How Navy SEALS Survive Hell Week and BUD/S

If you're considering joining the Navy Seals you've probably heard of BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training) and hell week, but did you know that only about 25% of candidates make it through?

Mind you, the men who fail out aren't necessarily the physically smaller or weaker types, many star athletes and all-around big guys don't make it through hell week. Famous SEALs like David Goggins, Jocko Willink, and William McRaven often say dedication and grit help you through Navy SEAL training better than physical ability.

Becoming a SEAL is very possible for anyone who ultimately decides that they want to be one. Though it's simple, it's incredibly tough, and I've got some tips to help you prepare for hell week, BUD/S, and the rest of the journey.

Training (Not To Quit) Before

The first real step to becoming a SEAL is enlisting in the Navy. Navy boot camp already has relatively high fitness standards candidates need to achieve before they're allowed to progress. Regardless of whether or not one can already overcome these basic standards, I'd start doing challenging workouts to train endurance, strength, running, and swimming speed from the get-go.

The best way to get this done is to craft or buy a Navy SEAL-oriented workout. Then I'd get a training buddy who will be strict in forcing me to stick to the workout program. Training in such a way that I mentally push myself not to give up before completing will develop that very necessary skill even before joining the Navy.

Mental strength is not more important than physical strength, however. They're two sides of the equation and I'll have to take both seriously to make it to the end.

Embrace Humble Beginnings

As William McRaven put it, "If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right". One has to earn a shot at becoming a SEAL by completing a number of courses and tests before BUD/S. This starts by enlisting in the Navy, going to the same boot camp as everyone else, and then only can one start moving towards Pre-BUD/S and SEAL Training.

It's important to maintain a positive attitude towards the process and diligence in studying and training. This doesn't only show instructors that I've got the character to make it to (and through) BUD/S but it also prepares me further for the mental challenge of not-quitting. Focussing on my end goal while accepting these realities graciously will get me my shot at BUD/S.

SEAL Training, BUD/S, and Hell Week

BUD/S contains within itself three of the four phases that make up the fullness of Navy SEAL training. This is lovingly referred to as "a lifetime's worth of struggles in six months" and contains the famous hell week in week four. For a rough idea of what I'll be going through I can prepare myself for a number of uncomfortable conditions.

The Cold

Hypothermia is deadly and has claimed a few candidates' lives over the years. I'll want to do everything in my power (before and during) to avoid ringing the bell or worse.

One of the first things I can start doing is to get comfortable with being cold. I'll either go all in by starting with ice baths or work my way towards this goal progressively. This preparation is safe if done correctly and has many additional health benefits.

Sleep Deprivation

During BUD/S I'll be sleeping between four and six hours per night and in hell week I'll endure the full five days on four hours of sleep. There aren't any ideal ways to train for sleep deprivation directly, but there are many things that indirectly improve the way you cope with sleep deprivation.

The first thing to do is to develop good habits and muscle memory as a discipline. The more I practice something (like disassembling a gun or doing a good pushup), the less energy it will cost me. This will mean greater chances of success in the various stages of SEAL training even when I'm tired.

When I'm in the midst of it, though, the number one thing to do is to keep moving. Constantly moving around will stop me from falling asleep.

The Running

During hell week alone I'll run about 200 miles. Moreover, I have to be able to run 1.5 miles in just over sixteen minutes in boots and pants just to qualify. What I could do is learn to run long distances fast by combining 5-10 mile runs with sprinting or speed training.

The Swimming

A lot of BUD/S involves training in underwater combat, long dives, and really far swims. It's vital that I get comfortable spending long periods of time in the water. Luckily the extra swimming will also improve my cardio and help build my upper body even more.

Physical Strength Matters

Passing BUD/S requires the strength of endurance more than any other type of strength, but that doesn't exempt you from needing way above average musculature. The best time to start hitting the gym and lifting heavier weights is before enlistment, but even if I only got through the fitness test on bodyweight training it's not too late to start.

Strength training is one of the best ways of preventing injuries. It aligns the body, gives it some extra padding to absorb shocks, and can even cause an increase in bone density. Having all of these advantages will definitely help during BUD/S.

Getting On the Path to Navy SEAL Training

SEAL trainers take each one of the previously mentioned factors to their extreme during training. Any one of them can be gruesome on its own but during BUD/S I'll be facing all of them at the same time for months on end. Preparing my running, swimming, and strength fitness well before the time will be a great way to show myself that my body can do it.

The main thing to remember during Navy SEAL training, and especially during hell week, is that I can do it if I've prepared well. Most of the fight a well-conditioned man will face in those seven months will be mental. If you want to find out more and read inspiring stories by veteran SEALs then check out our reading list.


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