He Lost 100 Pounds. Is He Ready to Serve?

A group of future sailors take the oath of enlistment. (Benjamin Dobbs/U.S. Navy photo)

Just because you want to serve may not mean that you should join the military right now. Getting prepared mentally, physically and emotionally requires maturity. And being physically mature (finished growing) and mentally and emotionally mature enough to live on your own while enduring challenging physical events, being tested constantly and receiving negative feedback daily takes time and often real-life experiences.

Here is an email from a young man determined to lose 100 pounds in order to serve and now looking at taking it to a new level in military special-ops training.

I am 6'2", 20 years old. Until earlier this year I weighed 340 lbs. and decided to completely change my lifestyle, and as of now I weigh 215 lbs. I have always been interested in serving and want to join the SEALs, but I'm nowhere near fit enough and I'm looking for help on what I should start doing and eating to get myself in prime condition before I enlist. -- Ted.

Great job losing over 100 pounds and sticking to that lifestyle change. We recently have had a few of our local trainees do the same. You just changed your life, and that is not easy.

My number one piece of advice is to have patience. A sign of maturity is patience. This next-level journey may take a year or two to build a foundation of fitness capable of enduring a special-ops program.

Too many join the Navy (or other branches of service) just because they can when they turn 18 years old. Unfortunately, most people are not physically, mentally or emotionally ready for what they are about to undertake, especially if that journey takes them on the special-ops level preparation.

At 20 years old, many people think they are "too old" and should have joined when they were 18. Truth is, most teenagers do not make it through the types of training you seek. Just because you can serve does not mean you should -- yet. Don't think of the window to serve is small. It is actually the size of a barn door, as the age range is 10-plus years in most cases and even more for conventional military forces.

Check out one of my favorite articles on the 10 Signs that Prove You Are Ready to Serve. If you want to go spec ops, do not even talk to a recruiter until you are physically ready and hitting all the scores discussed below.

Stay on the path you are on, and you will have many more opportunities available to you in public service and life in general.

Now you have to go through another lifestyle change on how to train. You will train harder than ever before, but you have to be smart about it and progress logically along the way. Depending on your swimming abilities, you may have a long road just getting good and comfortable in the water. Then it may take more time just getting faster and more conditioned in the water.

The same holds true for running. It is likely you are very new to running as well. Progress logically with a beginner progressive running plan. Start off with building your strength using a combination of calisthenics (pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, plank pose, squats, lunges) and start to mix in some weights. Add dumbbells and machines at first, then incorporate free weights as you start to build a foundation of fitness.

Getting to and through training: You will spend your first phase learning to crush the entrance exam, known as the BUD/S PST. See this article on some strategies to perform better on the PST.

But there is another level of training you also have to start along your journey, and that is preparing to get through the training. This requires longer runs, longer swims with fins and strength training to deal with load bearing

Check out this podcast of building the perfect BUD/S student from a non-athletic background.

You eventually will ask yourself, "Am I ready?" If you are in these zones for the PST and other strength and cardio events, you have a solid foundation to get there and succeed.

I would suggest starting out with a beginner fitness program and add swimming daily, running every other day with biking or another non-impact activity in between. The PT pyramid is a classic starting point as well as other Navy SEAL classic workouts, too.

Related articles for recruits seeking spec ops:

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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