Special forces training

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  • #52260

    I am in the process of training and preparing for a special forces program. It lasts 10 months with 8 months of hard assessment and training, with initial few weeks of general preparation. I have a mental and physical training question.
    Mental: I have a background in adventure sports and elite competitive rowing. During my training transition I feel like I’m losing some fitness. This is probably because of a small loss in upper end anaerobic capacity due to the low intensity nature of special forces endurance training. How do I let go of past performance measures and just focus on the training for the new demands? I really struggle with the feeling of losing sport specific fitness in order to better adapt to another task.
    Physical: During endurance walks (6-7 km per hour) for 4-5 hours, my heart rate is very low, around 100-115. My max is 197, anaerobic and aerobic thresholds are 185 and 173 beats per min, measured from rowing testing. For me it feels incredibly low, too low. What is the best from here? Run (I don’t particularly enjoy running, I mostly view this as a training tool), ruck with more weight, drag a tire, combination of ruck walking and running or other combinations? Maybe continue with very low intensity with very high intensity intervals?
    Thank you, any advice is highly appreciated.

Posted In: Tactical

  • Participant
    russes011 on #52305

    Unfortunately, the specificity of your upcoming training demands that you develop and train in a way that is directly applicable to what will be required of you. There is no way around it. That said, specificity in training can often be delayed until a few months or weeks out from the event. As you may know, being a successful SF operator, and being successful with their training, depends more on ‘grit’ and ‘mental perseverance’ than aerobic and/or anaerobic conditioning per se. Granted a certain baseline level is required, but this baseline is not what causes candidates to drop out. Based on what I can tell from your post, you probably already have this covered (excluding perhaps specificity).

    Rowing is a great aerobic/anaerobic conditioning exercise. It is quite non-specific, however, for the in-service training you are about to undertake. Therefore, it should likely be phased out as you ramp up specificity.

    More specific answers to your training questions are hard to provide based on the limited info in your post. I would encourage you to hire a coach (if possible) and not just use a training plan template (unless you enjoy self-coaching with its pros and cons). Your training is obviously very important to you–it’s your career, and perhaps your life is eventually at stake. You will also be training in a similar fashion for years to come. I think an initial investment in a coach (preferably one with experience training tactical operators), at least until your service starts, could go a long way in helping you be successful. It may also be tax deductable, who knows!

    Best of luck. I hope this helps somewhat.

    PS – which branch of service/program are you entering?

    hsipesl_j493p on #52312

    Thank you. I will consider a coach, however I have saved up money in order to take time off to train and prepare full time the next 9 months. I’m not sure I can afford a coach. Mentally regarding grit I have trained this through many years of sport and adventures. Only time will tell if that is what it takes. I find the transition from high performance sport mentality to SF operator mentality to be somewhat of a challenge. Maybe this is due to the unknown nature of SF.
    My training is shifted completely. I only do rucking, running, strength training and swimming. I know the training is not everything, however I want to maximize the gains from the training I do. I live where there are no real hills or mountains so therefore, I am wondering what I can do to increase the aerobic demand slightly, now that my heart rate and perceived effort is very low during long distance rucking. My ideas are listed in the original post. To me doing aerobic work at 50-70 % of aerobic threshold seems too low? Maybe I’m wrong.
    I am training for the SF marine unit in Scandinavia.

    russes011 on #52315

    Regarding your easy aerobic work: the standard is usually 60-75% of max heart rate. So for your Z2 aerobic work this would be a HR of 138 (133-143)–you can then adjust this up or down by feel or perceived effort. I would do about 80% of my work here. It has the biggest reward for the least ‘cost’. Since your AeT is within 10% of your AnT, I would definitely recommend some Z3 or Z4 work now and going forward (my personal recommendation)–there are a variety of options out there, from max 10sec intervals to 1-3min AnT work, and even the occasional ‘hour of power’ at AnT. This higher zone work, however, will need to be periodized. My impression is you already know all about these options. A combination of swimming intervals and running speed work, or running with a weight vest could help you achieve your target zones, if hills aren’t around. The UA training plans all incorporate this type of work after the transition period, as well as after you no longer have aerobic deficiency syndrome, which you seem to already be beyond.

    HR activation is mostly about the volume of muscle recruitment: when more and bigger muscles are activated, especially your fast twitch anaerobic fibers, your heart rate will shoot up. This is why speed pickups and/or hills make most of our HRs go up.

    Walking or rucking on flat, smooth surfaces will not get you out of Z1. I would not really classify this training as aerobic training per se, and not even Z1 recovery work if the pack is quite heavy. Instead it would be more of a technique/strength/durability session. Alternatively you could perform it on an incline treadmill, box step, or building stairs. This would have the further benefit of training you to deal with monotony, I guess. Also, very rugged, non-level terrain with a heavy pack, even if completely flat from an elevation point of view could get your heart rate up too.

    In summary, performing your aerobic work at 50-70 of aerobic threshold is too low.

    Congrats on the ability to train for 9 months to prepare. I have no doubt you will be successful using a combination of rucking, running, swimming, and strength. If an uphill component is required (and you don’t seem to have one) then simulating it in training will be needed, and as mentioned finding a gym with a step mill, incline treadmill, etc
    would be in order.

    Good luck!

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