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Learn How the Mind and Body Works with the Five Psychological Phases of Fitness

Stew Smith, CSCS

Whether you are a military, special operations officer, an athlete, or just a regular person seeking to lose weight, all groups experience similar personal obstacles. Those who succeed in their training programs learn to conquer self-doubt. That is the key to fitness!

Every day, excited people join fitness clubs determined to attend classes or workout for an hour a day, five days a week. This exuberance for vitality typically lasts for 10-14 days before self-doubt, sleeping in, and skipping workouts take over. In two short sentences, the first two psychological phases of fitness were described. The five phases of becoming fit are the following:

1. Excitement and Highly Motivated

2. Doubt Toward Goals

3. Conquer Doubt

4. Total Change in Energy Level / Confidence

5. Make New Fitness Goal / Challenge

The five phases are used to describe to people how they are going to feel in the near future about starting a fitness program whether as a beginner or as an advanced athlete preparing for Special Forces training. Typically, both the out of shape beginner and the advanced Special Operations candidate develop into their goals through the five phase process.

In Phase One of fitness, a person makes a decision to get healthy, or decide to serve their country as a Special Forces member. This phase takes 2-3 seconds, but it actually takes about 2-3 weeks to replace old, bad habits and to create new habits that will fuel your desire to obtain your goals. Hang in there at least three weeks. It takes 2-3 weeks to BUILD GOOD HABITS. This phase is filled with motivation and a general excitement about fitness and exercise. Statistics show that people who workout in the morning before work are twice as likely to complete the workout compared to those who wait until after work to exercise.

In the Phase Two, doubt enters and can either crush your progress or make you stronger. It is absolutely natural to have doubts about what you are undertaking. My advice is to start doubting as quickly as possible and get over it. Realize self-doubt is part of the process and it will be encountered again throughout your fitness journey. Even SEAL trainees doubt themselves, but those who become SEALs conquer their doubt. Likewise, those who lose 60-80 pounds in a year, conquer their doubt as well.

Phase Three is one of the most exciting phases when you realize you have conquered your doubt. You may reach this phase continually throughout your quest for fitness or Special Forces status, but once you do, you really can do anything you set your mind to. This is where the mind and body connect. Use the workouts to be a catalyst in all areas of your life: work, relationships, school, spirit, financial, and others. I am a firm believer that exercising your body will give you the stamina and energy to exercise your mind, spirit, and achieve those life long dreams you have for yourself.

Phase Four is the total identity change and self-confidence realization period for most people. You now associate yourself with fit and healthy people. Now, you are fit in mind and body. Your example will inspire others. Be a role model to another heavy person or aspiring Special Operations officer. People will be amazed by your new work ethic at work and play. Eating healthy is now a habit for you too. In fact, eating fast food or unhealthy snacks makes you feel slightly ill. This is because your body will naturally crave healthy foods as you subject yourself to a long-term physical fitness routine.

Phase Five is the next step, but the journey never ends. Set and conquer goals for yourself. Whatever you like – run, swim, bike, weight lift, etc. Challenge yourself to run a 10k, bench press 300 lbs, do a triathlon. The options are unlimited, after all fitness is a journey – not a destination.

Feel free to email me at for answers to your questions.

  • 005_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I can't lose weight at all, but working out is my #1 way to gain weight. Thanks for the tips!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 8 years ago


    i think that police do good at their job and they actually get their job done when they need to get it done and that is why i want to be a police officer. you get exercise alot.

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    almost 8 years ago


    I AM TOO SKINNY TO LOSE WEIGHT, BUT this sounds good

  • My_lapd_badge_max50


    almost 8 years ago


    PT EVERYDAY before work, a straight up ass kicking, parolee style workout! Go to, get the 50lb short and do at least 45 minutes with the vest on, start light, then build up to 50lbs 3 x a week. You don’t have to do a killer pace with the vest on, but after a week of runing with it on, your duty gear will feel very light! I also mix it up on different days with 8 reps of 1/4 mile sprints followed by pyramids of 20-5 pull-ups, Max out on push-ups, militaries and 50 crunches! The reason I am putting this up isn’t to say “I’m bitchen”, but you have got to have a reality based fitness plan and stick to it! I sit on the bench and simulate sitting in my car then the sprint is the foot pursuit, followed by the wall/fence (pull-ups), then the fight is on. Save a little for the real deal 3 minutes after roll call though! If you don’t think these parolee’s have a fitness plan, or that they are not training to disarm and KILL you, then you are living in denial, and need to get your mind right ASAP, that means extract your head from your A$$ first. You need to train, train, train and train some more. I have had a couple of Officers and above ask me while I’m working out “what are you training for” A fight, wrestling, MMA, a race or some competition?” I tell them I’m training for 3 minutes after roll call, and you should be too! I work down in south central Los Angeles and the fight is on every day. I would feel like a complete tool if I was not there for my partner. I’m 37 and it takes a bit more now a days to keep fit, but dealing with the animals we are dealing with down here, it’s a must! If you don’t have a training plan just start your watch everyday with an apology to your fellow Officers for not being prepared for when the fit hits the shan! Don’t be that guy! Your parner gets killed or injured because you don’t have the wind, you’ll never forgive yourself. Also everyone who caries a gun needs to go to one of Lt. Col Dave Grossman’s seminars! Go to the website and check out The Bullet Proof Mind, the audio is only $60.00, but is the BEST training you will recieve for our profession! Remember it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6! Stay Safe Warriors! Ed O’Shea

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