August 30, 2014
Warning: Kokoro constantly changes. Your exact experience may differ from what you read in this 3 part series. So be prepared for curveballs. I am happy to hop on a personal consult with you if you want any one-on-one coaching. Click here if you want consulting or coaching.
Welcome to Part 3 of the SEALFit series, a journey of intense physical discovery and a chance to learn how to achieve amazing feats of performance without breaking. If you missed the first two articles in this three-part series, then click here for Part 1: “What Kind Of Training, Gear And Nutrition Do You Use For SEALFit Academy And Kokoro Camp?“ and click here for Part 2: “Laughing Yoga, Hyperoxygenation, Navy SEAL Workouts And More – What To Expect And How To Prepare For the SEALFit Academy.“
In this final article, you're going to find out exactly what to expect at SEALFit Kokoro Camp and pick up plenty of tips for pushing through your own physical and mental performance barriers, including my own stories of 26 mile night hikes, surf swim torture, 450 pound giant logs and more – and 9 tips to conquer your own event, whether it's an adventure race, Ironman, marathon, cycling event, Spartan race, or anything else.
What Is Kokoro?
So what exactly is Kokoro? If you're not familiar with this intense crucible of physical and mental hardship, the video below will give you just a bit of the flavor…
And here is how Kokoro is described by SEALFit:
“SEALFIT Kokoro Camp is, quite simply, the world’s premier training camp for forging mental toughness, modeled after the US Navy SEAL Hell Week. Yes, it is brutal. No, it’s not for everyone. You may not qualify, or make it through the training. Yet, if you’re ready for this challenge…
You'll find it to be an experience that changes your life forever.
Kokoro is designed to break you down, then rebuild you into a powerful leader and consummate team player—the kind that makes everyone else better. Whatever your path in life, the confidence and wisdom gained during this 3-day intensive can multiply your performance and success by a factor that’s impossible for you to even imagine right now.
Kokoro Camp is designed to help you discover the deep power of your resilient spirit over your mind, and your mind’s control over your body. The program is skillfully executed by a cadre of SEALs with over 125 cumulative years of Special Warfare experience.
You’ll be pushed to your limits, because that’s where the biggest breakthroughs happen. That’s also why this is not “something you try”. It takes absolute, 100% commitment. You must have a deep and powerful reason for attending this camp, and be ready to pay the price for the ultimate freedom you’ll gain by the end.
Our elite team will be there—not to coddle or care for you—but to push you beyond your perceived capability limits. Just when you think you can’t go any further, we’ll help you find a source of strength, of courage and power that you’ll have access to for the rest of your life.”
One Ironman triathlete I know who completed Kokoro described it as 10 Ironman triathlons in a row with no sleep.
Woo-hoo. Sign me up.
Kokoro Day 1
Every Kokoro has a number, and this particular one was to be Kokoro 34. As you may have already read, by the time Kokoro rolled around I'd been at SEALFit for 6 days training with the SEALFit Comprehensive Academy. So I was already physically prepared with all the gear, nutrition and equipment I discuss in this post, and felt very mentally prepared too.
So on Friday morning, I simply pulled on my stylish black pants, threw on my white t-shirt, generously covered my feet in anti-friction creme, pulled on compression pants, sock liners, wool socks, slipped into my combat boots, slammed about 1000 calories of liquid fuel (chia seeds and honey from the Natural Force Nutrition I talk about in this fuel-prep post – use code BEN10 to save 10% on anything from Natural Force) and walked onto the Grinder at 11am ready to rumble.
We'd already had a brief team orientation during which I was nominated as “team leader”, meaning it would be my responsibility during Kokoro to ensure everyone was on time, in the right place, wearing the right uniform, with the right attitude. Of course, this also meant that if anyone on the team messed up, I'd be having to take the punishment that comes with that responsibility.
We all stood on the Grinder for about 10 minutes, holding our sand-filled PVC pipe “weapons”, fidgeting nervously and waiting for our orders.
Then all hell broke loose and the beatdown began. Just imagine the worst hazing experience you can think of, then throw in a bunch of mean current and ex-Navy SEALs and multiply it by twenty.
Half a dozen SEALFit coaches emerged from all directions, fully equipped with cold water hoses, loudspeakers, sirens, and plenty of attitude. Our entire team spent the next three hours getting verbally abused, thrown into ice baths while breathing through a tiny cut-off plastic water bottle, cranking out pushups with high pressure water getting sprayed into the face, doing dozens and dozens of leg levers, burpee pull-ups, team hill sprints and a chaotic assortment of other exercises – and generally getting a good old-fashioned ass-kicking as our official welcome to Kokoro.
Three hours later, the 19 men and women in our class stood in a two line formation on The Grinder – shell-shocked, panting, trembling, crying and pretty much in complete disarray.
Finally, Coach Divine spoke up:
“Why are you here?”
“Greenfield, why are you here?”
“I'm raising two amazing humans who can grow up to make this world a better place, Coach Divine, and to do that I need to become the strongest version of me.”
Hooyah. I had a big smile on my face during that entire initial beatdown, thanks to knowing my why and thanks to the “Big 4” lessons I had learned in the SEALFit Academy: breathe, use positivity, visualize and create mini-goals. So if an instructor says “100 burpees”, I would take one deep breathe, smile, visualize myself nailing every burpee perfectly, then make it a goal to do 10 sets of 10. This practice helped me enormously during the entire Kokoro experience.
Resting and listening to Commander Divine explain the importance of our “Why” didn't last long. I was jolted back into reality as an entire bucket of ice water got dumped onto my head. Then again. And again. And it was back into cold, wet burpees.
After another hour of beatup on The Grinder, Coach Lance Cummings suddenly put an end to the madness, and spread out a blanket with 26 random items for us to remember, like a bandaid, an army man, a ziptie, superglue, a tennis ball, etc.. As a team, we had 20 seconds to look at the blanket, memorize all items (this is called a KIMS exercise), then rush off with 5 minutes to prepare for a 26 mile night ruck mission that involved finding a fire tower on the top of Mt. Palomar, surveying it for size, activity, location, uniforms of those inside, timing of guard switches and equipment, and then recording and bringing that information back down the mountain.
Equipped with a rucksack, sandbag, three canteens, two lightsticks and one MRE (mine was fancy vegetarian risotto), we all piled into two vans at about 6pm for the hour long drive to the base of the recon mission, during which the coaches kept the vans at a comfortable 100 degree temperature, which meant the majority of us were mildly dehydrated before the mission even began. Just before heading up Mt. Palomar, the coaches surprised us with a break-out battle simulation on the hard, rocky desert just outside of Temecula, during which we spent nearly an hour crawling on the dirt and thorns on our bellies and forearms with our rucksacks on our back. This meant that by the time the steep ruck up the side of Mt. Palomar began, we were already bloody, dusty, hungry, dehydrated and flat-out beat up.
Then the mission actually began, with our class of 19 split into three groups of five and one group of four, spaced by 15 minute intervals and each led by a SEALFit coach to push us along the way. Within just a few minutes, I realized we were in trouble when one guy in our group began coughing, wheezing and hacking uncontrollably. Turns out he had quit smoking just a couple months ago. Bad move. For the next 11 hours, the other members of our team took care of hauling his ruck, carrying his weapon, pushing him, pulling him and guiding him to the finish.
When we finally arrived back to the van at 5:30am, he quit. Thanks dude. Another guy dropped out to, claiming he was “tired”. Huh. Most of the rest of the team who hadn't quit was hallucinating, hypoglycemic and covered in blisters. The next 30+ hours promised to be quite interesting, and I wondered how many others would drop out – internally promising myself to commit to the team and get as much positive energy as possible spread around so that the quitting didnt' happen. In the van on the way back, they pumped out classical music, turned up the heater, and tried to lull the team to sleep, so I used 10 pieces of paper to create a list of all the items in the KIIMS blanket, then handed it out to everyone in the van to memorize. We still lost a few exhausted folks who dozed off. There'd be hell to pay for later.
We finally arrived back at SEALFit around 7am, where we were immediately thrust back out onto the Grinder and informed that we had not only failed the mission (a repeating theme at SEALFit is nothing is ever “good enough”), but that we also had rested for way too long in the van ride home.
This was when they broke out the 350-450 pound logs to commence Log PT, during which we spent nearly 2 hours doing every exercise imaginable with a log, including “up log” (picking the log up to the shoulders), “down log” (bringing the log back down to the ground), log overhead press, log jumping jacks, log burpees, log benchpress, log sit-ups, and finally a very long and arduous log “neighborhood tour” of Encinitas, during which we hauled the logs up and down the streets.
By this time, people were sunburnt, had injured and cut-up shoulders from the logs, many literally had bloody nubs for heels and blister-covered toes, and hypoglycemia and dehydration were obvious. I was inwardly thankful for the lessons I'd learned from Ironman about foot care, eating and drinking, and my only complaints thus far were a nearly torn left pec muscle from the 42 minute 1000 push-up challenge just two days prior, and some very, very chapped lips (as one Coach put it during Kokoro “Greenfield, are you wearing lipstick?”)
As we replaced the logs and returned to The Grinder, we were all wondering if we'd get to eat. It was already 1:00 in the afternoon, the heat was bearing down, and we'd been heavily exercising for the past 26 hours.
If only we were so lucky. Next came “Muscle Beach”.
Muscle Beach is basically a chance for the Coaches to torture the team with more physical PT, but in a game-style format. We were told to run a half mile to the beach, jump in the ocean, cover ourselves completely in sand to make a “sugar-cookie” then run back.
We ran back to The Grinder covered in sand. Not good enough. We had to sprint back to the ocean, down the 140 stairs, back up the 140 stairs, and do it again, getting even sandier this time. Then came sandbag relay races, thruster contests, stretcher races (one person is “dead” on a medical stretcher, and the other members of the team carry them in a race), hill sprints and memory contests.
After Muscle Beach, we were hosed down on the Grinder, then tasked with emptying every barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, sandbag, weight plate and each tiny little object out of the entire US Crossfit facility, carrying it to the top of Lookout Hill a 1/4 mile away, returning everything back down the to they gym, painstakingly cleaning each object, and returning it exactly back to where we found it. I will never again complain about cleaning my home gym. By the time we completed the gym four hours later, my hands and fingers were burning and my forearm muscles felt shredded to pieces. Talk about grip training.
When we finally finished, there was (no surprise here) two vans waiting outside.
We were instructed to grab our sandbag filled rucksack, three canteens full of water or Gatorade, 1 MRE (meal replacement), 2 lightsticks, our weapon, and pile onto the vans…
…the worst was yet to come.
Lessons From Day 1
-Know your why.
-For any long effort, including rucks, Ironman, marathon, etc. it pays to use sock liners, anti-friction creme and take excellent care of your feet
-When you get a chance to fuel, fuel hard. Stay ahead of your hunger and stay ahead of your thirst if food and water availability is an unknown.
Kokoro Day 2
From Encinitas, the vans drove us about 13 miles down the road to a beach with deep sand, high cliffs and big surf breakers. Ironically, it was primarily populated with nudes throwing frisbees, playing beach volleyball, and lounging on blankets – in stark contrast to 17 Kokoro team members in white shirts, black pants and combat boots. But the last thing I was thinking about were the boobs bouncing on the naked girls playing volleyball next to us. We were immediately forced into a fast jog-run ruck down the beach in a two-line formation, all while chanting the poem “Invictus”:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
As we chanted and ran, members of our team frequently stumbled and hit the sand face-first, and some could barely hobble due to open and bleeding blisters, but we'd just pick them up, carry their rucks, handle their weapons, and keep going. This was the closest I'd been to witnessing individuals at the brink of complete physical fatigue simply survive by putting one foot in front of the other to keep moving forward, and also the closest I've been to an entire team supporting every individual, no matter what. It was heartwarming, in only the way one's heart could be warmed when shivering your ass off running down a cold California beach.
After an hour of fast rucking, as the sunset approached, we arrived at the base of a cliff and were instructed to ditch our rucksacks and weapons, and go lay down in the surf with our heads facing the ocean and our feet facing the coaches.
The surf torture was about to commence.
The Making Of A Navy Seal has a pretty good description of surf torture. It goes like this:
“We soon started surf torture. We ran into the ocean until we were chest deep in water, formed a line, and linked arms as the cold waves ran through us. Soon we began to shiver. Instructors on bullhorns spoke evenly, “Gentlemen, quit now, and you can avoid the rush later. You are only at the beginning of a very long week. It just gets colder. It just gets harder.”
“Let’s go. Out of the water!” We ran out through waist-deep water, and as we hit the beach a whistle blew: whistle drills. One blast of the whistle and we dropped to the sand. Two blasts and we began to crawl to the sound of the whistle. We crawled through the sand, still shaking from the cold, until our bodies had warmed just past the edge of hypothermia. Then, “Back in the ocean! Hit the surf!”
We fought our way through that night and through the next day. As the sunlight weakened at the beginning of the next night, the instructors ran us out to the beach. We stood there in a line, and as we watched the sun drift down, they came out on their bullhorns: “Say goodnight to the sun, gentlemen. And you men have many, many more nights to go.”
When they really wanted to torture us, they’d say, “Anybody who quits right now gets hot coffee and doughnuts. Come on, who wants a doughnut? Who wants a little coffee?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw men running for the bell.”
I'd read about it before, but never experienced surf torture until now.
As we lay there in the ocean, watching the sunset and preparing for a very long night, my entire body was shaking and trembling from the icy cold water. I could barely open my eyes because they were full of burning sand, and my mouth and ears were also filled with tiny rocks, sand, and cold water. Despite over 80 triathlons in some of the most insane open water conditions imaginable, this was the closest I'd ever come to experiencing a panicked and desperate sense of cold and impending drowning.
I have no clue how long we were in the surf. I completely ditched all expectations of ever getting out, and simply pulled the other members of my team close to stay warm, tried to focus on my breath, and imagined each breath bringing warmth into my body.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, we were pulled out of the ocean – and the rucking commenced.
Until 5am that morning, the horrible pattern of rucking and surf torture continued…
…run, stumble, fall, march…
…sprint to the ocean, get completely covered in cold water, shiver, try to block the cold, try not to panic, sit-ups, push-ups, burpees, full water submersion, waves crashing into your face…
…back out of ocean, roll in sand to make yourself into a sand covered “sugar cookie”, verbal abuse from the coaches…
…run, stumble, fall, march…
Every hour or so, a coach would monitor the class and walk down the line of attendees with a flashlight, stopping in front of each of us and shining a light in our face, searching for signs of hypothermia like extreme shivering, a slurred speech, clumsiness, or a far away look. By this point we were nearly all in that hypothermic state, but kept getting thrown back into the pitch-black ocean anyways. I just kept telling myself that they probably wouldn't let use die because of liability issues. I'm still not sure that's true, but it helped at the time.
And then somehow, after nearly 9 hours of marching, surf torture, rucking, running, stumbling, falling, hallucinating, crying and even crawling, we made it back Encinitas and stumbled into the SEALFit facilities and back onto the Grinder. It was still pitch black on the Grinder, and several more fresh and well-slept coaches were there waiting for us as we formed back into our neat lines and awaited our next orders, swaying and shaking from extreme tiredness and cold.
We were then instructed to line up next to our “swim buddy”, one other member of the team who was relatively comparable in size and stature. As I stood across from my swim buddy, Coach Mike told us to stare into our swim buddy's eyes and gather strength from them, since we were about to complete a classic Crossfit workout named after a fallen Navy SEAL “Murph” – which is comprised of a mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups and 300 squats.
As I stood there and stared into my swim buddy's eyes, he abruptly fell asleep standing up and then collapsed to the ground. So much for gathering strength from our swim buddy! I quickly picked him up and supported him on my shoulders. Then the music began and chaos ensued as we commenced Murph with bleeding hands, blistered feet and quads that felt very, very close to complete muscular failure and rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which you've broken down so much skeletal muscle that you begin to go into kidney failure. As my swim buddy struggled through the mile, I pushed him, pulled him talked him through every step. I could tell the dude simply need to eat some damn food, but there was none to be had.
The rest of Murph was a blur. We took it 3 pull-ups at a time, 5 push-ups at a time and 10 squats at a time. 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups and 300 squats later, I stood there as the beautiful sun came up and signaled the start of Day 3. Sleep and rest were still a very long way off and I kept my fingers crossed that I'd somehow be able to finish, but at this point, I was in completely unknown territory, having pushed my body and mind farther and harder than I'd ever thought possible, and a bit nervous about whether I had anything left in the tank for myself, much less the rest of my team. This was going to be tough.
Freaking Ironman triathlon is a catered walk-in-the-park compared to this thing.
Lessons From Day 2
-You can be cold for really long periods of time and bounce back just fine. If you are cold, move as much as possible to stay warm and hold a buddy close.
-One of the first signs of hypoglycemia is sleepiness. If you start to get sleepy during a hard event, resist the urge to slow down or sleep, and instead eat. Lots.
-If the volume of a distance or task is unknown, then release expectations from your mind, don't anticipate “number of reps” and simply settle in for the long haul. Expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised.
Kokoro Day 3
Still shaking and panting from Murph, our team – still 17 strong – stood on the Grinder and awaited the next orders, this time from the man in charge of the entire SEALFit operations: Commander Mark Divine (who I interviewed on this podcast)
Coach Divine informed us that we were about to head back down to the beach and break into two groups. Group 1 would be whichever group was able to keep up with a fast sprint down the beach and was to be the Assault group who would complete a special mission. Group 2 would be comprised of whoever couldn't keep up, and would be the Support group who would stay back and complete a separate mission.
A coach who was standing by mumbled quietly to me, “It pays to be a winner, Greenfield”.
I suddenly knew that it would be very, very important to make Group 1 Assault team.
It was time to dig deep.
One SEALFit coach, Coach James, an ex-pro Ironman triathlete took off, and I knew he'd be the rabbit to chase. Channeling as much inner strength as possible, I forgot the fact that I'd been pushing my body for the past 40+ hours and took off at a rapid pace, keeping him no more than a few feet ahead of me. I could hear the footsteps of the rest of the team falling behind, and within a few minutes of fast and painful sprinting in the deep beach sand, it was suddenly just me and the Coach.
I had no clue how long we'd be going, but I hung on for dear life, knowing that I need to make that Assault team. Breathe. Stride. Breathe. Stride. Block out the pain.
We finally stopped and I looked back, lungs burning. Six other team members were about a hundred yards back. The rest of the team was nowhere to be seen. I'd made the Assault team in first place, and it looked like there'd be a total of seven of us on the Assault mission. The Support team would stay back and, from what I gathered, have an extremely unpleasant experience.
The Assault team took off again, with Coach James, Coach Mike, Coach Divine and a handful of other coaches. We sprinted up beach stairs, down beach stairs, onto obstacles, off obstacles, through deep sand, across water, back into sand, all at the fastest pace we'd gone yet in Kokoro.
If this was the easy part, I shuddered at what the Support team must be doing at this point (it turned out they were subjected to a few more hours of burpees, push-ups, sit-ups, cold water conditioning and surf torture). We finally reached a tall lifeguard tower, and had to work together as a team to get everyone up into the tower without using the ladder, at which point the rescue mission was complete.
Huffing and puffing from the sprint down the beach, we were then led to a cold, dark, and horrible smelling river that ran along the inside of the beach, and Coach Divine instructed us to cross through to the other side of the river and select a large rock which represented our “will to live.”
“If you choose a rock that’s too small, then that’s how little you think of yourself and you have to live with that decision,” he said. “But if you pick one too large and you’ve made an irresponsible decision because your ego is too big, then you'll have to suffer with that rock all the way back down the beach to where we started.”
I walked across the river, which went about two feet over my head in some spots, and within 5 minutes found the perfect rock. It was a big, heavy stone about the size of three large dictionaries, and perhaps around 60 lbs. But it was also nearly perfectly square, and I knew that because it wasn't an awkward shape that I'd be able to carry it a long distance by shifting it from my chest, to my left shoulder, to my right shoulder, then back to my chest.
I picked up the rock and carried it back across the river, forced at several points to hold my breath and simply walk under the water holding my rock. Emerging from the murky river, I lined up next to the coaches and waited nearly ten minutes for the rest of the Assault team to finish the task.
One member, a strapping muscular guy covered in tattoos, came back across the river with a rock nearly half the size of mine.
Coach Divine took one look at it and smirked at him: “Switch with Greenfield.”
I was suddenly handed a rock that couldn't have weighed more than twenty pounds. Wow. Relief.
“Well played, Greenfield.” said another Coach, and we set off down the beach to quickly ruck 2 miles back to the Support team.
When we arrived back to the Support team, the other ten members of our team were buried completely in the sand and covered in seaweed, looking worn, shell-shocked and shivering uncontrollably. They looked like they'd been to hell and back while we were out on the Assault mission. Nobody was talking much, and I didn't know how long they'd been buried in the sand, but everyone seemed very crestfallen. The Assault team tried to cheer them up. The coaches told us to shut up and threw us all back into the ocean for more calisthenics, then marched us back to the Grinder.
Strangely enough, at this point, about 9am on Day 3, I had a big smile on my face. I was ready for anything. I'd caught my second wind.
Bring it on, baby.
As we stood on the Grinder once again awaiting our orders, Coach Cummings approached the team:
“Who wants breakfast?”
I had a sinking feeling that this wasn't going to end well, but raised my hand anyways, along with the rest of the team.
Coach Cummings continued:
“Follow me. I'm bringing you down to a hot pancake, eggs and bacon breakfast at the diner down the street. You will quietly enter, you will eat everything on the table, you will not leave a single scrap of food, then you will quietly file out and follow me.”
We arrived at the restaurant to sit down to pancakes that were literally the size of dinner plates, along with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and bacon. I'd been taking good care of my nutrition up to this point, and unlike many members of our team, my stomach wasn't shrunk or and wouldn't be shocked by this massive intake of calories, so I stuffed my face and polished off my plate in five minutes flat. After finishing my breakfast, I moved on to my teammates' meals. Knowing the day was far from over and we had plenty more work to do, I added ketchup, peanut butter, sugar, salt, and anything else I could grab, along with 5 enormous cups of coffee.
As my team's eyes rolled back in their head and several began to turn pale white with sickness and bloating, I ate and ate and ate. It felt fantastic. Perhaps all those years of stuffing my face with 400 calories an hour while charging down the hot highway during the Ironman marathon was paying off.
We filed outside. Two guys puked. Someone in front of me crapped their pants. Literally. It was an unmistakable, audible and smellable diaper moment.
And then we began to run. Yes, run. We ran to the base of Lookout Hill. We did an uphill backwards bear crawl. Mmm…there's that syrup. Then uphill burpee broad jumps. Anyone tasting egg? Then hill sprints. Gotta love hashbrowns twice-cooked. Then more bear crawls. And mountain climbers. And jumping jacks. And partner carries. By this time, the mid-morning heat was building and the sweat was beginning to pour, so there was more puking. More crapping of pants. People were re-tasting the pancake breakfast two, three and four times over.
Perhaps it was the extreme amounts of coffee, the smile on my face, or the fact that I metabolize food extremely quickly because I'm one skinny dude, but at this point, I felt great. I kept sprinting and pushing out the burpees until the very last minute they marched our sweaty and smelly team back to the Grinder.
Then came exactly what you want to do when you're sleep-deprived, sore, hallucinating and surrounded by a team with crap in their pants and puke on their mouths…
That's right – we arrived back to the US Crossfit facility for hot yoga led by Commander Mark Divine. As the peaceful yoga music played and the room grew warmer and warmer, I struggled to keep my eyes open. Things started getting blurry.
Warrior 1…focus. Warrior 2…focus dammit. Child's pose…keep your eyes open. Plank pose…block out that torn pec. Chair pose…c'mon quads, hang on. Warrior 3…don't pass out.
For a full hour, we continued in yoga. Time and time again, Coach Divine dropped statements like:
“You've accomplished so much, and now you're almost done…”
“Kokoro 34 is nearly secured…”
“Congratulate yourself on what you've finally finished…”
Bull-crap, I thought. I could see out of the corner of my eye that there were SEALFit coaches milling on the Grinder, I could see someone dragging a hose into an ice bath, I could see some of the locals gathering on the benches to witness yet another beat-down, and by the time we got into the final “corpse pose” of yoga, lying on our backs with our eyes closed, I knew the last thing I should be doing was sleeping.
So as our entire team lay on our backs on yoga mats with eyes closed, beginning to snore, I instead stared intensely at the ceiling, performing sharp, rapid warrior breathing (which you can read about here), clenching and unclenching my fist, and strongly fighting the urge to sleep. C'mon Greenfield, I thought, exercise that will to live! As the music came to a close, I looked around and could see nearly the entire team was sound asleep. This could get ugly, fast as a bunch of deep sleepers were suddenly roused into an intense firefight.
Because my eyes were open, I saw three doors to the yoga room quietly swing open and several Coaches sneak into the room holding megaphones. I smiled. I was ready. Bring it. Here it comes…
“BLEEP! BLEEP! BLEEP!”
The megaphones began blasting sirens and the Coaches began screaming profanities at us, “Get your motherf#$* asses back on The Grinder and get your shoes on you lazy fu#$%!”.
It was time to suffer. I dropped into a bear crawl position and hauled ass outside only to find complete chaos. Our shoes, which we'd been instructed to neatly place in front of the yoga room, were now thrown under benches, into bushes, and over fences, and the entire Grinder turned into an instant clusterf#$^ as everyone scrambled to find their gear.
I was immediately pulled aside by two coaches, “Get in the ice bath NOW, Greenfield”.
I quickly plunged into the ice bath and a Coach shoved a tiny black mask on my face, “Go under, Greenfield, and don't come up until I tap you.”
It was chaos everywhere. My teammates were running, crying, crawling, rolling, scrambling and coaches were everywhere, shouting, screaming, blasting sirens through their megaphones. I couldn't hear myself think. But I took one deep enormous breath, cleared my thoughts, smiled and went underwater.
All went silent.
By this time in Kokoro, cold water was my wheelhouse, and in my Kokoro prep, I'd spent many, many sessions in the frigid Spokane river practicing my breathholds. So time stood still as I went under. It could have been two minutes, four minutes, five minutes, I wasn't really sure. I was in this strange, deep, meditative state. But when that tap finally came on my shoulder and I sat up and gasped for precious oxygen, I knew I was suddenly invincible.
I turned around and smiled at the ice bath Coach, “Is that it? I got more, Coach.”
He stared back at me, “Give me that mask.”
I handed it to him.
“Get outta here, Greenfield.”
I stood up, and as soon as I did, Coach Will grabbed me, handed me a blindfold, and shouted over the chaos: “Put this on, Greenfield!”
I put on the blindfold and the world went dark again.
“Greenfield, you think you're such a good leader, you think you know how to lead a team, well guess what – now we're going to take away your senses and see how you do then! It's time to learn how to quit leading and start following, Greenfield.”
Interesting approach. I smiled again. I was now in a strange zone where I felt like I could literally perform forever. Kokoro wasn't over yet, but I knew inside that I'd suddenly reached my 20x potential. Nothing could bother me now.
For the next two hours, each of my teammates took turns walking me through every element of the beatdown – log balancing and falling, handstands, wall-sits, burpees, push-ups, bear crawls, tire flips and the list goes on – I did it all with zero eyesight, relying upon and trusting the instructions of my team.
Finally, after two hours, my blindfold was removed and I squinted into the blazing afternoon sun. Within ten seconds, a high pressure, icy-cold water stream was sprayed into my face, “Get a rope, Greenfield!”
I grabbed a giant battle rope and our team was divided into two, then thrown into a giant tug-of-war in the back ally behind SEALFit. My pants were already ripped to shreds, so more dragging and scraping on the textured concrete didn't seem like a big deal. Losers got ice baths, so my team pulled hard and won six tug-of-wars in a row before the coaches finally got bored and brought us back onto the Grinder.
Out came the KIMS blanket.
“Drop!” shouted Coach Cummings.
We all dropped into a push-up position.
“One by one, I want you to tell me every item that was in this blanket!”
I knew all 26 items by heart. I'd spent every last minute of the 3 hours we'd had in a van simply reciting the items over and over again. Unfortunately, we could only recite one at a time. So for nearly 30 minutes, our team stayed in that push-up position recalling the items. I kept collapsing to the ground as my left pec muscle would no longer work. I wanted it to, but at this point, it simply wouldn't cooperate.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finished the last item in the blanket – a tiny screw – and stood up, shoulders, core, chest and necks completely shot.
Coach Kim stood waiting for us…
“You failed the recon mission, and that's 250 burpees”…
…”you fell asleep on the vans and that's another 100 burpees”…
…”you failed to clean the gym properly, and that's another 150 burpees”…
…”but we're not going to do just any old burpee…”
…”split into teams and grab a log”…
Woo, boy. Here we go. The enormous 350-450 pound logs came back out and we piled them onto our backs and shoulders. Up log. Down log. Burpee. One. Up log. Down log. Burpee. Two. Up log. Down log. Burpee. You lazy f*^@s, that one didn't count you didn't do it together, start over. Up log. Down log. Burpee. One.
Things were going downhill fast. We had team members with eyes barely open, team members who literally could not raise their arms above their head, team members who could no longer take one step forward due to enormous bleeding blisters across the bottom of the entire feet. This was going to get dangerous very soon.
But Coach Kim kept going.
“You expected 50 hours? Are you kidding me? We'll stay here all night. I hope nobody has a plane flight tonight because this thing is far from over.”
Looks of desperation. I could see the morale quickly dropping. I was in this for the long haul, but was getting really concerned about someone cracking their head open with a log at this point.
“We're going to take these logs down to Swamis beach and get in the ocean. It's time for you to truly start suffering.”
Damn. I tightened my grip on the log. Here we go.
Suddenly a booming voice sounded. It was Commander Mark Divine.
“KOKORO 34 SECURED.”
Silence. Did he just really say that?
“CONGRATULATIONS, KOKORO 34 SECURED.”
We made it.
What commenced afterwards was the most tear-filled, heartfelt, exhausted, relieved and emotional group hug I've ever had. Our entire team doggy piled in on one another and smothered each other in tears, laughter, shouts of victory, hoots, hollers and celebration. We did it. We fu&^#% did it. We're done. We made it. Kokoro 34 secured.
Kokoro 34 secured.
Hooyah Kokoro 34.
Lessons From Day 3
-Your facial expression heavily dictates your emotions. Smile when the going gets tough. This also makes a tormenter less likely to enjoy tormenting you.
-The human body is versatile. You can train your gut to exercise with lots of food inside. Practice eating “on the go” occasionally during workouts if you're training for any event during which you'll need to eat.
-Before any tough task, from lifting a heavy weight to jumping into cold water, take one deep breath. You will always have time for one breath.
So that's it!
The past 8 days have been some of the most memorable of my life, and I now know that I am capable physically and mentally of 20x more than I thought before. Hopefully you now have a glimpse of how you can handle tough events that get thrown your way.
Finally, even if you don't plan on doing a Kokoro event, it's important that you also choose at least one event each year that takes you far outside your comfort zone and scares you. This will keep you constantly growing physically, mentally and emotionally, it will keep you young, and it will allow you to live a life without fear and regret. So what will your next big event be? Think about it and if you want some serious social accountability, tell us about it in the comments section below.
In the meantime, if you have signed up for a SEALFit Kokoro or Academy event and want to hop on the phone with me for a personalized one-on-one consult to get you ready physically and mentally, just click here and grab a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer.
Leave your questions, comments or feedback below, and best of luck in your next crucible, whatever it may be!