How Should an Athlete Prepare for BUD/S?

The process of joining the Navy should begin with research on what you want to do, then a plan for how you achieve that goal through PT scores, ASVAB scores, medical screening, etc.

No matter what job you want in the military, your recruitment process can be derailed if you are not prepared. Do your research long before you talk to a recruiter. Believe it or not, most people who enlist don’t receive the first bit of information about the process until they meet with a recruiter in their office.

Hello Stew, I am a hockey player with probably another year of playing in my life. I am looking to join the Navy next year to become a Navy SEAL. I had some questions about the PST.

My current numbers are:

Swim: 9:50

Push-ups: 80

Sit-ups: 87

Pull-ups: 16

Run 1.5 miles: 9:45

I haven’t started specifically training for the PST yet. These are the numbers from my first week. Are these good starting numbers? I plan on enlisting very soon with a late ship date of next year, so I will have time to improve the numbers. Nick

Nick, good luck in your last year of hockey and thanks for considering service to this country. You are not crushing the physical screening test, but those are really good numbers for someone who is not training specifically for it. Actually, this is quite impressive and shows you are an above-average candidate without yet trying.

One of my rules is, do not talk to a recruiter until you are crushing the PST and are ready to join. I would wait until after hockey. You never know whether you will get injured. An injury could require you to go through the enlistment medical and recruitment process again.

Remember that the PST is just getting you to the training. You also will want to focus on getting through the training and graduating BUD/S.

How are your “getting through the training” scores? Do not neglect these. In fact, these may take longer to improve upon while you maintain or slightly improve the PST scores.

Most people are so fixed on the PST that they do not even practice or build up to the tougher events listed below:

2-mile swim with fins (weekly)

4-mile timed run (weekly)

Ruck at mile pace for 3-6 miles with 40-50 lbs. carry (weekly)

Load-bearing skills for logs and boats, aka strength foundation with stamina (First Phase)

Sandbaby Murph Workout for a log PT simulation test (First Phase)

Treading and other water skills including drownproofing skills (First and Second Phase)

Those are more important skills. You’ll find that it is easy to get to BUD/S but not so much to get through BUD/S. Seventy-five percent of the people who pass the PST do not graduate SEAL training. There is more to SEAL training than that PST.

You likely have a solid foundation with your high-level athletic history and have learned teamwork, mental toughness, coachability and a never-quit mindset. You still will have to meet the standards for all of the above tests that will be part of your training.

Here is my advice for you. When you are ready to hang up the skates and are able to put 100% into specifically training for BUD/S, you may need only a few months to get ready, depending on your running miles per week and progression and swimming ability.

Because you’re playing a low-impact sport, you may experience running aches as you progress with more miles and speed per week. This issue can crop up for anyone who’s been training for swimming, hockey, rowing and other non-impact activities.

The key is a progressive buildup. See this 20-mile per week running plan that you may want to follow for a few months before actually completing. Once you can manage this program and keep it up for a few months, you can progress further if you feel you need to get into the 30-35 miles per week range using the Special Ops Running Plan.

Follow-up Question: How Much Should You Run Per Week Prior to BUD/S?

As always, the optimal amount of running per week varies per person. Many recommend you aim for 25 to 40 miles per week. Some even say 50 miles a week is the goal. Just because you run more miles per week does not mean you will crush the timed runs at BUD/S.

Sometimes that high volume just gets you good at running slow and will cause you to fail the standards of timed runs. I recommend the range of 25-40 miles per week, depending on your athletic history and current abilities. You may need time to lose weight. If so, mixing in non-impact cardio instead of running all the time may be healthier for you.

Regardless, you need to run your miles with a purpose, aiming for a six-minute mile pace for the 1.5-mile run and seven-minute mile pace for the four-mile timed runs. A nine-minute, 1.5-mile timed run and a 28-minute, four-mile timed run is good enough, but there will be candidates who are faster than that.

Both paces will serve you well in training and keep you in the top 25% of the class. Getting to a level of cardio fitness that allows you to run without these two speeds being 100% gut checks is highly recommended, because you need to meet the standards even when you have a bad day. This takes time. Be patient and prepare well.

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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