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How Tactical Athletes Push Through Pain and Exhaustion



Learning to push through the pain and exhaustion is a common challenge for some sports athletes and tactical athletes. How much pain and exhaustion an athlete must endure depends largely on the sport.

From high-intensity activities, like wrestling and boxing, to contact sports and ultra-endurance races, playing with pain and living with sleepless nights are parts of the competition.

The military’s tactical athletes have similar challenges that include discomfort and sleepless nights, but the main difference comes with the grueling life-or-death situations faced in combat.

Winning or losing has an entirely different meaning when you become a tactical athlete in the military, law enforcement, firefighting or emergency services. In the end, tactical athletes want to see that they made a difference in someone else’s life.

If you are considering joining the military, do you have a history of challenging yourself to exceed your perceived limitations? If so, the military can enhance that ability, and if not, the military can teach you how to get tougher mentally, physically and tactically.

Anyone serving in the tactical professions must learn endurance during training to prepare for the long days and nights that the job demands. Some days, you just must push mentally and physically through obstacles to accomplish the goal of the day.

How does any athlete push through the barriers of pain, fear, discomfort and even injury to perform at the level required for success?

Pushing Hard Requires a Reason Why

No matter why something resonates with you, there are just some things in life that inspire you to devote all your effort and love, no matter how you feel. This may be your academic or tactical studies, athletics, musical talent or even entrepreneurial creation.

Some things just drive us to perform harder without a second thought as we enjoy the challenge. Finding that passion can be as easy as viewing a poster, meeting someone or even watching a movie or reading a book. For some people, though, finding that passion is difficult, and it’s true that not everyone finds their passion in life.

That doesn’t change the fact that, as a species, we are all built to survive on a very basic level. Being placed in dangerous and life-threatening situations is a way to find your why, as you do whatever you can to live, help your buddy stay alive or help a stranger to live another day.

Often the tactical athlete finds his or her why through such a service greater than themselves. Why do so many extraordinary military members do amazing things in the most difficult of times? It is not for themselves; it is for the people who serve with them, their brothers and sisters in arms and the people they are trying to help.

The danger in these jobs is never going to change, so you must change your training to help you better face the challenges you will endure on normal and extraordinary days.

The more you train, the more likely it will be that you can think clearly at a time when you’re both exhausted and it matters the most. Train the way you work, and you one day will rely on your training in life-or-death situations.

Physical training does not need to be matched perfectly with the type of gut checks required on the job, but make sure you do not lack any of the elements of fitness that will be needed when facing a crisis on the job.

This means that strength and power need to be cycles in your training. Speed and agility training goes well with the strength cycle, so mix in short and fast runs, jumps and obstacle courses.

Endurance and muscle stamina also needs a cycle or two in your annual fitness budget, so make sure you do not neglect any activity your job requires even if you do not particularly enjoy it. Flexibility, mobility and grip round out the elements of fitness that need to be an integral part of your training cycles on a near-daily basis. Mastering these skills will make you feel better and reduce injuries on the job.

If you are considering serving, realize that the call to service is a cause bigger than just yourself. You will be part of a team that becomes your family. Your service is to each other and the mission assigned to you. Your ability to find your why is easy when your brothers and sisters are in harm’s way.

If you have served, know that you answered your nation’s call and gave a piece of yourself that will be part of our country’s foundation forever. Because of your service, we can and must build a better next level for those who follow.

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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