SEALgrinderPT Interviews FitDeck founder — Navy SEAL Phil Black

SEALgrinderPT catches up with Phil Black – who is not only a former Navy SEAL – but was a Harvard grad and started the fitness business, FitDeck. Phil takes time to sit down with SGPT and fill us in on what he is doing these days and how FitDeck Cards can help athletes of all levels.

SGPT: Tell us about yourself and what your doing these days?

PB: My career path has been somewhat unconventional. I graduated from Yale University and went straight to Wall Street where I spent a few years as a bond trader. The money was great – the impact on my body was bad! I abandoned Wall Street and went to Officer Candidate School in Pensacola to become a commissioned Naval Officer with guaranteed orders to BUD/S. I spent almost 6 years as a SEAL Officer. I left the Teams to attend Harvard Business School for two years. After business school, I moved to San Diego and joined the San Diego City Fire Department. While working as a firefighter, I started my own business.

I founded a company called FitDeck, Inc. We design, manufacture, and market custom decks of Exercise Playing Cards called FitDecks. We have 37 titles available right now and will soon be moving all titles onto popular mobile devices (iPhone, Droid, Blackberry). I am a husband, and father of 4 young boys.

SGPT: What BUD/S class did you go through?

PB: Class 203.

SGPT: What was the hardest part of BUD/S for you?

PB: Staying healthy. 6 months is a long time to go without an injury, sickness, personal problem, etc. Thankfully, I made it through the first time with just some minor bumps and bruises.

SGPT: If you were going through BUDS again what kinds of training and conditioning would you be doing?
PB: I would do a lot of endurance work, along with short bursts of anaerobic circuits. Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, I would work up to a lot of deep sand running in wet boots. I would also make sure you’re comfortable with distance ocean swims with fins and wetsuits.

SGPT: you are a tall athlete. Did that help or hurt you going through BUDS?

PB: 80% of the time is was a hindrance. Obviously, at 6’7” I’m a big target, not only for the bad guys, but for BUD/S Instructors looking for something to focus on. I could never hide or fade into the background. Luckily, I was an Officer and my job was to lead and not just be a “gray man”. Either way, I was a ripe target. There were a few “height-advantaged” stations on the obstacle course where a longer reach may have been an advantage.

SGPT: How important do you think the mental side is when going through BUDS?

PB: It depends on how fit you are. If you are in excellent shape, then the mental side is about 90% of the battle. If you are not in good shape, then you will never get past the physical demands to even reach the depths of the mental challenges.

SGPT: Tell us about your time in the Teams.

PB:I had a terrific time. I spent a majority of my time at SEAL Team IV. I also did a SBU deployment as a boat detachment commander to the Mediterranean Sea. My last year in the Teams I spent as the Dive Phase Officer at BUD/S.

SGPT: You started the company FitDeck. Can you tell us that?

PB: FitDeck, Inc. creates custom decks of Exercise Playing Cards that make exercises more simple, convenient and fun. Our first title “FitDeck Bodyweight” was developed to simulate the types of exercises that SEAL trainees do on the grinder. Shuffle the cards and pick a card at random. It is just like what happens when you are on the grinder at BUD/S and one of the instructors starts barking out exercises. You never knew what was coming next or how long the workout would last. You just did what you were told. Same thing with FitDeck Bodyweight. Just flip a card and do what it says – minus the cold water, sand, and screaming instructors. We’ve since developed 37 FitDeck titles that include FitDeck Navy SEAL, Combat Sports, etc. With over 250,000 FitDecks sold, we are well on our way to our goal of 1 million FitDecks sold.

SGPT: What is a good FitDeck card workout that a potential Special Forces athlete could undertake?

PB:There are hundreds of workouts that would be perfect for a potential Special Forces athlete. Before going into a specific workout, the titles that would be most appropriate would include: FitDeck Bodyweight, FitDeck Navy SEAL, FitDeck Kettlebell, FitDeck TRX, FitDeck Combat Sports, FitDeck Stairs, FitDeck Core Blast. Many of these titles require no equipment, however, in an ideal world, here’s a workout that requires (1) Pull Up bar (2) stairs (3) kettlebell (4) running area. I would place FitDeck Bodyweight, Kettlebell, and Navy SEAL next to one another and follow the following tasks:

warm up and stretch
1/4 mile run (moderate pace)
pick 2 random cards from FitDeck Bodyweight and perform them
pick 1 random card from FitDeck Stairs and run the stadium steps
pick 2 random cards from FitDeck Navy SEAL and perform them
1/2 mile run (moderate pace)
pick 3 random cards from FitDeck Bodyweight and perform them
pick 1 random card from FitDeck Stairs and run the stadium steps
pick 3 random cards from FitDeck Navy SEAL and perform them
3/4 mile run (moderate pace)
pick 4 random cards from FitDeck Bodyweight and perform them
pick 1 random card from FitDeck Stairs and run the stadium steps
pick 4 random cards from FitDeck Navy SEAL and perform them
1 mile run (moderate pace)
cool down and stretch

SGPT: What elements of your past training do you carry with you today?

PB: Most of what I lean on today is the mental aspect of training. My SEAL-specific technical skills have degraded, but my mental abilities have improved.

SGPT: You keep yourself in really good shape. What types of training do you do now?

PB: I continue to vary my workouts among strength, endurance, and cross-training. I still love to swim, do bodyweight workouts, and my favorite workouts always include FitDecks. Often times I will walk into a gym and look around to see what kind of equipment is available. I will then choose a few FitDecks that target those pieces of equipment (e.g. BOSU ball, dumbbells, pull up bar, TRX, kettlebells). I will take 5 or 6 random cards from each FitDeck and make a custom deck with a random assortment of exercises tied to the equipment I have available. I then shuffle the new FitDeck and start going to work. Flip a card, perform the exercise, repeat until all cards are complete. You never know what’s coming next and it always keeps it fresh.

SGPT: Are you reading any good books now?

PB: I’ve just started The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.

SGPT: Thanks for the interview Phil.

We greatly appreciate your time and service to this great country.

Phil: Good to connect with you Brad.

About the Author:

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