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There are no shortcuts to a successful fitness regimen, only hard work and consistency. And to navigate through the mountain of fitness advice available, candidates must learn to separate fad from function. I’m Daniel Fletcher, welcome to The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, The Official Navy SEAL Podcast. In this extended series, we’ll speak with select special warfare performance experts to clarify common training misconceptions and provide insight into areas of focus specifically important to special warfare candidates.
Today, we extend our fitness series with a discussion about neck, ankle, and forearm strength with director of fitness for SEAL and SWCC training, Mike Caviston. Let’s get started.
DF: Well, we’re back again with Mike Caviston, Director of Fitness for SEAL and SWCC training. Not everybody is lucky enough to be surrounded by the variety of exercise facilities and equipment that we have here on the Coronado Amphibious Base, and most people are going to be juggling school or professional work life with their personal and exercise and may think that they need to come up with the magic formula to programming their exercises on a tight schedule. So, what is the magic formula for doing that?
MC: Yeah, if I knew that I wouldn’t be here. I’d be retired in the Bahamas somewhere with the multimillion dollars that I would make from selling that. There are no shortcuts.
DF: Are there areas or movements that people should look to to first remove from their programming or anything like that, or is there anywhere specific to start?
MC: No, the way to look at it is to look at the overall training process and program and think what needs to be developed and look at the way, for example, that I’ve set it up in the Physical Training Guide, the PTG, that we make available to candidates that are interested in coming into NSW, and it details the way to organize run and swim workouts, strength training workouts, a little special attention to the exercises that are required for the PST, also flexibility training. So, it’s all important. You can’t cut out any of it, but it’s a matter of being organized and ready to get maximum benefit with the least amount of time.
DF: So, let’s talk about that real briefly. The discussion topic today is going to be how to fit in workout into a busy schedule, and you talked about organization, and that’s maybe outside the scope of conversation of programming exercises, but what are some of the things that people can look at in their daily life in terms of time management organization that maybe outside of exercise they should look at?
MC: Yeah, well, just start out by planning out the whole day. I’m going to get up at 6am, I’m going to go to work at 7am, I’m going to get off work at whatever time, you’re going to have a lunch break at whatever time, you got to come home and have dinner at whatever time, and think about when they would typically waste time in that period and try to eliminate the wasted time, so less time watching TV or fooling around on the computer. Make sure that you have a plan to go directly from work to the gym and don’t waste any time in between. And then when you get to the gym, have your workout mapped out so you’re going to go from point A to point B to point C and get it done and then go home.
DF: I set you up on the first question for, you know, what is the magic formula for doing this, knowing that, obviously, there isn’t one or else, yeah, like you said, you’d be retired, and you would have, you know, the copyright on this magic formula. And it really is looking at the rest of your life and looking at the way you spend your time because everyone’s given the same amount of time per day, and there’s very successful, competitive athletes that are managing a work and professional schedule with their exercise. Looking at things like social media or the amount of time you’re spending or just in general looking at your overall schedule and thinking, “Hey, maybe I need to look at not my exercise but other parts of my life.” I think that’s a big, or a harder pill for a lot of people to swallow, but I think that’s really great to bring up because that’s, that’s obviously a huge potential for timewasting with cellphones in our pockets.
MC: Well, if you’re committed to the program, if you’re committed to coming here and doing well, then you’ll find a way. I mean I’ve got an extensive background in working with student athletes at the university level and working with some very gifted athletes that had to train hours a day and still do well in class. And so, you got to make up your mind, “Okay, I’m going to go to class, I’m going to go to practice, I’m going to sleep, and then I’m not going to waste my time in other ways.” And so, a candidate coming here has got to make the same sort of paradigm shift. It’s like, “I’m getting ready, and I’m going to go to work if I have to, and I’m going to train as much as I need to, and I’m going to get rest so that I can recover, and then I’m going to do it over again.” until they show up for BUD/S.
DF: People don’t need to be necessarily waking up at 4 in the morning to be able to do the types of movements and exercises that are needed. Is that kind of what you’re saying?
MC: They don’t need to get up at 4am, no, they need to get up at some point.
DF: Right, right. I think people have a maybe a misunderstanding of the type of extreme schedule that may be needed to be able to perform and make it through the pipeline, and that’s really not the case?
MC: No, and I emphasize that in general while training, it doesn’t have to be extreme, quote unquote, extreme, whatever that is. People have visions about what extreme is, and they’re trying to create all sorts of, you know, tests for themselves, and you just need to get the training done. You need to develop the endurance, you need to be able to improve your running and swimming, you need to develop the strength, you need to be able to do well on the PST, you need to develop the strength around the different areas of the body that will allow you to perform and avoid injury. And it doesn’t have to be glamorous or exotic or particularly YouTube worthy, you know. It just has to be effective.
DF: What are some of the ways that you’ve been able to incorporate exercise into your life in a busy schedule that you found that worked for you in terms of programming?
MC: Well, again, it’s about organizing everything, your daily activities, whatever is required at work, whatever’s required in whatever aspects of your life you have to go through, and then training and see how it fits into that, and I encourage everybody to look at our Physical Training Guide, the PTG, available on SEALSWCC.com, and it organizes all the different aspects of training required for success in NSW, and it’s laid out in such a way that I expect people will have challenging schedules. And so, if you have nothing to do but train, you can set aside three hours and get the workouts done, but if you have an hour before work and half an hour at lunch and an hour after work, and then you have to go to bed, you can still get the training in. You just have to be creative, and as I say, organized in terms of how you fit it in. And in particular, looking at ways, I said you can’t cut any corners, but one thing I try to encourage people to do, particularly when they look at strength training, is less is more. Most people spend more time in the weight room than is really needed for the physical gains that they’re trying to get. Unless they’re trying to be competitive weightlifters, they don’t need to spend as much time as most people do. And so, you can fit in lifting at odd moments around your other activities or throughout your normal day if you do a couple of sets here and there and just get it done by the end of the week. Keep a list of what exercises have I done, what do I have to do next, check one off, go on to the next one. Maybe I do a couple today, maybe I do a couple at the end of the day, do a couple tomorrow morning, whatever it is, as long as it gets done by the end of the week, it’s going to be effective.
DF: So, breaking down your day is a big part of this, and an area people probably would never even think to kind of granularly look at their day and find the minutes that lead to hours to fit in the workouts that they need to do instead of, “Oh, these are the three things you can squeeze in here, there and everywhere.” I guess what times of the days do you think people may be overlooking in general in terms of being able to squeeze in workouts? You mentioned going straight from home right to the gym. I think that that’s, it’s not a hack, but I think there’s certain things like having the stuff that you need with you that, I mean running is nice, you can just put on a pair of shoes and go. Short of that, where do you think people are probably overlooking time that they already have other than social media and computer times, stuff like that?
MC: Well, one point you make that I strongly endorse is just being prepared in terms of like having workout equipment with you, and your schedule might change in a way that you didn’t even predict, like something at work got cancelled, you can leave early, or something changes and so, “Oh, I’ve got an opportunity that I didn’t know I was going to have. Too bad I didn’t bring my workout gear with me.” Well, have it with you and be ready to go in case of the opportunity to do training at a different time or in a different location.
DF: Yeah, I think that’s big, and people maybe think they don’t have the right apparatus with them, or, you know, they’re traveling, they’re on vacation, they’re in a hotel room, and after looking through the PTG and looking at all the different movements that are a lot of them body weight, that kind of goes out the window. And short of that, I think there’s good resources, you know, household items that you could use to squeeze in, whatever type of accessory or additional exercises in a tight frame of time.
MC: I certainly stress in the physical training guide, especially with the recommendations for strength training, is to utilize different modes of resistance and different pieces of equipment. And so, if you’ve got a fully stocked gym with all kinds of free weights and machines, then use it by all means, but if you don’t, there are plenty of things that you can do that require minimal or no equipment that are also effective. And maybe you wouldn’t do that all the time, day after day for 20 straight weeks of training, but if you have to use them occasionally, and you can incorporate that easier into your training, then go ahead and do that.
DF: Yeah, you’re dead right about, you know, kind of I think people set up as an excuse for themselves, “You know, I don’t have weights with me, I don’t have this with me, so I can’t do this,” or they’re very accustomed to training in a certain order at the gym with these certain pieces of equipment. And if breaking that mold and doing the types of movements and exercises that you recommend and illustrate, I think will do a fair amount of the leg work for them to know, “Hey, well, I can do this. I don’t have to be at the gym to do this, this and this.” One thing that I’ve experienced in my life that I think kind of keys into what we’re talking about is really more of the lifestyle. It’s not so much exercise programming that is kind of what’s at stake or what you need to be taught. It’s really living a lifestyle that will enable you to do that, and a big part of that is nutrition. Obviously, there’s a whole different rabbit hole to go down in terms of speaking about nutrition and eating for performance, but I think that’s worth noting. For myself, not having food with me will keep me from going to the gym or whether it’s something as simple as just a water bottle, not having water with you. You’re not going to want to go for a run if you’re thirsty. So, I think that incorporating, whether it’s the type of healthy snacks that kind of bridge the gap between meals for you with your exercise gear we’ll say, whether it’s just shoes and a pair of shorts, or whatever stuff you have. Have you experienced that in your life, availability to food, nutrition and water and stuff is part of that, you know?
MC: It’s definitely part of that. So, to be able to go at a moment’s notice, you want to have some ready snacks with you, and so it might be an energy bar or a piece of fruit or some dried fruit or some nuts or whatever it might be, but some nutritious calories that you can keep with you, and it’s like, “Wow, I didn’t have a chance to go to the cafeteria and get lunch like I was going to, but if I wait too long, I’m not going to have enough energy to workout, so, yeah, here’s a snack that I have with me at all times that I can use if I need to and then do my workout.” So, yeah, that’s an example of overall planning to always be able to react to the situation to be able to complete your workout.
DF: Do you find that in your personal life or professional life that you have food around or grazing kind of a mentality, or you have really regimented nutrition, meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner like everybody else, or are you constantly snacking? How does that work for you?
MC: For me personally, it always has to be flexible because my schedule changes constantly, and I know what workout I want to do on a given day, but I don’t always know exactly when I’m going to be able to do it. And so, I would be able to react accordingly. Start the day with a snack, we’ll go in and see, can I get to the gym within a couple of hours or, no it’s going to be a little bit longer, okay, I’ll have another late snack to just sort of top off the energy but not too much to fill me up. And then, okay, I did the workout, now I’ll have something to replace the calories that I used and be able to go on like that.
DF: Yeah, I think, I guess that’s my experience, is that obviously, if you’re putting out a lot of energy or putting a lot of energy into your workouts, that energy’s got to come from somewhere, and if people don’t have the flexibility in the availability of their nutrition, then I don’t think they’ll be able to have that flexibility with their workouts and their exercise equipment, kind of being ready to go at a moment’s notice and not having to rely upon a “set” schedule for eating I think is it goes a long way to helping people kind of liberate themselves from being in the gym at a certain time or, cause like you said, things are going to pop up, even if you spend a lot of time organizing and scheduling your day. You should be ready and don’t let not having the things you need be an excuse for you not to be able to squeeze in the workout that you’re saying is true. It doesn’t take as much time as they’re thinking. Mike, thanks for shedding light on scheduling in a busy world, we all have tons of stuff to do, but don’t let that stuff be an excuse. Take control of it, have the things around you that you need. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MC: Be organized, be prepared, get it done.
DF: Thank you, Mike, appreciate your time.
MC: My pleasure.