11 Tips for Triathlon Success From a Navy SEAL

Why Be a SEAL?

I asked Commander Davids why he became a Navy SEAL. What was it that inspired him?

He said that a SEAL officer visited the Naval Academy to educate the students on the Naval Special Warfare program. The officer walked into the class and declared that none of them were tough enough to be SEALs anyway, so he wasn't going to waste his time trying to get them to join. If they thought they could handle being a SEAL, they could visit him at 0500 on the PT (physical training) field. The officer turned around and left.

SEALsHelicopter
Navy SEALs exit a helicopter before securing the beach during a capabilities
demonstration at the annual East Coast SEAL reunion. U.S. Navy Photo

That challenge—doing what other people cannot do, doing the extraordinary—is what drew Keith Davids to visit that recruiter at 0500. I suspect his attitude is typical of every successful Navy SEAL.

Triathlon Training/SEAL Mentality

Training to be a Navy SEAL is far more challenging than training for an Ironman. Given his experience as a SEAL, and his recent Ironman success, I asked Keith to give triathletes some tips for success. Here is what he said:

  1. Eliminate self-limiting thoughts. More often than not, people have preconceived notions about what is possible for them to achieve. They sell themselves short. Abolish thoughts that hold you back from achieving your true potential.

  2. Optimize your skills. Everyone begins at a different place and each of us are dealt a different set of genetic cards. Use that to your advantage and optimize your assets.

  3. Be willing to spend the effort and energy to be successful. Anyone can succeed if they are willing to work at it. Too many people want to reap rewards without the sacrifice that is necessary to achieve any goal.

  4. Enjoy the journey. If you can enjoy the pursuit of excellence, you've got it made. Aiming to enjoy only the end result makes it impossible to endure the necessary sacrifices to achieve any goal really worth having.

  5. Be a student. The more you understand about what it is you're trying to do and how to do it, the easier it is to be successful. Be a student of your passion.

  6. Persevere. There are many things that can get in the way of successfully achieving any goal. You have to be willing to figure out how to get over, under, around or through those obstacles. Keep trying.

  7. Develop mental toughness. It is not the physical challenges that keep men from successfully surviving the SEAL training, it is mentally giving up. You need to start believing that you can do it, you can be successful. Others have been successful before you, you can do it too.

  8. Be prepared to suffer. When you are training for an event as large as a 140.6-mile triathlon, it is a long haul. There is going to be bad weather, aching body parts and times when you are just plain tired. Know that some stress, followed by rest, will make you stronger physically and mentally.

  9. Take strength from others. This tip is particularly valuable for race day. Right when you are thinking things are really bad for you, look around. You'll see that others are suffering too. Knowing you're not the only one and that other people will suffer generates energy, if you're willing to accept it.

  10. You must want success. Doing something that is difficult requires that you want to be successful with every fiber of your core. The intense desire to succeed helps you overcome obstacles that crush other people.

  11. Avoid over-training. It is easy for highly motivated people to over-train. Achievers are often rewarded for doing more and working harder. While you must work hard and do the prescribed work, you must also rest in order to reap the benefits.

You may not be capable of becoming a Navy SEAL, but I'm willing to bet you are capable of successfully becoming a triathlete. Some of you are capable of being quite competitive in the sport; perhaps one of the top in your area, the state, the nation or perhaps the world.

Be inspired, inspire others.

"The only easy day was yesterday." - Displayed at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado



Here are some excellent links to learn more about the Navy SEALs:

Commander Keith Davids Trains for His First Ironman

Official Navy SEAL website

Wikipedia History of the Navy SEALs

"Navy SEALs' first task: Survive 'Hell Week'", MSNBC story


Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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