SURVIVING SEALFIT: Meet 3 Guys Who Might Kill Me

STACK's Brian Sabin interviews SEALFIT trainers whose backgrounds include the NFL, investment banking, and the Navy SEALs.

Well, dear readers, we're getting pretty close to the moment of truth.

Fewer than 12 days remain between now and the June SEALFIT 20X Challenge, an all-day boot camp run by current and former Navy SEALs and inspired by their Hell Week. For some reason, six months ago I thought this would be a fun way to spend a summer Sunday. (Note to self: Don't trust any of my own ideas during the holidays.)


Well, dear readers, we're getting pretty close to the moment of truth.

Fewer than 12 days remain between now and the June SEALFIT 20X Challenge, an all-day boot camp run by current and former Navy SEALs and inspired by their Hell Week. For some reason, six months ago I thought this would be a fun way to spend a summer Sunday. (Note to self: Don't trust any of my own ideas during the holidays.)

Kidding! Just kidding. After the past several months of following SEALFIT's training program—the ups, the downs, the insights—I'm actually really glad that I took on this endeavor. It's often been hard—sometimes very hard—but so are most things that are worthwhile. Just sticking to the program for this long feels like an achievement.

Besides that sense of accomplishment, SEALFIT has also introduced me (at least digitally) to some interesting and inspiring people, particularly their trainers and instructors. Some of them will likely be at the event days from now, where they hopefully won't kill me. They come from diverse backgrounds: one is a SEAL who wanted to earn his trident (the medal awarded to SEAL graduates) so badly that he went through Hell Week twice; one is a former NFL player who says SEALFIT's camps are way harder than the league; and one is a businessman and self-described "regular guy." Here are their stories, in their own words

Brad McLeod

SEALFIT - Brad McLeod

Age: 52 years young

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Known as: The former Navy SEAL who went through Hell Week twice. Also: The coach and guru behind

STACK: Not only did you go through Hell Week twice, you overcame asthma to do it. Have you ever heard of anyone else who achieved that? 

Brad McLeod: There are a handful of us who have gone through BUDS twice. It's definitely a small group.  Just being able to graduate the first time is a feat.  We had about 120 candidates start our BUDS class and only 16 graduated.  There is a very high fail rate.

After you left the SEALs, when did you begin to feel the pull toward training others? 

I have always worked helping and coaching others. During college, I worked one summer as an Outward Bound instructor and volunteered at the school's recreation program teaching climbing, caving and backpacking throughout. Eventually, I started to coach at the local climbing gym and CrossFit gym.

When and how did you get introduced to SEALFIT, and what made you want to get involved? 

I found out about SEALFIT five years ago and knew this was the program to help coach up others to a new level. The program takes a holistic approach, blending the mind, body and spirit. It is not just another workout program where you do Push-Ups and Pull-Ups. We combine weightlifting, bodyweight workouts, rucking and running with deep breathing and yoga to restore the body and mind.

When you coach an event like the 20X Challenge, what are some of the signs that someone is going to succeed or quit?

It is fairly easy to spot a potential quitter. I look at body language first. If their shoulders are drooped, [if they're] looking at the ground or dragging their feet, it's a good sign the person is a potential quitter. I also listen for verbal cues, like "I can't do this" or "I am holding everyone back."

A person who's equally beat down but wants to stay the course may also be dragging their feet. But he or she will say, "I can do this" and try to keep his or her chin up and shoulders squared.

What's the most interesting thing you've learned from your work with SEALFIT?

That we truly are capable of far more than we believe.  I use that in my own life when I feel I am slacking. Occasionally, we get to work next to military veterans who come back from war and may be missing a limb. They show us that people have so much life inside themselves, and that you should spend every minute being positive and helping others. It pushes me to be a better man.

What's your favorite type of workout, and what's your least favorite?

My favorite is a super long endurance mountain bike ride or run. I like those moments when I can get "in the zone" and my mind becomes really creative.

My least favorite would have to be doing a minute at 100-percent effort on the dyne. It freakin' hurts

Any advice you can offer to somebody who's about to take on a SEALFIT event? 

Believe in yourself. That is the foundation for all success. If you don't believe in yourself, you can have followed the best workout program and have the best gear in the world, but your mind will shut down. If you have self-confidence, you can have very little training and hand-me-down gear but still succeed.

Derek Price

SEALFIT - Derek Price

Age: 42

Location: Tempe, Arizona

Known as: An Iowa Hawkeye turned tight end for the Detroit Lions. After his NFL career was cut short by a neck injury, Price became a chiropractor, Ironman triathlete, and eventually a SEALFIT trainer—after he was named Honor Man (top trainee) at Kokoro 17.

STACK: Tell me about your journey from the NFL to SEALFIT.

Derek Price: I spent one complete season in the NFL. After signing a second-year contract, it was discovered that I had a broken neck, which required career-ending surgery. From there I went to school to become a chiropractor.

My endurance career began when I served as the medical director for a large-scale marathon. I was looking at the faces of those athletes, seeing that sense of accomplishment they had, and realized that I missed having that feeling. So without knowing how to swim for distance or even owning a bike, I signed up for an Ironman. I've since completed every triathlon I ever started, including five Ironman races, a dozen half-Ironmans and countless shorter races.

Throughout my endurance career I always stayed in the weight room, following a CrossFit model with my training. My endurance training for an Ironman is less than eight hours per week. I hit the gym really hard, and that makes race day easy. Within the realm of CrossFit, I have been fortunate enough to run and organize numerous large-scale events and have worked with CrossFit as an emcee at multiple regional events.

How did you get introduced to SEALFIT, and what appealed to you about it?

I found SEALFIT online one night while I was searching for a new challenge. It appealed to me as something that might be hard, and it looked cool, so I signed up. I surely didn't know what I was getting myself into. I thought [Kokoro] was going to be a "fantasy camp" of sorts. Little did I know that it was a kick straight to the groin!

You've said completing Kokoro was the hardest thing you've ever done, but being named Honor Man indicates that you did pretty well. 

[Being named] Honor Man was a surprise. I didn't know there was such an award to begin with. The biggest honor of being named Honor Man is that it is a unanimous vote by all the coaches. The award isn't given to the biggest, fastest or most physically fit person at the camp. It's awarded to somebody who they feel met and exceeded normal expectations.

And yes, Kokoro was the single most difficult program I have ever been a part of. I mean, an Ironman takes 12 hours or so. Kokoro is 50 hours of moving forward at a faster, harder pace. So, more or less, Kokoro is like doing four Ironmans back-to-back.

What's your favorite type of workout, and what's your least favorite?

My favorite is the PRICE workout. Coach Divine posted on the SEALFIT website years ago a workout titled "PRICE." I see it as an honor to have him name a workout after me. Outside of that, I really appreciate the gravity behind "Murph." It's a fairly common workout throughout the CrossFit community, but I feel a special connection to it because of the company I keep at those camps. The SEALs' personal sacrifice really becomes visible when they order that workout to be performed. It ALWAYS starts with reading the citation prior to the workout. It sets the mood and seriousness of what these brave men do to keep us free.

Workouts I don't like? Tough one. If it sucks, I like it.

Any advice you can offer to somebody who's about to take on a SEALFIT event? 

Nobody cares how much you bench at SEALFIT. How hard can you and how long can you go, and how do you react when everything goes wrong?

Go for a run and cut your shoelaces halfway through. Yeah, it sucks. It's supposed to suck. Learn to deal with it. Breathe, make a plan and proceed.

In fact, "breathe" is the single biggest piece of advice I could offer anybody. When everything goes crazy—and it will—stop and breathe. Compose yourself and make a decision.

Just breathe, man.

David Bork

SEALFIT - David Bork

Age: 42

Location: Encinitas, California

Known as: An investment banker, SEALFIT coach and Kokoro 27 graduate, husband and father of two children (ages 10 and 8)

STACK: Tell me a little bit about your backstory.

David Bork: I'm a regular guy. I worked a corporate job for eight years after college and then started my own company in 2003. My partner and I worked hard, had some luck and grew our company for five years until we sold it in 2008. Then I took some time off, started a mobile app company that was a miserable failure, but also invested in some franchises. I've made a ton of mistakes and had some big wins over the years, but anyone who goes out and starts a company will tell you that's the way it goes.

Becoming a CrossFit and SEALFIT coach has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It's so different from success in business. To coach someone so that they're able to climb a rope for the first time, or to set personal best on a lift like the Clean and Jerk is a tremendous experience. I thoroughly enjoy coaching the athletes who come to our facility and I'm glad to play a small part in their success.

How did you get introduced to SEALFIT?

I was driving by the facility one day and saw a sign that said, "8-Week Challenge. Guaranteed Results."

I was hooked from day one. The atmosphere, coaching, training methodology and the community really struck a chord with me. It's such a positive environment that I couldn't stay away. And I knew that if I didn't show up, my phone would be blowing up with "where are you?" text messages.

Tell me about your experience at Kokoro.

I graduated from Kokoro 27 in March 2013.  The experience was fantastic—but not just the 50 hours. It was really the six months of training with my teammates leading up to the event.

I trained every day with a team that included Commander [Mark] Divine. We followed SEALFIT's OPWOD programming [the most intense workout series], and added in rucks of various lengths over different terrains once or twice per week.

The event itself was literally one foot in front of the other. We just kept going no matter what was thrown at us. What else was I going to do, quit? No way.

What's your favorite type of workout, and what's your least favorite?

I love partner workouts where you are encouraging teammates and competing against others.  It brings out the absolute best performance in everyone.

My favorite CrossFit workout is Fran or Karen.  I like doing Thrusters and Wall-Balls.

The most miserable workout I ever did was aptly named "Divine," and it was created by some Irish guys we know. It's the ugliness of Curtis P's, Man-Makers and running, all with a weight vest.

What have you learned from your training with SEALFIT?

As Commander Divine says, you're 20 times more capable than you think you are. Stop thinking you can't do something and figure out how you're going to accomplish your goals.

Any advice you can offer to somebody who's about to take on a SEALFIT event? 

Show up. Put out. Never quit.

Related Posts: 

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 1: What Happened When a Regular Guy Tried to Train Like a Navy SEAL

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 2: 3 Ways SEAL-Style Workouts Change Your Life

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 3: The World's Hardest Workout Has a Ridiculous Name

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 4: Inside the Devil's Backpack: The Only 5 Things You Need to Get A Hellishly Hard Workout Anywhere

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 5: How Not to Hurt Yourself (Like I Did)

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 6: Finding the Silver Lining

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 7: The Question That Tells You Whether You'll Succeed

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 8: Meet 3 Guys Who Might Kill Me

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 9: The Dress Rehearsal

SURVIVING SEALFIT, part 10: What a SEALFIT 20X Challenge is REALLY Like



STACK Executive Editor Brian Sabin is legitimately getting nervous that the SEALFIT 20X Challenge he's been preparing for throughout the SURVIVING SEALFIT series is just around the corner. Or maybe the feeling is excitement? Excitement sounds better. Let's go with that. Next week, he'll write one more post about his quest to reach elite military-grade fitness, which hopefully won't involve dry heaving. Between now and then, you'll find daily updates on his progress Twitter and Google Plus


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