Lessons from SealFit 20X
This last weekend I was lucky enough to get to participate in the SealFit 20x Challenge which is a 12 hour simulation of what is experienced in BUD/S training (Boot camp to become a Navy Seal). The 20x Challenge is designed to help you increase what you think you're capable of by 20x. It lived up to the hype and then some as being the hardest endurance event I've ever completed.
“Why would you pay to do something like this?” This question not only offered by Britni but many other people who've I've talked to about the trip. My answer: I went out there for two reasons: 1) One that is selfish as Brit will attest. I want to be challenged. See what I'm capable of and continually raise my bar. In a way, I feel like I have something to prove and if I don't it's a waste of effort. If I can improve my physical 'edge', it will increase my ability to focus and overcome mental stress and difficultly that I'll experience in life and more importantly 2) You. The 2020 Community. The future of what we provide is through the experience of expressing fitness. And not just in the gym. It's through activities, adventures, and opportunities to use that amazing fitness you're developing outside the gym and we want to be the ones taking you on that ride. Each time you do a 'challenge', it broaden's your experience of what is possible and I feel responsible to help those interested in achieving that.
Have you ever been nervous with that empty pit feeling in your stomach? You've felt that feeling when you're about to introduce yourself in front of a group or give a speech or before the start of a race. Most of us associate that feeling with stress or uncertainty - what it really means and what we need to refocus on is that feeling simply means you're about to grow as a person. I've found that physical events - marathons, bike races, ice baths, CrossFit Open's etc. are all a means for me to expand my comfort zone. They scare me to death but every time I finish one, my scope of what is possible expands. The reason for doing the 20X SealFit experience was just another example of that.
I was invited by fellow 2020'er Mike Jackson. I'd heard a bit about it over the years and upon being asked to do these types of things, my gut reaction is: new challenge? “Heck Yes. Count me in”. Leading up to the challenge it's recommended that you do plenty of pull ups and push ups to prepare as well as “ruck walks” where you carry 30-50 lbs on your back and go for long walks. What I wanted to do to test the 2020 program was instead of doing any special training ahead of time, I wanted to simply do our Fit and CrossFit classes at 2020 to test the efficacy. Short answer - it worked.
It was a total beat down. We were dressed in boots, pants and a t-shirt (see photos) that was to remain tucked in during the entire day. Our bag was loaded down with 35lbs of sand + a gallon of water for our rucks. The session started with a 3 mile run to the 'grinder' where they put us through 2 hours of physical training designed to break us down. During burpees, push ups squats.. they were spraying us with water to try to break our concentration.
Then we went right in to PT (physical training) Tests that included 2 minutes of: Max push ups, max sit ups, max squats, and max strict pull ups. Then there was a mile run for time. Note that we had pants and boots on and were covered in mud.
Then reprieve - 2 minutes to eat a 200 calorie protein bar. Ha.
What followed was a 4-5 hour run/walk with our rucks on where anytime our group became separated or someone fell back, we were punished with more push ups, flutter kicks or just holding planks with the ruck on. The climax of the ruck was a 5 minute plank hold that that the entire group HAD to complete. We failed at 2 min, 3 min and then succeeded at 5 min. My abs, shoulders & back have never burned so bad. But somehow we made it through.
Upon returning, we had Murph! Yes - a 1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 air squat THEN another mile run. We had already been going at least 6 hours at this point. Had already done hundreds of push ups and squats, ran at least 5 miles, rucked 15 miles - You would think we were shot. Not to mention we were soaked with water and had sand in every crack and crevice of our body. I finished Murph (without a vest) in 51:08 which is reasonably fast for me. The body is capable of so much.
It was only beginning. When we finished Murph it was time to go for a nice little walk again with our rucks on. This time we also had to carry a stretcher as we 'were on a hunt for a downed pilot'. The instructor took off at a recklessly fast running pace and we all did our best to stay in line.
When we got back I thought we were nearly done - Wrong. We had another grinder session in the mud where they tried to get more of us to quit. I said my shoulders were burning before, words can't describe what they were feeling now. After an hour beat down in the mud they sent us to get logs in groups of 6. Lifting and holding and carrying the logs for another 30 minutes put us to another level of exhaustion I'd never experienced before. We were not done...
They got the hoses back out and put us on the 'grinder', sure that someone was ready to drop out and they wanted to make it happen. The sun was setting and I knew it had to be ending soon - but they were showing no signs of letting up. We then engaged in self instructed PT where we were required to 'sound off' meaning calling out every command and every count of a rep. If we missed a count or a sound off we went back to zero. The hose spraying continued as did the screaming until at very last they simply said “20X, you are secured.” I didn't know what to do. I was ready for the next command. The next push up. The next carry. Ready to do anything they'd asked.
What I'd focused on the entire day was NOT “how long until this is over” but rather “what am I doing and how can I do it better?”. It was incredibly meditative and liberating to have such simple and intense focus for a 12 hour period where if at any moment you let your gaurd down, your day was over. When they announced we were done, there was no exhilaration or excitement, just a calm sense of accomplishment. Then a thought in the back of my mind - “if that's possible, what's next?”
Breath is the Key. This was hammered home “Control your breathing”. If you can control your breath, you can control you mind and the rest is history. If you lose your breath, you'll get into your head with negative thoughts and everything falls apart. You need a team. You need help. By myself, it would have been smart to stop after the first hour of being pummeled. With a team and the accountability behind it, you go further and harder than you ever could on your own. This translates to any part of your life. Whether it's accountability in business or with your workout - you need support.
Focus on the task at hand. It's the only thing you can control. One foot in front of the other. When I think today about doing that entire day, it's overwhelming and I have no idea how I accomplished the sum of the parts. The key is to break everything down in to very small pieces as all you can control is the present.
You are capable of 20x more than you think. I've heard this talked about for a LONG time and honestly believed it. I had never had the chance to really experience it on my own. Being completely broken, barely able to move, then being told to complete Murph - in under an hour! Typically you do this fresh, with gym shoes on. Not after working out for 6 hours, rolling around in sand and rocks, soaked with water and your hands torn up. We all think we know where our breaking point is, but the more I learn from experience, the more I realize how far off it really is.