Over the past few years I’ve had the incredible opportunity to complete the 50-hour non-stop, no sleep SEALFIT Kokoro Camp, intern at it and eventually work as a coach at both the SEALFIT Academy and Kokoro Camp. It’s a real honor, especially as a civilian, to work with such a high calibre team of coaches and warrior athletes. Mark Divine has created a valuable and world class program via Unbeatable Mind and SEALFIT. Nothing like this exists anywhere else. Being a part of these transformational events is a highlight of my life and work as a coach and the moment I step off the plane in Zurich, I’m itching to travel back to Encinitas for another immersion into the positively charged atmosphere at SEALFIT HQ.
While Kokoro Coaches are excellent at delivering adversity, the end-goal is to guide athletes to a stronger version of themselves: physically, mentally and emotionally — with greater awareness and a stronger spirit. With that in mind, I’d like to share my thoughts on how to be better prepared to thrive at SEALFIT Kokoro.
The major gap I’ve seen from a coach’s perspective at a dozen+ Kokoro Camps is that many athletes underestimate the running and rucking demands. I’ve seen time and time again athletes who look amazingly fit get crushed on running and rucking evolution components. It takes much, much more than a good Fran time to thrive at Kokoro. I’ve also seen bodybuilder types unravel with simple bodyweight exercises and other functional movements with logs and sandbags and endurance athletes who are missing the functional strength and skills to carry people/logs and haul themselves up a pull-up bar or rope. The lesson is: Train hard, but also train smart for the task at hand.
On top of a large and consistent volume of CrossFit-style functional training sessions (SEALFIT training highly recommended), you’ve got to build a significant base of running and rucking (with weight) in a variety of terrains (soft sand, hard sand, surf, trail and off-trail, hills, etc.). By “significant” I mean much, much more than a few times in the weeks before Kokoro. You need months of consistent rucking and running in boots, months of progressively longer runs in running shoes and months of endurance training and testing. How many months is based on your background as an endurance athlete. CrossFit alone will not get you where you need to be to complete Kokoro with the best experience you’re capable of. Put the time in – it’s worth it.
Kokoro Camp hits the body like 4+ Ironman Triathlons, each in the most adverse of conditions. Keep this in mind: triathletes will spend 6-12+ months training for an Ironman, prioritizing their entire lives around it (often, obsessively so). I’ve finished 5 Ironmans, including Kona, and coached triathletes to dozens and dozens more. I understand the prep and obessive-compulsive pre-race mindset well. I often learn though that athletes who struggle at Kokoro didn’t approach it with the same level of preparation as the common triathlete would approach an Ironman. This baffles me. Again, put the time in and in the right training areas – it’s worth it!
While success at Kokoro is primarily in the mountains from Mental through Kokoro (join the life-changing Unbeatable Mind program to learn more about this); you need to prepare your body for being on your feet and moving well for many hours at a time, recovering quickly and doing it again (with a smile on your face and an encouraging word for your teammates). At the same time, you need to also be able to meet the standards and operate well as a functional athlete. It’s not easy to get Kokoro-ready, but it’s worth it.
In conclusion, train SEALFIT (or beefed-up CrossFit) and plan out many months of weighted rucks (not slow hikes, but progressively heavier and progressively faster-paced “with a purpose” rucks). Include bodyweight challenges and different paces in your rucks. Go on long runs as if you were training for at least a half marathon. Buy and start breaking in your boots as early as possible (many months early). Ruck and run with them wet and in pants and in adverse conditions (rain, dark, fog, etc.). Enjoy the training and preparation phase, as it is its own special journey. Then get to Kokoro, open all your senses, learn, look after your teammates and always put out 100%. You’ll thrive, you’ll grow and you’ll experience something very special.
— If mental toughness training appeals to you, visit the Unbeatable Mind Academy for more info on an excellent online mental toughness training course.