SGPT Interview (Part 1)- Hell Week PT

HellWeek PT – the name does not exactly conjure up rose gardens and chocolate frosted cupcakes does it?  For many it may be just that – a living “Hell”.  For others a gift of temporary pain to push their mental and physical boundaries to the next level.  Join SEALgrinderPT as we interview Seán Ó Cearrúlláin (pronounced O Karr-a-lawn) as he explains the HellWeek PT program and what it takes to survive and thrive in a difficult setting.
SGPT: Tell us about HellWeek PT and how you developed this program?

HWPT: Hellweek PT is an ambition I have had for quite some time. In the last few years things just fell into place for it to become reality, I knew what I wanted [to show that pain and difficulty can be overcome if one just applies them selves, the mental can overcome the physical], but it took time to find the resources and also I had to plan it and test it on various different people – not just physically fit people, mentally tough people too. I started it because I like to challenge the norm, there is nothing more satisfying than attempting something, giving it your all and then improving on your baseline. I was always a huge fan the US Navy SEALs and BUD/s and even though I have never done BUD/s completing my own selection courses was something I drew on and began researching BUD/s further. The goal was to develop people’s attitudes from the negative to the positive via military discipline and a set of challenges that brings people together the way military indoctrination/selection only can. The name I chose, because it rings home to what people feel like after taking my challenge on. So the program was developed from drawing on my own experiences and testing out new exercises, such as Sugar Cookie Rolls and the Bear Crawl as well as LogPT and more. But I knew it was going to take convincing people to try it to make them work harder, by showing the results they get. So there is a 4 hour Challenge on the beach, 4 Evolutions, any weather, and to prepare for the challenge, the candidates sign up and take on a basic 4 week training plan involving progressive development of press-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, thrust squats, jack-knives, plank, running, and also a cold shower completely clothed. Each week it gets more intense, increasing in intensity, volume and direction. The mental game comes into it too, challenging a person to increase the number of reps in each set for each exercise but also in any conditions outdoors, and the cold shower is something that many have refused to do! So there you have it.

 Check out this video from HellWeek PT – The Irish Sea is baddass and will gobble you up and swallow you whole.

 

SGPT: Where did you get all the ideas for the different exercises?
HWPT: To be honest, I drew on a lot of my own experience mostly from my CSAR selection but I knew something more was needed too. I knew that if I was going to do something to change people’s attitude through exercise and teamwork, it was going to have to be something unique, there are so many bootcamps out there it was pointless offering a training camp that would only be perceiveda s another boot, even though it was based on elite selection procedure. I remembered seeing a very intense film many years ago about Navy SEALs selection, it was an obscure film and to be honest I can’t remember the name of it, but I remembered the initial phase and hellweek was in there too. I think I was like 16 or so when I seen it. But it left an imprint in my mind that I wanted to work with the best during my own time in the forces. So I began researching BUD/s intensely and trying out a lot of the Calisthenics my self and getting the MOI down to a tee. I loved every minute of it, I was pushed to my limits by my self, and then beyond, by my self. It was such a good feeling to get so fit and mentally strong again that I was on a total high and at no point during the training could I let others see any weakness or floundering. I totally loved the BUD/s methodology and ideas, even though I was almost crippled while working with some of the stuff I read about and seen in video clips.
 
So 10% of the HWPT program is my own contribution, 40% is based on Commando/CSAR Selection and 50% base don BUD/s. I launched by testing all of this on people that volunteered to work with me and then offered free taster sessions on the beach, at first I only had 4, then it was 14,next round had 7 show up and the last class was in November of last year, 63 booked, 40 turned up, 8 DOR’s resulted, but we should have had more, but the teamwork element of the evolutions wokred so well at least 10 of the weaker candidates were carried through by the skin of their noses.
SGPT: The Irish sea looks very rough and formidable. Is it as bad as it looks in the video?
HWPT: The Irish Sea is so damn cold all year round, never getting warm, I think the warmest it gets according to Met Eireann (Irish Weather Institute) is around 15C (59F) max in June/July, the wind is the real killer though, as it is always windy on the east coast of Ireland, and in particular on Mornington Beach. For one thing, it’s not sheltered and it completely open to all elements. Another aspect is that the River Boyne has its Bar right where the Evolutions take place, so the currents in the water merge with the air creating a different pressure to what is felt farther up land where there are no  rivers meeting the sea. The surf around Mornington is crazy, there is a huge rip-tide in there and the tide is fast moving, still working on twelfths of course, but we experience some pretty big and powerful springs here in Drogheda and at Mornington. The Breakers are pretty wild, and unpredictable due to the topography of the shore line, it is very undulating and the tide stretches for at least 1 click when out completely, maybe even more! It’s NEVER warm! It has taken my breath ,and that of several others, away many times even in July and August. I remember the class of 14 I had back in August of last year, lovely day, for Ireland anything above 17C is a lovely day, it was perhaps 20/21C (ca. 70F) in the air and there was no problem working on the sand, but as soon as I got everyone into the water, they began shivering… it was that cold, their bodies began starvingt he outer extremeties of blood and one or two were going hypothermic. Yup, it’s as bad as it looks in the video, even worse at times.
 
SGPT: What is the toughest part of the HellWeek PT training? What makes most candidates want to quit?

HWPT: This is a tough question, because for many the breaking point occurs more than once. For me it’s different, this is how I train, but for others it was the water evolutions – either Surf Bobbing or Divebombers in the surf that got them, for a few it was the flutter kicks… actually, come to think of it, that’s the one thing that EVERYONE complained at! Even an Ironman finisher (whose IM time was under 8 hours too) was nearly crying in the first 10 minutes of Evolution 1 back in November – the first hour… 10 minutes into the 4 hour challenge and some flutter kicks had a strong swimmer almost crying! But I wasn’t shocked by that, I was shocked at how unprepared he was and the grimace on his face, but he sucked it up when told! On the other hand, I lost 3 people in a row to the Dunes on one day, and the Dunes are quite tough. Two steep enough sand dunes parallel and oppostie to each other that will sap the strength from your legs to no end. In my program, you have to run up and down each one 10 times in a time limit. At this point, the candidates are in Boat Crews and as you will know, it is the crew leader’s job to ensure his/her crew are wokring together at the same rate and that they stay at the rear but in sync with their crew  and pushing them on, making sure they all stay together, to ensure success.
 
This team evolution is often where you see people break back down into individuals again and it’s at this point that as an instructor the shouting at crew leaders really begins. For others the sheer thoughts of the wind and cold water is the toughest element of the program. They are mentally tough but still human, showing that it matters not what the challenge is, the mind will overcome! Some come back for more though, and I love that, they keep pushing them selves, learning something new from the last time. I have one guy that made it 3 hours 46 on his 2nd time participating in one of my challenges, the dunes got him, he just had no more will left to go on. Literally 20 minutes from the end and he decided to DOR. But, he is coming back for more in March, so obviously something I am doing here is working, making people better,stronger – physically and mentally – and above all else, changing people’s attitudes.
 
That same person sent me a mail next day stating that he was walking around in work literally breaking into laughter every 5 minutes thinking of all the stuff he and all the other candidates did on the beach the previous day. It was funny, he said, because never in a million years would he have dreamed he would lumber around a beach with a log weighing quite a bit, crawl in and out of the freezing cold Irish sea and do it all without even missing a heart beat, until he met me! He took an arduous but amazing experience and drew on the positive from it, despite the pain he was feeling next day and that whole week.
  
So what makes candidates want to quit, other than my Senior Chief lying down next to people eating cup-cakes and offering hot cups of coffee, and the other cadré forcing people to do things they would never in a million years dream of? What makes someone want to quit? Perhaps it’s a combination of everything I just described, but in all honesty, it’s simply a decision – they simply make the opposite decision of those that choose to stay to the bitter but glorious end.
Check out HellWeek PT on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/hellweek.pt
Check out HellWeek PT on the web at: http://www.hellweekpt.com/

Email [email protected] for more info on the next course

Equipment you will need for HellWeek PT:
Training to get ready to go to the HellWeek PT course? – check out some of the gear you may need for training and to be ready for anything.

Bates 8″ Tactical Sport Boot
Great for Rucking – Kelty MAP 3500 Military Assault Pack

Please post up comments for Sean and HellWeek PT for Part 2 of our interview.

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