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How to Get Into Shape like a Navy SEAL

Inside SEAL Team Six
If your new year’s resolution was to get into shape, and the three-day juice cleanse didn’t get the job done, maybe you need to up the ante. We’ve been re-reading Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo’s SEAL Team Six series in anticipation of the next installment, Hunt the Scorpion (pre-order it now: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Other Retailers). It got us thinking: how do those men stay in shape?

Fortunately, Don Mann—whom we like to think of as Mulholland’s Chuck Norris—wrote Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America‘s Elite Warriors. Amidst tales of dangerous missions and grueling trainings, we learn how Mann kept his mind and body prepared for the most extreme situations. So while you may never be called on to execute a covert op in Colombia or Afghanistan, here’s how to make sure you’re ready nonetheless.

Hot sun

From Inside SEAL Team Six by Don Mann:

In the hundred-degree, high-humidity heat, I performed 120 push-ups and 120 sit-ups, swam a half a mile, and followed that with a three-mile run. During the run, less than three hundred meters from the finish line, my vision started to blur to the point that I couldn’t tell the people from the trees. I kept pushing harder. Woke up on my back looking up at the timekeeper—a senior chief petty officer in a khaki uniform.

“Did I break seventeen thirty?” I asked him, referring to the course record of seventeen minutes and thirty seconds.

“Seventeen twenty-eight, you maniac,” he answered.

“Then I’m okay.”

Bar bell

When they asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said a weight set. They got one for me, and I started working out. Every night at around eleven, I’d come home after working or hanging out with my buddies, put on my headphones, crank up Black Sabbath on my stereo, and lift weights—curls, bench presses, overhead presses—then do rowing, push-ups, and sit-ups. I’d try to do a continuous set of a particular exercise to each individual song. “Iron Man” and “Paranoid” were my favorites.

Often I’d keep going until two or three in the morning, then I’d catch a couple hours sleep before heading off to school.

Olympic pool

During an exercise, we were instructed to stand on the side of the pool, do a forward flip above the water into the pool, then complete a fifty-meter swim underwater—twenty-five meters to one end, then a flip-turn and twenty-five meters back—without coming up for air.

I thought, Whatever happens, I’m not coming up for air. I don’t care if it gets so bad that my head explodes. I’m not quitting. I swam underwater, did my flip-turn, and started back. My lungs started screaming. I desperately wanted to take a breath.

Please! Please! my brain was saying.

I forced myself on and blacked out just before I reached the wall. I don’t remember seeing it or feeling it. All I know is that the divers pulled me out, and I heard one of the instructors say, “Okay, you passed.”

Huge relief.

I learned later that the first time you think you need air, it’s really the CO2 receptors in your brain telling you that it’s time to exhale. If you exhale a little you can last a minute or so longer.

Of course, consult with your physician before you embark on a new exercise regimen. Especially if you plan to lift weights for three hours and then run a marathon in one-hundred-degree weather while holding your breath until you pass out.