Life Mar 13, 2024 01:55 PM EDT

The Workout Routine I Did For Special Forces

By Isaiah McCall

I signed up for Special Forces (aka18XRAY), purely for the thrill, just like I did with ultramarathons and working out. For the top .1% of society with mental and physical excellence, becoming an SF operator offers enough prestige and unique opportunities to last a lifetime.

I wanted that. Unfortunately, I never got the chance suffering a bad ankle injury a month out from selection and subsequently landing two dream jobs: writing documentaries with a YouTuber and working with MoneyTimes.

Special Forces
(Photo : Getty Images) Special Forces

 I don't want all my Special Forces preparation to go to waste. I learned a lot, especially since I was mentored by two former SF soldiers and some of the top runners in Colorado. Here's what I learned.

Listen to Me. Don't Overtain

Special Forces are looking for people who are... *ahem*... special.

This means they want athletes who can cross-train, whether running or lifting for the Green Berets. Swimming, running, and lifting for the Seals, or everything and anything for Air Force Combat Controller Specialists.

This often leads to overtraining. So here's the balance.

It's important not to run a marathon right before a marathon. For me, who was training to be a Green Beret, I had to find a way to train and make sure I could also train again tomorrow. 

I did a three-day on, one-day off split.

Day 1: Short Run, Long Workout
Day 2: The Norwegian Method (More on that)
Day 3: Long Run, Really Short Workout

Consistency is more important than intensity by a long shot. 

The Norwegian Method

I'll probably do a full article on this.

It's a gamechanger.

We've all heard of speed work or high-intensity interval training to get faster and run longer. But what about doing two speed sessions in one day?

That is the Norwegian Method. 

Norwegian athletes, like Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt and Ironman world champion Gustav Iden, are at the top of their sport because they use the Norwegian Method. I also saw a Norwegian 15-year-old girl run a sub-16-minute 5k on Instagram. It's not surprising. 

The Norwegian Method increases the volume of your high-intensity training by doing one in the morning and one in the evening. To maintain this, you don't go as hard as you'd normally go to prevent burnout. 

Top triathletes measure their lactate thresholds by pricking their fingers and using blood to determine whether they're training too hard.

For everyone else, tone back your speed work and find a comfortable balance. The Norwegian Method helped me break into the 18-minute 5k range while being able to deadlift 435. I felt like Superman. 

Photo by Frankie Lopez on Unsplash

Don't Move to Colorado

Being young, I felt I could do what most amateur athletes couldn't and move to a higher altitude location to get 2X the gains.

This was dumb.

Altitude plays a major role in your health.

Colorado counties face a staggering suicide rate, nearly double the national average. The Rocky Mountains region is particularly affected, with altitude playing a significant role. Altitude is no joke.

Running got easier, but the improvements felt minor at best. I had more fun running around the concrete jungle or forests of upstate NY.

I recommend experimenting to reach the next level-like the Norwegian Method-but sometimes, you fall on your face. 

Colorado is a great state (the food is really bad, though); it's maybe the most beautiful, but it didn't help my running much.

Ruck Marching

Besides the Norwegian Method, rucking is the best thing I discovered from SF training. Sure everyone knows about carrying a 30- to 50-pound load on their back and marching 5 to 15 miles, but very few civilians do it.

It's an Army thing. Like getting yelled at and alcoholism.

Rucking is that happy medium between walking and running.

  • It's great Zone 2 Cardio (great if you're bored at the gym)
  • It has a unique spot in the strength continuum, building muscular endurance and cardio
  • It's a lot easier to be consistent about

They sell many rucking bags online that you should check out. 

My only issue was that I'd get shin splits if I went too heavy on the weight because my body wasn't used to walking around for long periods of time with 50 extra pounds on my back. So watch for that.

C'est la vie

Training for Special Forces was tantamount to an ultramarathon run. A journey of lessons, setbacks, and sweet redemption

Some other exercises I added:

  • Farmers carries
  • Backward sled walks to promote knee health
  • Calisthenic work
  • Going to a dry needling professional for past injuries (going to try this for my ankle)
  • Avoiding the chiropractor because it was a lot of temporary relief but never left anything sustainable

That's all I got! Thanks for reading, and I hope this levels you up.

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