Navy SEAL Life Lessons & The SEALFit 20 X Challenge


The year was 1993. I was 17 years old and had to wrestle off for the opportunity to wrestle in the districts my senior year. I clearly remember that quickly into the match I had a feeling of rapid fatigue in my muscles and lungs.

I remember being frightened as fear quickly crept into my thoughts about how my body felt.

I shut down and felt scared. I lost that wrestle off. I remember packing up my wrestling locker into a black garbage bag, and it was symbolic of a body bag at the time. It was the end of a chapter in my life. A VERY painful chapter.

I was an inexperienced wrestler who had a LOT of experience training the wrong way. The wrong training and the inexperience didn't help me, but, it DID fuel me to become the man I am today.

I drove home from school after emptying my locker, arrived home and immediately changed my clothes and drove straight to the gym. I had a VERY strong understanding of commitment. I did NOT, however, understand at all, the power of the mind and what it meant to truly be, "Mentally Tough".

That final high school wrestling match of mine haunted me for years..... decades, to be honest.... At the age of 36, I feel like I finally redeemed myself. As each year passed from age 17 and on, I always found ways to test myself both physically and mentally.

I competed in many physical / combative types of challenges but none of them left me feeling like I avenged myself and that I was truly "tough".


The opportunity to go through a 12 hour challenge led by Navy SEALs would allow me to to TRULY test myself beyond the physical and mental, but also, the spiritual. I had other things to prove as well:

- I wanted to prove to my family that I could handle adversity and still thrive, never backing down

- I wanted to prove to my friends that I would be ready to lead, ready to follow and would NEVER quit on them. If they needed me to carry them on my back, I was ready to go!

- As a Coach to my athletes at The Underground Strength Gym & the many Underground Strength Nation fans around the world, I am ALWAYS seeking to be one who walks the talk & leads from the front. None of this arm chair guru bull shyt.

Without giving away too many specifics and too many details about WHAT we did (I don't wanna spoil this for anyone who will take this challenge in the future) I am gonna give you some insights as to how I felt going through the challenge. I have been adding in depth and very detailed videos regarding the lessons learned inside The Underground Strength Academy.

As always, I am pushing my commitment to those who show their own commitment, so members will see more of me and that is completely fair.

I also want to warn you, as this challenge has made me extremely emotional since it began and even afterwards. Simple things like looking at the pictures, answering questions about what got me through the tough times, etc have often brought me to tears. My memory of the events are scattered and the emotions that come with writing about this challenge will likely lead to a non-chronological order of events being explained here.

You've been warned....

We began our challenge at 6 AM. I picked up both Coaches around 5:20 AM from their hotel and then took a ride to the local 24 hr supermarket to stock up on a boat load of Gatorade and water to make sure my team and I were fully prepared for the challenge ahead of us. It was a GOOD thing I picked up all that Gatorade because we drank it ALL.

Our bodies were cramping right around the 3rd or 4th hour. I never really liked Gatorade, but holy shyt did I LOVE Gatorade on this day.

When the clock hit 6 AM our Coaches flipped the switch on us. Before 6 AM we had a few laughs and giggles. There was no easing into the challenge. Both Coaches are former Navy SEALs, but I must say, I don't agree with this "former" or "Ex" verbiage. These guys NEVER lose that edge. Both of these SEALs are actually close friends of mine but no one woulda known that once 6 AM rolled up.

I was a bit concerned with how I would react from the whistle as only several weeks prior, Coach McLeod made a visit to NJ and took us through a short 1.5 hr workout on the beach and I had a very tough time. That tough time f**ed with my head a little bit but my buddies helped me clear my head and erase the negativity from that let down. I assumed my challenge that day was some jet lag, lack of sleep and good ol' flying pills that made me feel like shit and luckily, I was right. Those pills DO make you feel like a train wreck. Regardless, who needs excuses, right? RIGHT.


6 AM kicked off and so did the Navy SEAL Challenge.

I started off strong AND confident. As soon as I began moving and felt strong and fast, my confidence grew with each passing moment. I quickly took the focus on keeping together with my buddies, taking the focus off of me. I understand this was a team challenge and although I didn't know how, what, when and where we would need to work together, I encouraged everyone as we began running, sprinting, banging out push ups and then a favorite of mine, no handed burpees.

After 3 knee surgeries, those no handed burpees began to suck... BIG time. HOOYAH. ha ha

It was GREAT to have confidence. It's funny how I was still trying to defeat that OLD inner demon of mine from the early 1990's.  The past is the past, it doesn't exist, I had let it go. I was not gonna hang on to the bad day I had a few short weeks prior during our beach workout, and I sure as hell was DONE with the negative thoughts that were once able to control me during my teenage years. The only thing that exists is NOW. I didn't hang on to the fact that I had a shitty day and that was a HUGE step for me.

As a side note, I don't ever wanna come across as some dick head that lives a perfect life. I DO have tough times and tough days. But, I have friends, a loving family and my trained mind to help push me over and above these speed bumps that come with LIFE.

When I was younger, I had an almost impossible time letting go of the past, especially if the past was a negative situation. I was fired up and excited to have experienced my evolution and growth while IN the midst of this challenge.

Going into the challenge I KNEW I was going to endure more pain in my life than ever before. I also KNEW I was NOT going to QUIT. I simply accepted the fact that it would be hard while also being fully committed to completing our challenge and being ready at all times to be there for my buddies. Once you remove the word "Quit" from your thoughts and language, I am telling you, you become an unstoppable force!

I had quit on myself and others in my life when times were tough in the past. It was something that haunted me and I wanted to rid myself of those demons. In the past, I had NO knowledge of how to be strong in mind, body & spirit, especially when the shyt hits the fan.

This time around, it was different. Not only was I physically prepared the RIGHT way, training in a way to match the needs of what would happen during the challenge, but most importantly, I was mentally prepared along with a TEAM of friends that were all ready to lead, ready to follow and refused to quit.

That is a rarity nowadays. I see many people who claim to care or claim to be a friend yet they quit and point the finger when the going gets tough. I have no time or place for these people and neither should you. Live The Code, Mother F**ers!!

I began my intrigue with the training of SEALs back when I was a freshman in college and had just turned 18. Yes, I entered college at the age of 17, younger than all others. Having a young mind, a young body, a young spirit, ALL of which were inexperienced & untrained to face hardships makes it difficult to KNOW how to WIN and overcome obstacles at all times.

When I was young, I NEVER KNEW I was going to WIN. Instead, I always questioned why things were so difficult, why things were so hard for me, etc. That type of thinking certainly squashed my chances of success. But I am grateful for my tough times in my past for they have helped drive me to who I am and what I do today.

Through this training, leading up to our SEALFit 20 X Challenge, I learned to be grateful for the challenges and the tough times of the past, the present and the future... because these challenges made me into a STRONGER Man, in all senses: physical, mental & spiritual.

As we went through our challenge, hour after passing hour, my body began to cramp in places I never had felt before. I asked one of our Coaches, Quatro Deuce, if it's OK for my legs to be cramping so intensely, my triceps to be frozen in extension and my abs to cramp.....

When he told me it's OK, that we can do this, I trusted him... fully... and I let go of any of the interference that the cramping & muscle spasms were causing me, and began to laugh at the pain. I no longer saw it as pain. I simply enjoyed it. Simple.

And, back in the day, without the advantage of the internet, I was only able to learn from a small few, where as today, we have the opportunity to learn from people all around the world. I took advantage of this opportunity and learned from other SEALs as well as other men who have been through challenges within The SEALFit Academy.

As our challenge continued onward and upward, we traveled from the streets to the beach and back... several times. The running in and out of the water changed the game, as our pants got heavy, pockets filled with sand, our boots became water logged.... your boots literally become 10 + lb weights.

When you have to run and sprint, squat and lunge, carry, push and pull.... trust me, your legs begin to wonder what the f**k is going on, but your mind begins to move onto auto pilot. Your Navy SEAL Coaches tell you to do something, you find a way to do it. Your body gets it done. One task after another... and another.... and another.

Around our 3rd or 4th hour in (it felt that long at least, who knows, we didn't have watches on) we had a chance to sit down as Coach McLeod spoke to us about the 5 mountains. We were able to eat our protein bars or whatever we had. I ate a cliff bar, which was soaked in salt water to add to the taste, ha ha. We all drank a shyt ton of Gatorade and water.

Our Coaches were extremely dialed in. They knew when we had to stop for electrolytes and they knew when we would cramp and go into shock from drinking too much Gatorade and then had to flush our system with water.

I focused on listening to every word our Navy SEAL Coaches instructed us to do. If they told us to laugh, smile, enjoy the sun and not think about the pain, I held onto those words and kept the ball rolling.

It was critical to hold onto these life lessons because when you've got nothing but a bunch of Gatorade and a Cliff bar in your stomach after 6 or 7 hours of intense training your body starts to do some strange things. I remember being told we would do MURPH as our final challenge before lunch.

Walking was brutally painful as my inner thighs and lower quads were cramping and going into spasms I wasn't sure I could even stand. MURPH is an emotional workout for me, and, to make it more emotional, Quatro Deuce & Coach McLeod had just lost a SEAL buddy only 2 days prior.

We were to perform this workout balls to the wall in honor of Murph and all other fallen SEALs. I had to take a piss BIG time but was afraid to be the only guy to ask such a question. So, when the mile run kicked off, I got my body moving and realized that jogging felt BETTER than walking.

Quatro Deuce was RIGHT, we COULD do this and we would be fine. I was one of the last guys in the run, considered a "Goon Squad" runner. When I reached the half mile mark my legs were freaking out BIG time. I pissed in my pants and started heading back to the gym. My main focus was to get to the water sprinklers that I had just passed by before they might get shut off.

I got to the water sprinklers and got "washed off" mainly out of fear that Quatro Deuce & Coach McLeod would be standing near me during the calisthenics portion of Murph and shouting out, "What the hell smells like piss around here!!??"

I laughed at that thought and I laughed at the pain.

I also went into "hyper-focus" during Murph. I moved to the back of the gym and banged out set after of pull ups, push ups and squats. The pull ups and push ups are my strong suit. I was worried though, because my triceps were in such crazy spasms I wondered if I'd even be able to perform push ups at all, let alone 200 push ups.

Once again, Quatro Deuce was right, "you can do this, you'll be fine, we'll show you that you guys can work through this." When I would squat my eyes gazed straight ahead, out the door of the gym. I had only 2 things going on at that time. I had my daughter's voice in my head, cheering me on, telling me I can do it, telling me how strong I was.

I felt like I wanted to cry during most of Murph. Not because of pain, but because of the emotions that were taking over my body. I also heard Coach McLeod as he seemed to catch me every time I finished one exercise, he got me to focus on having me put my eyes on the pull up bar and to begin pulling, then pushing, then squatting.

My left lower leg and left knee were going through some major hell, for some reason. I had NO clue WTF was going on but man, it felt like it was going broke on me. It hurt like hell and I began to laugh at it. I never once thought about taking off my ruck sack, where as the time before, when I did Murph with a ruck, I had to remove my ruck every 5 rounds to find a way to breathe.

I was breathing and moving, breathing and moving.

I kept setting mini goals for myself. Get to round 5.... round 10.... 15..... almost done... 20! BOOM!

The final mile run was hilarious. My legs were bugging out on me and I caught myself singing a Barney song in my head. You know that song, right? "I love you, you love me......" I think it was in my head because I was hearing my daughter's voice the entire time I did Murph. Once again, I began to laugh at the pain. I just found a way to find joy in everything I did - that's what our Coaches told us to do.... and it worked!

Pain just wasn't painful anymore 🙂

I finished Murph in 70 minutes flat. I was so happy when I was finished, not because I was finished with Murph, but because I was able to laugh at all the pain & discomfort. After Murph it was about 1:30 PM or so, we were able to have lunch. I had a PBnJ sandwich and a lot of Gatorade and water.

My triceps, chest and quads were in hyper spasm mode. I couldn't even stretch without one of these muscles freaking out on me. My left knee and leg were feeling strange, as best as I can describe the feeling. It was time for Log PT after lunch. We were all damn impressed with how we were able to go about 7 hours before lunch and still crank through Murph.

When Log PT began my leg was feeling it. I had heard about guys breaking bones during BUD/s and I was seriously wondering if I broke something yet had too much adrenaline and focus to feel the true pain of a broken limb. As the hours progressed from Log PT, to surf torture, to more challenges on the beach, my leg felt like it was seriously f**ed up.

In my head, I remembered watching a show on TV on BUD/S and one of the guys crawled his way to the finish line during hell week. He crawled because he had broken his leg. I knew each and every one of us was going through our own internal bumps and bruises, but visualizing that portion of BUD/S reminded me that even if my leg or foot was broken, I could still go on and finish.

Time started to go by somewhat fast. Without a watch, I saw how the sun changed, felt the different temps of the water as the air got cooler and so did the water. Here and again the leg slowed me down, and here and again, I found myself running faster than I did over 8 - 10 hrs ago. It was a matter of will, plain and simple.

Our team unity at this point was extremely high. It didn't matter who was faster or slower, it mattered that we carried one another and helped one another any which way they needed. We all pulled together stronger than we had the entire day. We were on the beach, and the crowd was quite large, hovering around us, which raised the pressure even more.

People thought we were in the military and they were cheering us on for training so hard, as if we were the men who would be protecting them during the tough times. I take the men & women of the military with GREAT respect, because I know that when I hug my kids good night and know we can go to sleep safely at night, I know it's because they protect us and fight the battles that myself and others never volunteered to sign up for.

The end of the challenge had us go on a "mission". I was quickly in the back, Goon Squad runner again. My leg was f**ing killing me, I was limping as I ran but refused to quit. Any time we had to crawl I was unable to push off that leg so I would pull myself with my upper body. Each time, my buddies had to come back and carry me.

I didn't let that f**k with my head, because I was gonna be ready to go if my own strength was called upon, luckily, it was. We had a large obstacle to climb up, on and over. I told the guys I would go last, and I let all the guys step on me, stand on me and use me any which way they can to get up and over that obstacle.

I still have the scars on my knuckles and wrist from this obstacle. I hope these scars never disappear, because I felt really damn good about telling my buddies to stand on me to get onto the obstacle.

When we headed back, I was struggling with that dumb ass leg. Every step hurt. Near the end, Quatro Deuce turned and said a few small words to me. QD never says a LOT, but when he does say something to you, it's like you are learning a life lesson, and you never forget his words. NEVER.

I've had QD say things to me over dinner or in conversation, one sentence, and I never forget his advice and his words. So here I was, focused on finishing, when I REALLY should have been focused on finishing STRONG, leaving nothing in the tank.

QD asked me, "Is this how you would want your family to see you finish your run? I think you can finish stronger."

He was right. I had plenty MORE in me. I sprinted as fast as I possibly could to the finish line. What happened from there was a blur to me. I didn't know what time it was, but I did understand how to somewhat figure it out according to the sun and the water temps.

I knew we were near the finish, but, I questioned if we were truly going to be done around 6 PM, or maybe we would go into the night. From what I understood, we would be done when we were "done". I wasn't sure if we put out enough to make QD & Coach McLeod proud of us.

Coming from a 36 year old man, you might find it strange as to why I am worried about making others proud. But QD & Coach McLeod are mentors to me, great friends of mine, and, they have protected my family when I never even knew what a Navy SEAL was. It was important to me that I show them everything I had as some form of saying, "Thank YOU!"

We went back to Log PT, memorizing poems and pushing ourselves aggressively. We were on auto pilot, doing whatever they told us to do, pushing with all we had. The poems were resonating with me. They were resonating with ALL of us. I saw the eyes of my buddies when they read their part of each poem, I heard their voices. We were all fired up.

That final stretch of Log PT was brutal. Our shoulders were shot. We were struggling BIG time to lock our arms overhead but as recited the poem we got stronger. I laughed as I though to myself, "So much for the science behind fatigue, CNS, post workout meals and bla, bla, bla".

Here we were, 12 hours 15 minutes into our training, I had one PBnJ sandwich and endless Gatorade and Water filled up in my belly and we were all still going. The mind allowed us to do it. Our buddies allowed us to do things even better. Our Navy SEAL Coaches allowed us to go above and beyond anything we once thought was impossible.

When I heard that our class was secure, I wasn't sure it was the truth. Neither did my buddies, ha ha, we froze with that log over our head and didn't know what to do next. We had spent half a day going from one thing to the next, without thinking too much, just DOing.

I thought I was gonna cry when it was all over, but I didn't have tears. I was just so f**ing happy and proud of what we had done together. I was smiling to myself, because I had just removed myself of my demons that had laid inside of me since I had begun wrestling at the age of 13, struggling to understand the mind, how to master the mind, harness the power of the mind.....

It was like I was cleansed, or something..... I imagined my wife and kids watching the final stretch of our challenge, and when it was all over, they were smiling and proud of me.

I redeemed myself after letting a few friends down, and I gave them, myself, my family and my Coaches everything I had from my heart, fist & soul.

I felt like I could now walk tall and proud and that I KNEW that now, nothing was impossible, too hard, too tough or too challenging. We hopped in the truck and got a ride back to Mike's Gym, a stomping ground where we prepared countless days for this challenge.

We got showered up and went out to eat. My leg was killing me, as I limped along that night. I was cold as hell from losing body temp through the challenge. I didn't care though, I felt like I was a new man and nothing could take that away from me.

QD told us we could train like this every day. Sounds crazy, but once again, he is right. His words always tell men how much greater we TRULY are.

I wanted to tell Coach McLeod & Quatro Deuce what they did for me, what it meant to me, and how I felt. But every time I felt I would explain to them my feelings, I felt like I was gonna cry. QD told me it's OK to cry, and that a real man sometimes has to cry and just let his emotions out.

Coach McLeod & QD helped me become the man I always WANTED to become.

In those 12 hrs and 15 minutes, I became a better friend, a better father, a better husband, a better Coach and overall, a better MAN. No one can ever take that away from me or my buddies. We will remember this day for the rest of our lives. I'll be indebted to Quatro Deuce and Coach McLeod for the rest of my life.

I hope you enjoyed this long and windy memory of my time through our SEALFit 20 X Challenge. These are my own memories and feelings, so I don't expect or know exactly what my buddies felt. I can't thank them enough, as they carried me MANY times, and as true friends do, they never asked for anything in return.


SEALFit 20 X Challenge Class # 1, Secure! HOOYAH!


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22 Responses

  1. Kory Knowles says:

    Awesome Job Zach Even Esh This brings back so many memories from my own Hell Week and my journey.

    What resonated with me was the language you used while talking to yourself throughout this challenge. We are unbreakable if we choose to be.

    How is your leg feeling?

    1. Kory Knowles!!! Thnx, Brutha!!! My leg was hell that night and the next day. After that it slowly improved and by Wednesday as I was full swing into training.

      YES, the language and our thoughts dictated everything we did and how we performed! It was truly amazing!!!

      Kory, also, just wanna say how much your daily words inspire me and how honored I am that you read my Blog. That means a LOT to me, brutha!

      The workouts you sent me pushed me training to the next level! I am forever grateful, brutha!

  2. You da man Z. Inspiring stuff. The whole idea of being capable of 20x more than you think it truly awesome. Mindset is key.


    1. Gags – YOU inspire me, brutha!!! REALLY respect what you are doing, the transformation and your commitment! LOVE it, bro! You’re a GREAT friend and a GREAT Coach!!

  3. Awesome job Zach! Thanks for the story and the inspiration to be mentally tough in life.

    1. Andrei, it is my mission, to help other men ACHIEVE!

  4. martin (beastyboy) says:

    such an emotive and honest account of what you went through. You answered questions about this on The Underground but in all honesty your written account is just so much more powerful.
    Stay true to the code bro!

    1. Thnx, Brutha! As I typed the emotions came out…. actually, when filming for Inner Circle I cried a LOT and had a breakdown, the video woulda been impossible to watch, it was tough.

  5. Very inspiring Zach. Congratulations on your massive achievement. It’s inspiring to me in a sense that I hope to one day build myself up to the man I aspire to me…far beyond the status quo and far beyond what’s expected of me.

    1. Drew, mini goals, brutha, every day, do ONE thing that brings you to the goal, then, when you achieve the goal, raise the bar… again!

  6. Good stuff, Zach.
    Very insightful, emotional and sincere. A true life challenge.
    If you stop challenging yourself you stop growing and if you stop growing as a human being you atrophy – sooner or later.
    Never stop growing – challenge life physical, mental or spiritual. That must be the message. Thx again for the words.

    1. Sven, thank you, bro, without growth, I equate it to death!

  7. good work! this is an inspiration for me here in Brazil … for business and my training too! congratulations!

    1. Moises, thanks, brutha, these challenges make U a better person on ALL fronts!

  8. You are one of the most influential people for me and have been so for over the past year. You sir are a freakin kick ass BEAST.

    1. Janila, I will not let you down, thank you for the kind words, brutha, I will keep pushing and rising above!

  9. Good job Zach! You are an inspiration to the rest of us.

  10. Great read Zach and awesome commitment as well as a job well done. Can’t wait to meet you Oct 19th and 20th. I’m stoked.

  11. Dustin M. says:


    This is one of the best reads I’ve read in a long time. It was straight from the heart, the heart of a MAN. As everybody else said, it was very inspirational and I would certainly love to rise to the challenge someday.

    We all have the capability of becoming 20x the man we are! I truly enjoyed this and looking forward to the evolution of your mindset and training now that you’ve blown though the walls of so-called bullshit training rules.

    As you said once before….”get comfortable being uncomfortable”. When in doubt…laugh at your pain and sing Barney songs to keep you going. 🙂 HAHA! That really made me laugh, dude. As a matter of fact, I was recently going through a personal battle with a keg while training and all of a sudden i swear—i was singing “lovin’ you is easy, because you’re beautiful…” to a fkin’ keg. Hah! The mind does crazy things.

    One thing that i admired, was not only the toughness of all of you—but the fact ya’ll were supporting each other to never quit. The Underground represents. By the way, badass logo up above! “Live the code!”

  12. This is by far your best post ever.
    Stay real, you keep it 100%, 24/7, 365, 366 on a leap year.
    Congrats, knew you could do it.

  13. Awesome job and inspiring feat Zach. Constantly keeping the mind occupied with self-suggestions helps one to focus and complete this challenging task. Thanks for sharing this experience.

  14. Whoaa.. well done Zach and what an amazing story this is. I’d really like to do that because like you, I have let people down and most definitely let myself down on plenty occassions. Be it not following through with my goals or not doing that extra rep/set even if I knew I had it in me. I just have a knack for quitting just before I reach my limits. In fact, I don;t really know what my limits are as I never really reach them.

    I did a stint of German Volume Training and that showed me flashes of what I was capable of. It was the toughest thing I’d ever gone through and I just can’t imagine how going through 12 hours of brutality can even begin to feel like.

    I can see how this can be liberating. I’d like to do this at some point in my life. But for now, your post has inspired me to conquer lesser personal battles.. because there really are no excuses.

    Thanks for the story.

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