. Rather, my team and I now spend considerable time experimenting with “how” to train, to use that time not only to strengthen the body but also strengthen the mind and emotional resiliency—all within one session.
In the SEALs, character development—both as a team and as individuals—is conducted through a fierce and relentless exercise regimen. At the individual level, I continually strive to develop my character through my morning ritual training, cultivating traits such as:
- Competitiveness in a cooperative way
- Mental agility, focus, and accuracy of thought
- Emotional resiliency and confidence
- Durability and a warrior’s non-quitting spirit
I would characterize morning ritual as “integrated warrior development.” Though it changes a bit daily, for variety and to meet my objectives for the day, the basic building blocks remain the same.
Here is what a typical morning for me looks like:
- Wake up at dawn and before even opening my eyes, I begin my positivity process
- Get out of bed to drink a glass of fresh water and do some forward bends with deep, diaphragmatic breathing
- Next, I review my personal ethos to ground my inner domain in the important things, and box breathe for 5 to 20 minutes (a core practice I teach my students).
- To cap off this stage of the morning routine, I visualize my day by “dirt diving” it to set things on the right path. I also picture a “future version” of myself to sow the SEALFIT goal-actualization process.
- Finally,I have a cup of coffee with coconut oil and butter, and head into my workplace where I crank out my 90-minute SEALFIT Operator Workout of the Day (OPWOD) either alone or with my teammates.
This routine may sound extensive to you, but it has led me to an incredible level of integrative health and functional fitness at 52 where I can routinely outperform men half my age. Another exciting outcome is that the powerful time I spend each morning working on my “inner domain” has resulted in much greater success in the “outer world.” As a result, over the past few years, I have written several best-selling books, built six multi-million dollar businesses and am fully present with my thriving family.
In fact, this ritual of Kokoro Yoga, a program we are launching soon through Unbeatable Mind, has actually saved me enormous time and energy by providing me the clarity and confidence to say no to the wrong things in service to the bigger yes! It has also delivered astonishing levels of focus and energy while ensuring that I am growing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually every day.
And to that, as we used to say in the SEALs, I give a big Hooyah!
–Mark DivineContinue reading →
- The Optimal Performance Diet Revealed
The energy and restoration demands of the SEALFIT training program require an optimized, high-performance diet. Our recommendations include certain tweaks to what is popularly known as the Paleo diet. In this article, we’ll explore this crucial topic both in terms of the underlying science and thought as well as practical advice on how to make SEALFIT fueling both doable and affordable.
Understanding the Paleo Diet
If the Paleo diet (aka the Caveman diet or low-inflammation diet) sounds like a bookstore gimmick to you, I’d ask you to consider some of the historical facts supporting it before making any assumptions about what it is and whether it might work for you or not.
In a paper on “evolutionary health promotion,” published in 2001 in Preventative Medicine, researchers laid out the essential argument for how the changes wrought in our food supply through the agricultural revolution and subsequently the industrial age have been a root cause of the type 2 diabetes epidemic (and other chronic diseases) that is laying waste to the greater American population and costing us roughly $147 billion dollars annually.
From the research paper:
Since the appearance of behaviorally modern humans perhaps 50,000 years ago and particularly since the Neolithic Revolution of 10,000 years ago, cultural evolution has proceeded more rapidly than has genetic evolution, thereby producing ever-greater dissociation between the way we actually live and the lifestyle for which our genome was originally selected.
This discordance fosters the chronic degenerative diseases that cause most morbidity and mortality in contemporary affluent nations.
A logical model for prevention research (and, potentially, for health recommendations) is an amalgamation of the lifestyles prevailing among early, behaviorally modern humans, before agriculture accelerated genetic-cultural evolutionary divergence.
Wander the rows of a modern day supermarket and it starts to makes sense: most of the “foods” jammed onto the shelves—in supermarkets, there are an average of 43,884 products you can choose from—are designed so for unnatural objectives, like long shelf lives and being cheap to produce (and hence more profitable).
As my buddy Robb Wolf will tell you, a key target in industrial food-making is also “hyper-palatibility”—foods that are processed to trip pleasure circuits in your brain that will drive you into shoving more and more of the crap into your mouth. In a disturbing New York Times Magazine story on the modern science of food processing, the journalist handed a food scientist two bags of store-bought food to talk about.
From the article:
He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it . . . you can just keep eating it forever.”
In my early days serving on the Teams, I had to come to grips with the ramifications I was enduring because I had adopted a bachelor diet that was more about convenience than it was nutrition. Pizza, milk, beer and other junk food. You may know the drill. I was fully committed to the SEAL mantra that The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday. But I wasn’t doing myself any favors with the diet I was eating. I woke up most days feeling like crap. I’d burn some of that feeling off with a 2-hour workout, but then I’d crash after lunch. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I was on the energy roller coaster that is caused by the massive insulin spikes that a diet high in processed food triggers.
It was on a deployment to the Philippines that I started to figure things out: Shifting to a diet of fresh chicken, fish and vegetables, the protein all range-fed or hand-caught. I immediately felt better. I looked around and noticed that the local citizenry looked amazingly healthy compared to what you might see in the States.
It was this dual experience that set me forward onto a new path of thinking about food and food’s relationship to performance and health.
Tips for Creating an Optimal Performance Diet
Follow these simple guidelines to get on the right path:
Eliminate sugar. Junk food, soda, products made with with high-fructose corn syrup.
Remove grain-based products from your diet at least 80% of the time. Many don’t think of cereal, bread and pasta as processed foods, but that’s exactly what they are. Supplant these foods with fresh vegetables and some seasonal fruits. Nuts and seeds are good too.
Eliminate cow’s milk, highly-processed cheeses and crappy yogurt. You may not be lactose-intolerant, so settling into a diet that has some dairy (ideally organic, full-fat grass-fed milk, cheese or yogurt) will fit fine into your plan, but the best way to understand how you’re physically reacting to a food is to remove it for a period of 30 days and then test it out to see how it affects you.
Eliminate most starches and legumes (beans, white potatoes, corn). Again, change these out for fresh vegetables and fruits. Sweet potatoes are okay. Eating rice the way you might a condiment is OK too.
Get rid of processed vegetable oils. Cheap vegetable oil is a primary ingredient used in the processed foods industry. As we’ll explore in more detail in this series, this is one of the culprits involved what can be termed “a high-inflammation” diet. Coconut oil is one of the best alternatives. Other good fats to install into your fueling plan are avocados, almonds and macadamia nuts.
Train hard and eat smart.Continue reading →
- Is It Time to Overhaul Your Diet?
Overhauling your diet is not an easy task—the availability of cheap food and the ingredients used to make that food make it tough. Consider the statistics that shed light on the uphill battle: some 45 million Americans each year try a diet, spending an estimated $33 billion on weight loss products.
So in winning the war in your mind first, it’s critical to have a visceral grasp on your why.
Why Would You Want to Overhaul Your Diet in the First Place?
Here are the core reasons why it would be worth your time overhauling your diet.
Improve Your Body Composition
Improving body composition means either shredding off unwanted body fat or it means increasing lean muscle mass. Or both.
Improving body composition drives a large part of the fitness magazine industry. Editors put models with great abs on the cover because they know it boosts how many magazines they’ll sell. The primary interest here, obviously, is the “I want to look good in bed” interest. Or look good in a way to attract potential mates. Hey—there’s nothing wrong with this. Evolutionary biologists will be happy to explain to you how all-powerful the drive to procreate is.
Reducing the Risk of Disease
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that too much body fat can cause or contribute to the following severe health problems: Heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, infertility. A person who is overweight, with the chronic cellular inflammation that is associated with metabolic problems, can decrease these risks in tremendous ways. In other words, everything your grandmother told you about why eating well can make you healthy is basically true. I’m not telling you anything new here.
Genes—the hand of cards you were born with—are the keyboard that your diet plays upon. Some folks can eat a bad diet and smoke a pack of cigarettes every day until their 90. Others who follow the same routine might have a heart attack at 38. You can get a decent idea of where things stack up for you by looking up your family history.
Founder of the Zone Diet, Dr. Barry Sears, was motivated to apply his biochemistry and medical training toward figuring out this interplay because his father and uncles died from heart disease, all around the age of 50. “I knew I was a ticking time bomb,” he says. Sears ultimately embarked on a journey to try to repress the heart-disease genes he was born with by eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. It’s working so far: Sears is now 70 years-old.
Fitness and Athletic Performance
Generally speaking, athletic superstars are athletic superstars not because of what they eat but the genes they were born with. Training is a help, and so is good coaching and other factors. Only in recent years have top athletes in major sports been working with nutritionists in droves. There may be a lot of reasons why this is so, but surely one of them is that some athletes have dismissed the need to worry about diet as long as they exercise a lot.
The question that we really want to drill into is this: Can nutritional dieting be used to improve physical performance? The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes. Research is now clearly showing that by eating a diet that takes it easy on your insulin system, you can, over time, transfer a sugar-burning metabolism into a fat-burning metabolism—allowing you to access stores of body fat for fuel rather than being restricted to the limited supplies of liver and muscle glycogen.
Do you have a problem with energy and mood throughout any given day? Waking up tired, going to bed exhausted, and just grinding through the day?
If you do, know this: It doesn’t have to be that way. By overhauling your diet, resetting your metabolism and building in a sustainable approach to food, you can look forward to waking up refreshed and full of energy—an energy that stays high throughout the day, until you start to wind down for a night of good, replenishing sleep.
People tend to think of Navy SEALs as physical studs capable of incredible acts of stamina, endurance, and all-around athletic prowess. They would be right. But the work also requires superior levels of cognitive performance—even when it’s pitch black out, 0300 hours and you’ve been going all-out for hours or days. (Attend one of our SEALFIT Academies or camps, and you’ll notice how much emphasis we put on mental acuity and high-performance thinking in stressful situations).
Poor nutrition practices can sap brain cells of the nutrients needed to perform routine mental functions, like making good decisions and committing things to memory. Good nutrition, on the other hand, can have you humming along at high-speed even late in the afternoon after a long, challenging schedule of work.
Emotional resilience is the heart of mental toughness. In our Unbeatable Mind Academy, we teach a process for changing mental habits so that dark thoughts and emotions don’t pull you under water into the jaws of the Fear Wolf. By interdicting these thoughts and feelings through a process of awareness and redirection, we learn how to transmute the energy of these feelings from a negative to a positive.
There’s a lot of biology involved here as well and food is a major player. When things get tough, if blood glucose is low and you don’t have the metabolic machinery to access alternative fuel sources, a negative, self-defeating thought can trigger your brain to start shutting things down. Perceived exertion goes way up, thanks to this action by the brain, and everything feels a lot harder.
The option of quitting begins to look good, as you weaken physically, mentally and emotionally. While there are ways to override these forces through training, if your nutrition was optimal—you will have a lot more psychological staying power in the bank to draw upon.
These are the major reasons why you might be inspired to do the work to replace a scattershot, junky diet with a high-test, sustainable nutrition program. So, what is your why? What’s most important to you on that list?
There is no one perfect nutrition plan that suits everyone, so if you want to perform at your peak you need to use your own body-mind as a test lab. I hope you take your fueling to another level and we stand by to help. In the meantime, train hard, stay focused and eat for performance, not just pleasure!Continue reading →
- 10 Ways to Tell How Fit You Are
When you see a high-level SEALFIT athlete in a training session or during a challenge event, one of the things that often surprises an outsider is how effortless they make it look. Of course, it’s anything but—applying a high level of mental control, stamina, work capacity and functional mobility through a heavy-duty grinder session takes that hard-charging athlete to the edge and beyond.
The reason it looks so fluid and controlled to the outsider is that the trained SEALFIT athlete has fully integrated the foundational principles of mental, emotional and intuitional development into the training. This allows them to self-induce a flow state. He or she is a master of the internal domain and it shows up as fluid, effortless movement in the outer domain. But in order to master the internal domain through SEALFIT training, the basics of the physical training itself must first be mastered.
One thing that is important to note is that WODs (workout of the days) are broken into three levels: On-Ramp, Basic Training, and Advanced Operator WODs, relying on the crawl, walk, and run approach to training we relied on in the SEAL Teams. In other words, in order to run, you have to be able to walk, and in order to walk, you have to be able to crawl.
Even the most athletically-advanced newcomers to SEALFIT will start at the beginning—with an On-Ramp training cycle or in our US CrossFit affiliate programmed workouts.
There are several reasons for this, but first, let’s reverse engineer that state of flow we see in the elite SEALFIT athlete.
10 Domains of Being Physically Fit
Someone who has been dedicated to the training program for many months or years has been systematically, on a daily and weekly basis, tasked with improving each of 10 domains of physical and mental fitness. Let’s go through what those 10 domains are.
Endurance is the collective ability of the body’s systems to deliver oxygen to the working muscles. It all starts with breathing, getting air into the lungs, and oxygen into the blood. To improve your performance in distance running, swimming, cycling and rucking, your training needs to improve the efficiency of all the systems involved in cardiovascular endurance.
Stamina and endurance are not the same things. Endurance is about processing oxygen; stamina is the ability of the body to process energy. Stamina is how long muscles can perform at maximum output before fatiguing. Anyone who has taken on one of our crucible challenges, like a 20X or Kokoro, knows how important stamina is. Building physical stamina is a step in cultivating more mental toughness as well.
Strength is the ability of muscles to apply force and overcome resistance. In SEALFIT training we seek relative strength in a manner that makes one able to carry adequate load for your frame, and to be an effective teammate (by hauling a wounded comrade out of a danger zone for instance). Strength can be benchmarked with 1 and 3 round max efforts in classic power lifts such as the deadlift, back squat, and bench press. Further, developing strength gives us greater confidence and mental focusing power.
We define flexibility as maximizing the range of motion of your muscles and mobility of your joints. If you can’t get below parallel in a squat, you may be missing range of motion not just in your hips and knees, but also in your ankles. Flexibility work is often overlooked or not considered as important. Our view is that to perform effectively over a lifetime at work and play, we must develop adequate flexibility and mobility. Flexibility allows us to run, jump, climb, lift, heave, pull and throw without springing a gasket and getting injured. It also leads to greater strength and stamina gains because we are able to recruit energy systemically. Warrior Yoga is our unique flexibility and mental training system that compliments SEALFIT WOD training.
Power is defined in physics by the equation Power = Force x Velocity. It means how much weight you can move and how far you can move it. Power is developed when we move a load at increasing speeds, such as with Olympic lifting movements, like the snatch and clean-and-jerk. Moving weight from ground to overhead is a full body effort which requires significant power input.
Your power will be affected by strength, mobility, speed, agility and coordination. It is probably redundant to say that this type of ballistic power movement develops mental agility and focus, furthering our efforts toward integrated training.
Speed is the ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement. Sprinting is an obvious example of speed. Speed is important to the SEALFIT athlete if we need to get to or away from the enemy fast. The “enemy” can be a crisis (imagine outrunning the Thai Tsunami) or a bad guy coming toward you. If you are a sports athlete speed training takes on a different hue. At any rate, speed work also builds durability – just note the different body types of an Olympic sprinter versus a marathon runner for proof.
Coordination is defined by how well you take several movement patterns and align them into a distinct movement. The snatch is an excellent example of a movement that requires a high-level of coordination to do well and at your potential. Greater coordination means greater grace and less prone to injury.
Agility is the ability to minimize the transition time from one movement pattern to another. We are actively training agility when we perform movements like burpee-box jumps or burpee pull-ups. Shuttling gear between and over obstacles while dodging enemy shooters takes agility. Someone who has physical agility will tend to display mental agility as well – another indication of the tight integration of the mind-body system.
Balance is the ability to control placement of the body’s center of gravity in relationship to its support base. When an Olympic lifter is trying to secure a new PR, you’ll visually be able to see the importance of balance and counter-balance at work. Balance is often taken for granted, but, in fact, it’s crucial to everyday life.
Falls are a leading cause of death in unintentional injuries, according to the CDC. Balance can be trained, and does not come naturally to many non-natural athletes, something that we notice doing standing balancing poses in warrior yoga.
Accuracy is the ability to control movement in a given direction at given intensity. When you’re performing a gym exercise like wall balls—dropping into a front squat with a medicine ball in your hands and against your chest—then explode upward and thrust the ball toward a target above you on the wall—you’re putting into play your accuracy skills. As we learn to be more accurate with our external movements, we also refine the accuracy of our thinking.
Clearly there is overlap between these domains and when we train one, we are training a host of them. Also, from an SEALFIT Unbeatable Mind perspective, we leverage the physical skills to strengthen our mental skills, leading to the integrated performance of a trained SEALFIT athlete.
If the training program you’re currently utilizing fails to effectively incorporate each of the above domains of physical and mental development, then you are missing an opportunity to enhance your performance and gain control over your personal flow-activator. It could also open you to the risk of injury and those of you who are warrior or industrial athletes such as a firefighter, or police officer—that can be a matter of life and death.Continue reading →
- 3 Daily Steps You Can Take to Achieve Your Goals
3 Daily Steps You Can Take to Achieve Your Goals
It’s easy to lose sight of your goals in the grind of everyday life. We typically set goals as an emotional reaction to disappointment with where we are now, without considering the logistics of getting things done. And it probably doesn’t help that our biggest cultural push for ambition (the time from Christmas to New Year’s Day) is also our culture’s biggest chunk of time off; a lot of us do most of our goal-setting in an environment far removed from our regular stresses and commitments.
Don’t get discouraged. Get smart.
If you’re like most people, you have a chance every day to chase your dreams at least a little bit. Here are three steps to achieving your goals that will help build the new you even within the confines of the current one:
Look at the Margins
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
You’re probably not sitting on a mountain of free time, and you can’t always rearrange your entire life to grant yourself the time you need for single-minded focus on your goals. Not to mention that well-rounded people usually have targets in several different areas of life, all competing for attention. But if you tinker around enough, you can usually find a little space here or there to squeeze in time chipping away at your obstacles.
Struggling to find time for fitness? Dropping just one TV show from your rotation adds an hour a week or more. Trying to write a novel around a full-time schedule? Bring your laptop to the break room. Make your lunch or brew your own coffee, and you’ve got an extra $50 a week for your savings. Take a microscope to your life and you’ll be amazed at what you find.
Remind Yourself Why
One key step to reaching your goals is to remember that It’s always easy in the beginning, when it feels like a bold new direction. That first longing look at the mountaintop is still fresh in your mind, and you’re probably not even aware of how hard the climb will be. And even when you’re doing it for the right reasons, the good-for-yous from outside observers are bound to put a little wind in your sails.
In the middle, though, reality starts to set in. Any ambitious goal is hard enough on its own; you’ve got to fit it into the life you’ve already made for yourself. And when the inevitable setbacks come, and the target is even further away than it was the last time you looked up, the pressure to settle for a lesser accomplishment, or to give up entirely, can feel overwhelming. It’s important, when you start feeling this way, to make sure you remember why you started.
Depending on your goal, there are lots of little ways to remind yourself why you’re after it. Drop your clothes off at the thrift store; stop to tell someone it’s because they’re too big now. Take a second look at the mailbox once you’ve emptied it, because that’s what getting out of debt looks like. Post a recruitment flyer from the unit/branch/department/company you’re looking to join somewhere you can see it multiple times per day. In just a few minutes or even seconds, you can get yourself back in that first-day mindset and get back at it with renewed vigor.
Take Care of Yourself
If you’re a SEALFIT kind of person, you go and get. Nothing pleases you like hard work at work worth doing, and you’ve got a laser-like focus on the end goal.
There’s a thin line, though, between laser focus and tunnel vision. Your goals are a means to a fulfilling life; working hard to the detriment of your physical, emotional, spiritual or family health destroys the meaning of your accomplishments. And past a certain point, risking illness or injury to keep working jeopardizes your success.
So take some time for family and friends. Eat well, but eat good once in awhile. Get enough water, and enough sleep. Laugh. Pray, or meditate, or contemplate. Know the difference between when it hurts and when it hurts. Your shot at the brass ring will come when it’s time.Continue reading →
- How Navy SEALs Conquer Fear and Anxiety
The training kicks in.
Take a second to think about what made you stressed or anxious last week. Deadlines, traffic, a long grocery line, or some social situations are everyday trivial stressors, but your brain’s amygdala processes them as life-or-death threats.
Stress just means resistance or pressure. We need stress to grow as humans; it can be a positive force if mentally framed correctly — even enhancing performance to blast through a deadline. But prolonged stress erodes your performance and wellbeing.
Here are six ways I learned how SEALs starve fear and feed courage:
1. Positive self-talk.
SEALs are trained to be rock steady, but when I checked into initial SEAL training, BUD/S Class 170, my nerves were sizzling. Adrenaline pulsed through my arteries. My class of 180 trainees had a stream of negative chatter in their minds expressed as anxiety riddling their faces. A sign on the wall said, “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday.”
I paused and said to myself: “I’ve trained hard and made it this far. Many have gone before me and survived — if they did it, so can I. Quitting is not an option. They’ll have to kill me to quit. Just focus on performing right now.” This perspective melted my fear to be replaced by the firepower of courage.
2. A “Why” or purpose.
Two hours into the first day of training, trainees were already quitting. While doing push-ups in the surf, my buddy Bush — who’d outperformed me throughout Officer Candidate School — said, “Mark, I can’t do this,” and also quit. I later discovered that he wanted to be a vet. His “Why” for being a SEAL wasn’t steadfast.
During Hell Week (six days of training with just four hours of sleep), an instructor told me, “You’re capable of twenty times more than you think.” At the end of my nine-month BUD/S class, 19 trainees remained. The workload we endured seemed impossible. But, amazingly, it was. Our “Why” enabled us to tap into our 20X Factor and an uncommon resolve.
3. Focus on the immediate threat.
One year later, in the pitch black, my parachute canopy collapsed into a wobbly sheet after a teammate collided with me in mid air. Plummeting towards the earth, I had eight seconds remaining in my 26-year-old life.
Suddenly my training kicked in. My mind, breathing, and time slowed as I felt my way through the malfunction checklist. Suddenly my reserve chute caught enough air before I hit the ground unscathed.
Despite the chaos, a SEAL is trained to focus with single-mindedness on the immediate threat and dispatch one target at a time. Excessive thinking would have killed me. My unconscious competence combined with relentless training saved my life.
Two hours into my five-hour diving mission, water gushed around my face. I could breathe but was blind. I fumbled through the standard operating procedures to clear the mask but to no avail.
I was useless as a navigator but couldn’t abort the mission. My teammate took over. After my frustration and fear had dissipated, I slowed my breathing and held my breath at the inhale and exhale. I focused my mind on the breathing cycle while repeating the positive mantra, “Feeling good, looking good, ought to be in Hollywood!” thus accelerating my concentration and positivity.
Suddenly we came to a halt. We’d arrived at the destination. A miserable three hours felt like an enjoyable 45 minutes just through focused breathing.
5. Visualize success.
When my mentor, Admiral McRaven, led the mission to nail Bin Laden, he had his SEAL Team visualize the mission hundreds of times. They mentally pictured everything that could go wrong, as well as what the victory would look like. They also rehearsed it live in a mock-up of the compound the terrorist was holed up in. This tactic is a key to SEAL success.
SEAL’s don’t take anything for granted and ensure that they win in their minds before stepping onto the helo. The SEAL Platoon will “dirt dive” a mission to visualize every part of a mission before executing it. Visualization focuses their mind on what they can control and identify challenges. It inoculates fear because they’ve replayed all the scenarios, yet are highly trained to adapt to unforeseen events. When things inevitably go wrong and fatigue kicks in, they fall back on their visualization and training.
6. Quitting is not an option.
As a retiring SEAL, I wanted to give civilians or special operations candidates a taste of the training I’d experienced.
49 hours and 45 minutes into Kokoro camp — a 50+ hour crucible modeled on the SEAL Hell Week — we turned up the heat to see how trainees would withstand the pressure. After convincing the trainees that several hours remained, one quit. Moments later, the class was secured, and he was left dumbfounded.
The SEAL ethos makes quitting not an option. SEALs persevere to “find a way or make one.” Things inevitably go wrong, but they don’t entertain the concept of failure. In high stakes situations, quitting means mission failure, even death.
To conclude: developing a warrior mindset makes you approach life’s challenges differently. You’ll face them head on, keep goals short, but stay focused and relaxed, adapting to the changing situation. You’ll look to find humor in the challenge and tap into your 20X potential. You’ll know that you will succeed — with the right training, there will be no wondering.Continue reading →
- A Navy SEAL Commander’s Advice on Developing Mental Toughness
Make positive choices during your weakest moments.
Do life’s events appear random and outside your control? Perhaps you think or say phrases like “I’m stressed,” “this job is killing me,” or “I need a drink.” Do you shrink into yourself, or even quit, when things go sideways? Maybe you get emotionally overwhelmed, and let fear, uncertainty, or frustration derail your mission.
As a retired Navy SEAL Commander with 30 years of martial arts training, and over 15 years of yoga practice, I teach special operations candidates and everyday people how to become mentally tougher and perform at elite levels. The principles are simple, but not easy. Emotional resiliency takes courage and patience.
Here are four ways to get started:
1. Deep breathing.
Mental, emotional, and physical stress can be controlled through deep, controlled, rhythmic breathing. I use the Pranayama Breathing app to “box breathe” for 10 minutes on a morning before Kokoro yoga or pre and post workout. This involves inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding, for four seconds each.
Breathing is free medicine to control your fight-or-flight response, allowing your body to function rather than be overwhelmed by a stressor. It reduces mental chatter, giving you the clarity to make better decisions.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was quoted in a provocative newspaper article about SEALs. As a SEAL captain read me the riot act, I felt my anger rising.
Beneath the anger, I breathed, detached and recognized a fear of loss from the repercussions of my damaged reputation. I envisioned myself as a respected officer who was doing the right thing — and my superior was just doing his job. Ultimately my reputation was enhanced by the incident.
2. Positive self-talk.
Pay attention to your energy. At SEALFIT camps, we ask sleep deprived trainees — who may be facing a night of surf torture — “What dog are you feeding?” We all have the dog of fear or courage inside our mind fighting for attention. After years of negative programming — from the news, TV, family, friends, own self-talk — fear dog normally wins, eroding performance.
You can interrupt negative thoughts by standing tall and shouting power statements that we use in the Navy like, “Hooyah!” “Easy day,” “Piece of cake,” or “Could be worse.” Long workouts can become effortless with mantras like:
“Feeling good, looking good, ought to be in Hollywood!”
“Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
“Remember why you’re here.”
“Stay in the moment. Stay relaxed.”
“Feed your courage. You can do this. It’s easy.”
“Quit now and you’ll quit everything for the rest of your life.”
“I’m doing what I want and know what I’m doing.”
“Not dead, can’t quit.”
SEALs have a saying, “Suffer in silence.” So if a workout or project sucks, don’t complain. Your job is to strengthen your team. Find humor where others can’t. Clinical trials found that a smile can bring the same level of stimulation as eating chocolate!
It’s no secret that athletes use visualization in their training arsenal. Here are two ways to trick your brain into believing an event has happened for real:
- Rehearsal: Practice an event in your mind before attempting it. It could be a presentation, an awkward conversation, or gut-busting workout. At SEALFIT, as a standard operating procedure, we have a pre-workout visualization like this: Find a quiet place to prepare our mind. Dirt dive exceptional performance, dominating every evolution with a smile on our face as you help your teammates.
- Future Me: Mentally project yourself achieving a major life goal like securing Kokoro camp. Repeatedly doing so plants a seed in your subconscious mind to recruit the resources to nurture the event to fruition. Try this regularly with your eyes closed during a meditation: See yourself as a vibrant person, glowing from your efforts. You’re physically strong, mentally alert, energetic, grounded, and centered. The sun is shining. The sky is clear. You note the date and the time. You knew this day would come. You acknowledge all your massive action to transform this dream into reality by first creating it in your mind.
4. Micro goals.
At 3 a.m. on Monday of Navy SEAL Hell Week (six days of training with just four hours of sleep), “making it to Friday” would have been a terrible goal. Instead, I focused on making it until sunrise, then the next meal, then the next step. Otherwise, the magnitude of the experience would have become overwhelming. So if you have to write a book, focus on writing 1,000 words. If you’ve got a massive project, execute the most important task.
In summary: it’s a myth that stress is your problem. How you interpret and handle external stressors determines if you’ll overcome your woes. From now on, embrace your power to choose how you’ll interpret stressful events. With mental toughness training, you can dominate life’s challenges and be twenty times more capable than you think.Continue reading →