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It Pays to be a Winner…
By Tom Demerly

Participants swim breast stroke or comabat swimmer side stroke during the 500 yard swim test.

Participants moved through the event in waves denoted by color codes much the same as SEAL Team platoons are sometimes named.

Electronic event timing insured accuracy of results.

Participants were awarded white, desert tan or the coveted blue t-shirt depending on qualification levels.

Team "Royal Blue 2" gets ready to begin the swim evolution.

Nearly 630 registered participants demonstrated a high degree of physical readiness and motivation at the third stop on the national U.S. Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge Tour in Dearborn Michigan on Saturday, May 10 at the Ford Community Center.

The U.S. Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge is a free event promoting exercise and fitness while challenging athletes to maximize their performance in individual tests of strength and endurance. The SEAL Fitness Challenge is similar to the initial physical screening test given to applicants attempting to become a Navy SEAL, an elite unit of special operations soldiers who operate on Land SEa and Air. The event consists of swimming, push ups, sit ups, pull-ups and running.

Registration for the event is free and provides participants with a competitive standard to test themselves against each other via P.S.T. Score and three levels of physical readiness: “Participant”, “SEAL Standard” and the difficult “SEAL Competitive Standard”. Participants are awarded T-Shirts color coded to denote their level of test standard- white for participant, tan for SEAL Standard and the coveted Navy SEAL blue and yellow for the SEAL Competitive Standard.

To achieve the SEAL Standard and earn the desert tan T-Shirt award participants must complete a 500 yard pool swim under 12:30 using either breaststroke of the unusual Navy SEAL “combat swimmer side stroke”, they must do 42 push-ups in under 2:00 and 50 sit-ups in under 2:00 followed by at least 6 overhand grip, straight-leg pull-ups (no time limit) and then complete a 1.5 mile run in under 11:00.

Participants attempting to win the blue and yellow colors worn by U.S. Navy SEAL instructors at the Basic Underwater Demolition School (B.U.D.S.)in Coronado, California will need to complete the 500 yard swim in under 10 minutes, do at least 80 push-ups in 2:00, 80 sit-ups in 2:00, a minimum of 11 pull-ups with correct technique and then run 1.5 miles at a sub-6:40 pace to finish the run in under 10:00.

According to the event production company the Dearborn stop on the U.S. Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge Tour was the “best attended with the most community support”. This was impressive since the single day Dearborn event even eclipsed the two-day Los Angeles event held in February close to a number of Navy military installations and a larger population base.

Navy SEAL Duncan Smith and David Goggins were both on hand to assist with and direct the event in Dearborn with Smith acting as emcee, press liaison and awards presenter while Dave Goggins lead athlete teams through their competitive waves along with other Navy SEALs and members of the Navy’s elite Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman (S.W.C.C.). Smith and Goggins have been instrumental in the development, growth and promotion of the U.S. Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge along with SEAL and Ironman veteran Mitch Hall. Smith, Goggins and Hall were featured in Outside magazine last year for a report on the Navy’s initiative to attract endurance athletes to demanding Navy training programs such as Basic Underwater Demolition School, the primary training and screening school for SEAL candidates. Drop out rates for the difficult SEAL program usually exceed 70% before a candidate completes the entire course of training to earn the gold Trident Naval Special Warfare Badge.


SEALs count laps and monitor stroke compliance during a wave of swimmers.

Athletes used either breast stroke or the unique SEAL combat swimmer side stroke to complete the 500 yard swim.


Standards for qualification for SEALs, SWCC and EOD Diver were posted for participants to compare.


SEAL Operator First Class Dave Goggins was accompanied by a camera crew during part of the day from a national network producing a documentary about Goggins’ and his participation in ultra-distance running events including the Badwater Ultramarathon. The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135-mile non-stop running race from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney- the highest and lowest points in North America. Goggins has raised money for families who lost loved ones in the War on Terror and completed endurance events to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The S.O.W.F. is dedicated to providing free college scholarships and educational counseling to the children surviving Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations personnel who are killed in a training accident or operational mission.

Participants tour the SEAL Accelerator mobile museum.

Our team, "Royal Blue 1" with two members in blue T-shirts who are starting SEAL training in June.

SEAL Duncan Smith awards a blue T-shirt to an elevated standards competitor who did an impressive 115 push-ups and 31 pull-ups.

Father/daughter team Dale and Andrea Greb of Dearborn.

Participants raced up the cargo nets for fun after the event.

Conditions for the event in Dearborn were perfect with comfortable temperatures and sunny skies. The event venue, The Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, was festooned with the gold and blue banners of the SEAL Fitness Challenge and the Navy SEAL Trident insignia. The facility in Dearborn is used by many local triathletes because of its excellent 8 lane, 25-yard pool, weight room, indoor and outdoor running track and advanced cardiovascular training equipment.

The U.S. Navy brought the “SEAL Accelerator” exhibit to the event. The SEAL Accelerator is a mobile museum that features a historical perspective on Naval Special Warfare from the early Underwater Demolition Teams (the “Frogmen”) to the modern day U.S. Navy SEALs. Participants enjoyed a stroll through the SEAL Accelerator and the opportunity to test themselves on a cargo-net stye climbing obstacle similar to one used at the actual SEAL obstacle course in Coronado, California.

U.S. Marines knock out push-ups as Navy SEAL motivators count repetitions and offer encouragement.

The sit-up standard was 50 for SEAL standard and 80 in 2:00 for elevated SEAL Competitive standard.

Many participants found the pull-ups the most difficult event. SEAL standard was 6, Competitive Standard was 11.

Athletes compete in the 1.5 mile run. To achieve the SEAL elevated Competitive Standard runners had to average faster than a 6:40 mile pace.

Also in attendance at the event were several generations of Naval Special Warfare Operators and aspiring operators. The group included an 82 year old former member of the original Underwater Demolition Teams, the U.D.T. Frogmen of WWII to several young men who made the trip to the Dearborn event and after signing contracts to attend the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition School after completing Naval basic training. Each of the new SEAL aspirants exceeded the highest standards for the SEAL Fitness Challenge and benefited from insights offered by current SEAL Duncan Smith.

Participants also included father and daughter team Dale and Andrea Greb. Andrea Greb, 13, of Dearborn is an outstanding High School athlete in several sports and a Black Belt martial artist. Her father Dale was on the same “Royal Blue” team in the SEAL Fitness Challenge. Andrea’s father Dale learned the unusual SEAL combat swimmer side stroke specifically for the event and completed the 500 yard swim easily.

Local triathletes dominated the competition for tan and blue T-shirts with notable appearances by Sarah Demerly, Zoe Metro, Todd Briggs, Aimee and Tom Cinzori, Phys. Ed. teacher Thom Hardin, Dearborn Firefighter and triathlete Will Caruso, John Loudermilk, Mike Malloy, Noah Vanvalkenburg, Tim Polonkey and even elite level competitor Eric Fernando who finished top 3 overall at the Ford Ironman 70.3 Whirlpool Steelhead Triathlon in 2007. One triathlete and Ironman finisher did an impressive 115 push-ups in 2:00 and 31 total pull-ups on his way to earning the blue T-shirt for elevated SEAL Competitive standards.

Local firefighter Will Caruso said after the event “Is it just me or is everyone else sore after doing all that in one day?” The combinations of events was an eclectic test of strength and aerobic fitness that is different from what triathletes, runners and swimmers experience in everyday training and normal competition. Some athletes feel the U.S. Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge is a succinct test of overall fitness that is a more accurate gauge of “functional” physical fitness than triathlons or other exclusively endurance events.

The level of interest and participation in the U.S. Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge suggests the event may return in 2009 to an even larger level of participation. The secret to the success of the event included excellent planning and event production, good weather, local support and enthusiasm for the event and several months of hard work in the Southeast Michigan area by Navy SEALs and other event staff promoting the event at High Schools, fitness clubs, civic organizations and even martial arts schools. Press coverage for the event was also excellent with a front page “Life” section feature in the Monday, May 5 edition of The Detroit Free Press and camera crews on hand from several local and national media outlets including HBO.

For more information on upcoming SEAL Fitness Challenge events visit

Photos for media and friends as each team has its own award ceremony.

Triathletes dominated the top scoring positions of the SEAL Fitness Challenge.


© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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