One of the hardest things for anyone to do is break out of their comfort zone. And that also holds for training. However, this comfort zone can and will lead to stagnation both personally and professionally. But we have to fight against it when preparing for Selection.

Look, we all have our favorite watering hole, restaurant, etc. We stick with a routine because we’re comfortable in it and like what we’re going to encounter in those situations. In truth, it isn’t really a comfort zone we fall into but a “comfort rut” which isn’t a good thing.

When we fall into that trap in training, especially when preparing for Selection, we can not only stagnate but also risk failure. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, we all have our favorite exercises which we do religiously. Why? Because we’re good at them.

The biggest fear we all have as Special Operations Forces is failing. Failing is not an option and no one ever wants to fail at anything. It is why we’re as competitive when playing trivia games as we are strapping on a rucksack and knowing we have to beat the clock.

Perhaps the second biggest fear is looking foolish when doing something, especially among our peers. And very, very few people are good at things the first time they try. That’s why we must break through that wall of uncertainty and leave our comfort zone when preparing for Selection.

When Preparing for Selection Train to Your Disadvantages

Climbing the rope
U.S. Army Rangers, negotiate a rope obstacle during the Best Ranger Competition on Fort Benning, GA., April 13, 2014. (Photo by Spc. Richard Morales/U.S. Army)

Are you an excellent runner but not a very good rucker? Chances are that you probably don’t like rucksack marching as a result and avoid it if the opportunity presents itself. It happens to all of us.

When I was young, I had a phobia of speaking in public. It wasn’t until college that I finally got over that. How? I had a professor that broke down what exactly I was afraid of (and those fears were truly nothing) and allowed me to break through that wall. While no one will ever confuse me with, say, a Winston Churchill, now I actually do enjoy it. And as anyone on the line when we do a writer’s call will tell you, getting me to talk isn’t the problem — getting me to shut the hell up is.

When preparing for Selection, I was a good but not great runner. I could easily run for distance but was never one of the faster guys. I also sucked at climbing ropes — and truth be told, I’m still not great at it. But my training partner was a deer in the running department and, as he used to say, “a rope-climbing MFer.” Yet, he wasn’t a great rucker so we decided to work out together.

Because I liked to ruck, he was forced to ruck more than he probably would have on his own. And we incorporated much more rope climbing than I would have done by myself. We pushed each other out of our comfort rut and both ended up successful in the end.

I never enjoyed leg training back then, but after working together, it ended up being one of our funnier days of the week. We’d push each other to where we could barely walk down the stairs after some of those workouts. Not a leg day at the gym now goes by without my thinking of my buddy.

Unlocking Running

Run (in) Forrest(s), run!
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Europe 20.2 rush to attack simulated enemy forces during Midnight Sun, a battalion force-on-force field exercise in Setermoen, Norway, August. 8, 2020. Running endurance and speed is essential for SF. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Chase Drayer/USMC)

It wasn’t until years later, that I was able to get more speed out of these old bones when running. I met a football coach working out at a local track. He was running some laps and then was doing a series of sprints. We spoke and I told him I had tons of endurance but no speed. “Then do something about it,” he said. By foregoing the normal distance run, we worked on sprint work which not only improved my endurance but my speed as well. Just that little extra push helps.

Today I employ a personal trainer three times a week to push my butt into doing things that I know I wouldn’t choose to do. Yes even us FOGs still fall into that trap.

Remember, you won’t be able to truly challenge yourself until you reach a stage that is uncomfortable for you. Don’t let the fear of initial failure stop you from trying. Visualize success and take pleasure in the small victories of progress. Then enjoy the process and push yourself into success.

In conclusion, getting out of your comfort zone is the path to what professional athletes refer to as being “in the zone” which is when you are operating at peak performance. In preparing for Selection you should aim for that zone. 

So today is leg day at the gym, right? Most of you hate Leg Day… time for that to change. Get you some!

Conquering Fear is the Biggest Obstacle in Special Operations Training

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DOL

 

This article was originally published in November 2019. It has been edited for republication.

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