You’ve heard it before, “Pain is weakness leaving the body”. To the Marines, this is not just a slogan it’s a mindset. While this phrase is true to a certain extent, knowing when pain is warning you of potential injury is important. I’ll provide some helpful information to help you better understand when to push your psychological threshold and when to listen to your physiological threshold to help maximize your PT and reduce your risk of injury.
Mental weakness is the top factor in special operations failures and dropouts. Each special operations program has an entrance PT test ensuring each candidate meets the minimum requirements to begin training and an ongoing program to build your physical endurance. By this reasoning, each candidate has a fair opportunity from the physiological standpoint on day one. Enter the psychological factor and you separate the weak from the strong and the determined from the undedicated. You will get stronger and advance if you mentally apply yourself and push yourself to the limits, often beyond.
Your mind is many times stronger than your body and learning how to tap into this power plant will allow you to push your body to new limits. The little voice telling you to quit is your mental weakness and the only thing stronger than mental weakness is dedication and a refusal to quit. When you think you’re done, do a few more reps to prove you’re not. Mental weakness is your biggest obstacle no matter if you’re a special operations candidate or an individual wanting to increase their level of fitness. If you don’t want it, you won’t get it, guaranteed. Your ability to push through your mental weakness will aid you in pushing through superficial aches and pains to unleash your body’s full potential.
Physiological pain is to be expected when entering a strenuous program such as BUD/S or similar programs as well as increasing your levels of intensity in your personal fitness program. Knowing when your physiological pain becomes a warning of potential injury is key. Examples of expected pain are joint stiffness/pain, localized & generalized muscle aches/pains and chafing or blistering. Examples of warning pain are sharp, shooting pains in your bones/joints, redness and swelling associated with the pain, immobility associated with pain and persistent, distracting pains anywhere in the body as these may be signs of injury or impending injury.
If your body is conditioned and your mind is strong, your risk for injury is generally very low but there are a few additional ways to combat risk.
-Staying hydrated reduces your risk of heat injury and renal damage. Using a urine color guide is a great way to keep track of your hydration level. Don’t forget to incorporate salts to avoid hyponatremia.
-Stretching and joint support reduces your risk of stress injuries caused by overuse or increased stress.
-Understanding your goals and creating a realistic program to achieve them in a realistic timeframe.
-Understanding your body and pushing through the minor pain while backing off when your body is warning you.
My final tips for mental strength are eliminating such words from your vocabulary as “can’t, fail, quit, weak” and having a reason to succeed. Navy SEALs are really cool, but wanting to be really cool isn’t a winning reason to succeed. Dig deep, find your drive and don’t back off once your start.
Doc G out!
BIO: Shawn Goodwin, HM2 Navy Corpsman of 7 years with multiple deployments in both hostile and non-hostile zones. Deployed ISO 5th Group SF & 98th Division “Blacksheep” as medical augment.
Duty stations include:
-II MEF CBIRF (ISO Presidential Operations)
-Guantanamo Bay Cuba ISO HUMINT / Detainee Ops
-Command Fitness Leader