I went to Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Camp Mackall with the mindset that I didn’t give a f**k what the Cadre threw at me. There were only two ways I was going home – on a stretcher as a med drop or escorted to Ft. Bragg by the cadre. I got dropped off in front of the Special Operations Building on Ft. Bragg on a beautiful day in March of 2006. As I walked up to all the other soldiers who, like me, had roster numbers sewn on their uniforms, I looked back at all the hard work and training it taken me to get this far. The endless miles I had ruck-marched in Germany, six days a week at 4 AM, no matter the weather. The amount of aggravation I had to deal with from my current unit to get here. But I was ready.
I’ll break it all down for you. If you’re looking for a mindless six-week program of PT, this isn’t for you. Life isn’t fair, and you’re not going to get all the answers.
When I started training for Selection, I was 5’9 and 160lbs. Years of being in the army meant I could run like the damn wind for miles with no issue. Whether PT tests or runs with my unit, I always came in first. I ran 35-40 miles a week. I took my platoon on SSG Plants’ Death Run weekly – an 8+ mile run with stops along the way to do various exercises. I didn’t believe that Finish Together s**t on these runs. I was trying to kill you, and the only reason we stopped was for your fat lazy ass to catch up. Needless to say, my Platoon would crush PT tests. As with anything in life, when you are good at something your boss finds more work for you. So I got lucky enough to run fat lazyass PT for those who didn’t properly motivate themselves. I would just run the fat off of them. F**k ’em.
Cardio was my God. I already had the endurance to keep going when most would pull up and start walking, but my upper body strength at the time was lacking, to say the least. All I cared about was the fact that I could do a s**t ton of pushups and pull-ups. I didn’t work out with weights at all – no strength training whatsoever. Matter of fact, I never went to the gym. So I started converting the miles I ran into miles I would ruck. I started with a 35lb ruck for 3 miles. I would gradually add weight and distance. Gradually, I say. No need to go full out yet. I had three months until Selection.
My goal was to be able to ruck 12 miles in under 2.5 hours with a 65lb ruck, and I made my deadline two weeks before Selection. I just broke it down every Saturday, increasing distance and time. My Unit wanted me to still do PT with them, probably cause I was the only one that did it. To fit everything in, I started getting up at 4 AM. I would ruck for 4-6 miles and be standing in formation ready to take my platoon on PT. I promised myself that no matter what I would still lead PT even though some days I was smoked. Some ruck marches I had to run most of it because I woke up late. The thought of leaving my smoking hot wife all nice and warm in bed to get up and go out in 15 degree driving snowstorms to ruck was not exactly appealing. But I did it anyway, because I was committed to getting selected. Some days I would ruck at night after work. Never train at the same time every day. You might see this again. I felt great the first month. I was very lean and in excellent cardio shape. My back was killing me most of the time after a long ruck but I figured that was because I was getting used to the weight.
I decided that I needed to gain some weight. The hefeweizens in Germany just weren’t cutting it anymore. I started going to McDonald’s everyday for lunch. Double cheeseburger, fries, and a coke please. I started to get fat, but this is what I wanted. I needed to gain some fat because I needed that excess storage.
Two weeks before Selection I went on that 12 miler with my goal time and weight. I didn’t make it. I was close by a couple minutes but I didn’t make it. So much for goals. F**k it, I was ready. I kissed the wife, boarded the airplane, and took a seven hour flight to the US. I felt awesome, and nothing was going to stop me from getting selected.
Selection was three weeks long when I did it. It was f**king brutal to say the least. Thank God I rucked my ass off, cause that’s all we did. We went everywhere with our rucks. My feet were taking a beating from all the ruck marches. Good thing I took care of my feet beforehand. Some guys had to pour blood out of their boots when they took them off.
Right around the end of the first week I got out of bed and felt sharp pains in my joints on my left foot at the three little toes. I figured it was just aches and pains, and I sucked it up. Every day it got progressively worse. The day of the long walk, I was limping. We started moving on our own, and the pain kept getting worse with every step. I wouldn’t quit though, I just kept moving. I stopped by the side of the road to grab a smoke. That was a bad idea. Not because I was smoking, but because my feet were throbbing with pain. I decided that I wasn’t going to stop any more. I kept going, and going, and going. At times I was falling asleep while I was walking. I never believed that s**t could happen. Finally I made it to the finish line. I was way past done. I felt a great sense of accomplishment of just finishing with a broke ass foot. When I got back into the barracks I realized that I was one of the first ones back. F**k yeah. A couple days later, I found out I was selected.
The moral of that story is DO NOT OVERTRAIN. I lucked out big time. When I got back to Germany I had my foot x-rayed and come to find out I had major stress fractures in 3 of my toes. Bad enough I had to wear a wooden boot on my foot for the next month and a half. I rucked way too much prior to Selection. I could have cut half the miles out I rucked prior to selection and I would have been fine. My intense “I will not quit” mentality would have seen me through.
The other moral: DO STRENGTH TRAINING. I did none. I would have recovered better from Selection had I been stronger and gone to the gym instead of pounding the s**t out of my legs.
These days, my workout cycles match what I do operationally. For my 2009 trip to Afghanistan, I spent all my time in the gym getting Strong As F**k. No Cardio. Reason being, my mission for that trip was staying on a base and training dudes. No missions, no rolling out killing terrorist folk, straight 8-5 training. So I focused on getting strong. My teammate is one of those guys that for his size is as strong as a mule. The guy is my height and weight, but on some lifts would be 90lbs above me. I caught up but I was nowhere near as strong as him. At the time I was drinking protein shakes every couple hours, on a 2-month cycle of X-Tren, taking NO XPLODE, and working out every day. For the next 6 months I would cycle on and cycle off of X-Tren. When my daughter was born in November of 2009, I weighed 210lbs and thought I was strong as hell. I weigh 190 now and I am stronger now than I was when I weighed 210lbs. More to follow on that. My 2010 trip to Afghanistan I did the same thing. Except no supplements to start. First couple months of that trip I was running and gunning all over that country. I worked out when I could. I was more or less maintain some strength but had lost all of that size. I started taking DMZ load and was starting to get pretty jacked up. When I would come back from missions I would be smoked though. It would take awhile to recover from missions, longer than I could remember. I had a mission in May that was the longest and hardest mission I have ever had. Walking out of that valley was a miracle and I no s**t lost almost 10lbs from that one day alone. I was so weak that I didn’t go to the gym for a couple days. I finished the DMZ Load but with that mission and my s**tty diet I might as well have pissed all over the bottle. I wasn’t in the kind of shape that I thought I needed to be. So I talked to some other guys and started a whole different regiment. I would do Strength Training in the afternoon and at night I would do Crossfit. No matter what the WOD was I would do it. The rest days I went back to my tried and true Cardio. I started to feel better within a couple weeks. Next mission I went on I felt great afterwards. We nailed some s**thead terrorist that was responsible for some American deaths. Kept training hard, strength in the afternoon, dinner, talk to my smoking hot wife, CrossFit WOD right after. When I came home from that trip I was in phenomenal shape. After some schools where I had no time to work out I signed up for Class 017 led by Lou and Jason. I went back to what I knew. Except I changed it up a little bit. I used the Stairmaster with a weighted backpack. Increase the time, speed and weight every session till I did the GORUCK Challenge. I cranked the elevation up on the treadmill and ran/walked till I felt like I would fall off. I kept lifting but I just did more reps to increase my Endurance. I completed the Challenge and the rest they say is history.
Moral of the story is never do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. You have to shock your body. I rotate what time during the day I work out. Some days it’s first thing in the morning, some days it’s before I go to bed. I am very open to different approaches to working out. I have done Crossfit, Arnold’s basic and advanced workout, Military Athlete, and a few other ones. Working out with different people at different times helps. Reading and researching different supplements online is good too. Right now I am on another strength cycle. I haven’t run in a couple months. I’m focused on getting back to being huge. I can do that because the next Challenge that I have to run is in a couple months. So I will get as big and as strong as I can and slowly infuse cardio back in to get me in shape for the Challenge I have a new workout plan that I am doing that includes more Olympic lifts, mobility stretching , military athlete style WOD’s and keeping track of your goals. So far, after a couple weeks I am stronger now at 190lbs than I was at 210. I’m pretty sure it’s working.
So if you are trying to read between the lines and decipher how this applies to you, you are on the right path. Treat your body like you hate it and it will reward you during Selection. Don’t be a dumbass and over train. You should hit your peak a couple weeks or so before Selection. Then slowly work yourself back down. The week prior you should be doing light exercise to keep your mobility and endurance good. Stay Limber. You want to destroy your body during Selection, not before it. I am not going to feed you some bulls**t about eating right and staying healthy and all that. I smoke, eat like s**t, train hard and drink beer. I will crush souls now and forever. When I am done working out, I want to feel like I am smoked, like I can’t do another rep. If I didn’t train this hard, I might as well stay home on my couch and eat potato chips. It’s all in your head ladies and gentleman. When you show up for Selection you should look right at me and say to yourself, “I don’t give a f**k what this guy makes me do, I will not QUIT, GFY”. So when I am standing over you at the 48th hour and you’re hating life, look up at me and smile. Cause God smiles on those he loves, and today, he loves you guys.