I Tried Out for the Navy SEALs – How I Spent My Spring Break, Part 3

Yes, you read that correctly: Kellee “Goat” Stooks and I, Stacy “Toes” Bertinelli (Team Limoncello), tried out for the Navy SEALs today. To say that we failed to make the team is something of an understatement. For starters, they don’t allow girls to become SEALs, but even if they did, neither of us is 28 years old (maximum age to apply), and after our performance today, I can say with some degree of certainty that we would not be among their hallowed legions.
But at least we tried … and we had fun … and we were quite entertaining in the process.
Which is to say: Each of us swam 500 yards – breaststroke or sidestroke only, because you can’t do the fly, backstroke or freestyle without coming out of the water, creating some splashy noise and making yourself into a nice target for a sniper. Then, after we managed to avoid drowning, we got to do as many push-ups as we could in 2 minutes, as many sit-ups as we could in 2 minutes and as many pull-ups as we could… period… and then we got to run 1.5 miles. Oh, and we were competing against aspiring Navy SEALs and Olympians who actually medaled in swimming in Beijing.
And we lived to tell about it – with photos!

Our day began at 0920 hrs – this, after Kellee quaffed martinis all night on Friday and I stayed up way past my bedtime. Did I mention that we decided to undertake this little challenge on… THURSDAY… a mere 48 hours before? And that we hadn’t been training AT ALL? Sweet husband Pat insisted on joining us as cameraman and sherpa – just so the SEALs wouldn’t have to dispose of the bodies themselves. Here we are at the starting block.
Before we dive in to our little adventure, a refresher: SEALs are the Navy’s special forces who conduct clandestine missions by SEA, Air and Land. First, you have to join the Navy, then you have to qualify by passing the SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST), then you get to enroll in their Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL (BUD/S) program, which consists of 12 months of initial training, followed by 18 months of pre-deployment training, and then, IF YOU SURVIVE THIS FAR AND ACTUALLY PASS, you get to do super-cool things that you can’t tell anyone about – or else you’d have to kill them. Learn more about becoming a SEAL here, and prepare to feel inadequate. According to our team leader Bo, more than 75 percent of the people who sign a SEAL contract, FAIL.
So the SEAL Fitness Challenge is a fun way for the general public to attempt the SEAL PST and see how fit (or in our case, how challenged) they are. It’s part recruiting tool (of 331 participants, only 35 were women) and it’s part public relations love-fest. Consider: All the sailors / SEALs that run this event are cute as anything you’d see on the cover of People’s Sexiest Man Alive edition, as fit as any Ironman Triathlete and as friendly as deacons on Easter Sunday. Plus they had a live band, demonstrations for the kids, interactive booths for prospective sailors, and a rope-climb for lame-assed, uninjured, wimpy spectators. Oh, and the Navy Leap Frogs – their aquatic paratroopers – also rained down from the sky.
According to the literature, the PST is “a general indicator of whether you have the baseline fitness necessary to complete the demanding SEAL training program (BUD/S).”
The standards that must be achieved to enter BUD/S are as follows, with our results beside (or below) each benchmark:
500-yard swim (using sidestroke or breaststroke) under 12 ½ minutes – Stacy B 13:20; Kellee 14:30
42 Push-Ups in 2 minutes – Kellee 20; Stacy B 13
50 Sit-Ups in 2 minutes – Kellee 60 (that’s Pilates for you!); Stacy B 37 (that’s a beer-gut for you!)
6 Pull-Ups no time limit – Kellee 0; Stacy 0; little 9-year-old kid wearing a backpack: 8
1.5 Mile Run under 11 minutes – Kellee 13:24; Stacy 15:42 (what did you expect?)
Just for your reference, US Olympic swim team silver medalist Lacey Nymeyer, 21, of Tucson, completed the swim in 6:56, did 60 push-ups, 94 sit-ups and 13 pull-ups, and she ran the mile-and-a-half in 8:59.
To simulate the SEAL experience as closely as possible, they assigned us to a color-coded team (WHITE) led by a very motivated SEAL, the aforementioned Bo, who (man after my own heart) had his very own bullhorn.
As we waited for TEAM ORANGE to clear the pool so we could begin, Bo shared the unique fitness challenges of the SEAL lifestyle. For example, SEALs run an average of 100 miles per week – I, on the other hand, do not run 100 miles in a year. One time, Bo did the sidestroke for 7 hours because his SEAL class had to swim nine miles back to the mainland from the island where they had been deposited to spend a delightful afternoon of physical training. We, on the other hand, felt like our little 500-yard adventure was a 7-hour, 9-mile slog – even though I beat two boys (and Kellee) out of the water. Come to find out, my sub-14-minute finish would qualify me to be a Navy diver (if I had rocks tied around my ankles)! Here I am, stealthily emerging from the depths to affix some dynamite to an unsuspecting boat…
“I think I’m going to throw up,” Kellee said, emerging from the same pool – and there would be plenty of time for that, because up next on the agenda was the push-up “evolution.” The SEALs don’t call their athletic endeavors “events” or “exercises.” I’m guessing this is because evolving is a lot harder (and slower) than mere exercising. Here’s Kellee showing how it’s done on the push-ups – you will be glad to know that neither of us threw up, though one of the boys in our group did so twice.
Here I am evolving through some sit-ups – again, vomit-free.
And this is where things got interesting: The Pull-Up Evolution. We had as long as we needed to complete as many pull-ups as we could. For me and Kellee, that would be one-half each, or one combined, but according to the SEALs, that would be ZERO. They didn’t handicap us because – as I pleaded to Team Leader Bo, “We have five-pound weights strapped to our chests!”
“Yeah, and those will help you in the event of an unplanned water evacuation,” Bo replied, through his bullhorn. “Do the pull-up.”
The interesting thing about the pull-ups (and sit-ups and push-ups) was that my body just failed me. I knew what I wanted it to do – I wanted it just to get my chin over that bar, or extend my arms through that 14th push-up, or just… get… my… elbows… to… my… knees… one… more… time… but no, my muscles (or lack thereof) wailed, “No mas, sister! You might make the Navy WALRUSes,* but you ain’t making the SEALs!”
Which brought us to the run: Here’s Kellee – she of the bum knee – lapping my sorry ass at the finish line. Bo was so proud.
Despite our inability to achieve a single, military-grade pull-up, they still gave us a white T-shirt for participating. Those who met the SEAL standards (including both the Olympic medalists) received brown T-shirts and those who reached the competitive SEAL standards, received blue T-shirts (and a likely visit from a Navy recruiter). For your entertainment, the competitive SEAL standards “statistically give the candidate a much greater chance of completing BUD/S.” Here they are:
500-yard swim (using side+stroke or breaststroke) under 10 minutes
80 Push-Ups (in 2 minutes)
80 Sit-Ups (in 2 minutes)
11 Pull-Ups (no time limit)
1.5 Mile Run under 10 minutes
Yeah, right. That being said, we had a great time (and hurt like hell today) and are already planning for our next Team Limoncello adventure: Saturday, August 8 in Seattle – the Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge. We want our brown shirts, dammit – and we’re actually going to train for it! (As always, you’re welcome to join us – or just sit back and laugh at us)
*WALRUS – Wide-Ass Lard-o: Really Unfit for Service.