Podcast with Lance Cummings from: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/04/what-is-sealfit-20x/
[02:55] Ben’s SealFit Kokoro experience
[03:16] Ben talks about Coach Lance Cummings
[07:03] Coach Lance as “the man” who strikes fear
[09:40] When Lance decided to be a Navy SEAL
[12:32] What makes Lance a high achiever?
[15:14] Why Lance got into Pentathlon?
[20:05] Lance’s story of paddling from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean
[22:59] Lance’s fitness program
[24:58] TRX Suspension Trainer
[31:58] How Lance pushes through pain
[33:51] The Mindful Athlete book
[35:50] Top tools of Lance for managing injuries and enhancing recovery
[40:07] The 20X Concept
[43:12] What to expect at a SEALFit 20X Event
[58:05] End of Podcast
Introduction: Hello, folks! This is Ben Greenfield. There is no sponsor for today’s podcast episode. As a matter of fact, today’s podcast episode is extremely special ‘cause it’s a bonus episode. I don’t usually release a podcast on Tuesdays, but there’s something so cool comin’ down the pipeline that I had to push this out via audio to you. If you follow bengreenfieldfitness.com in the newsletter or the blog, you may have noticed that yesterday I announced a brand new event taking place at my house for a hundred people, July 8th, 9th, and 10th, 2016. It is called a SealFit 20X Event, and it is followed up by obstacle training event. And in this podcast episode, you’re gonna meet one of the masterminds behind SealFit, and towards the end of the episode, you’re gonna learn pretty much about everything you need to know physical standards, what to expect, how to get ready, all that jazz for this event that’s coming up at my place, July 8th, 9th, and 10th. So I’m gonna be interviewing Navy Seal Lance Cummings, and you can access the show notes for everything you’re about to hear over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/20x, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/20x. And if you are brave enough, I’ll see you at my place this July.
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield fitness Show:
“You’ve got a lot of plates up in the air, and you’ve got a lot of things in the fire. You don’t have 2 or 3 hours a day to workout, so you try to do as much as possible in a short amount of time, and you have to make it functional, mobile movements to the best of your ability in order to work efficiently. Identify those dysfunctions and you can train your body to alleviate those dysfunctions and compensations, and become balance and strong, not just upper body, lower body, right side, left side, then you’re gonna live a long, healthy, happy life”.
He’s an expert in human performance and nutrition, voted America’s top personal trainer and one of the globe’s most influential people in health and fitness. His show provides you with everything you need to optimize physical and mental performance. He is Ben Greenfield. “Power, speed, mobility, balance – whatever it is for you that’s for natural movement, get out there! When you’re working all the studies done… studies that have shown the greatest efficacy…” All the information you need in one place, right here, right now, on the Ben Greenfield Fitness podcast.
Ben: Hey folks, it’s Ben Greenfield here. And about 2 years ago, I wrote an article on my experience at this brutal camp called the SEALFit Kokoro which is this 60+ hour crucible that you can read more about in the link that I’m gonna give you in a little bit here to the podcast that you’re listenin’ to right now. But anyways, in that article, I mentioned this guy whose snarling face strikes fear deep into the heart of just about every person that steps foot on to this Kokoro Camp. And his name is Lance Cummings, and coach Lance is known for probably the single guy that dishes out the most amount of suffering and hardship for anybody brave enough to step into Kokoro, and even though that’s what he’s known for, there’s actually a lot more to him than simply being a guy who could probably kill you with his pinky finger.
So technically, Lance is the Director of SEALFit which is the organization down in Encinitas, California. You may have heard of Mark Divine before. He’s written books like Warrior Yoga, and Way of the Seal, and Lance is kinda one of his right hand men down there. But before that, Coach Cummings retired from Active Duty Navy Service with 30 years of combined service. He graduated in BUD/s Class 124, and had a great deal of experience serving with the Navy Seals. But he left active duty in the 90’s to actually get a doctorate of Chiropractic. And so, he graduated with a chiropractic degree, and then he was recalled to Active Duty and deployed to the Middle East where he did 7 deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq with different Seal teams as well as contracting with Black Water Securities. This guy has been all over the freaking globe. I’ve had a chance to see him in action down in San Diego, and he’s one of the fittest, most put together and I’m hopin’ I don’t offend him by saying this, old guys that I’ve ever witnessed in action. He’s done hundreds of triathlon, he’s done multi-day adventure races, he once paddled from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal in 15 hours, he’s done endurance horse racing, he’s been a member of the world championship teams in Military Pentathlon, Naval Pentathlon, Outrigger Canoe and Dragon Boat racing. He has won several Marksmanship awards in competition in handgun and carbine, and he also competes in Stand Up Paddle Board Racing, as well as dabbling in a bit of archery and a bit of mountain biking. And he’s still a chiropractic doc, he works with an animal patients, he works with people, he does a lot with cold laser therapy, functional mobility, thermal imaging, and some of the things we’ll talk about in today’s podcast, and he is also as a ‘man after my own heart’ with 2 twin children, two nine-year old twins, and so, he is obviously a wealth of knowledge not just on survival and warfare, but also fitness and taking care of aging or injured bodies, and pushing through pain and much more so, we’re incredibly honored to have him here on the show, Coach Lance Cummings, welcome to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast!
Lance: Hey Ben, great to be here, man! I appreciate that. I was the old guy who monitor pretty well, hopefully. That’s a relative term, right?
Ben: Yeah, exactly. It’s all relative, it’s all relative but nah, I’m serious like you move like a cat and you’ve got, when I went down and did the SEALFit Academy, you were doing everything from yoga to TRX to power lifting to crossfit and beyond, and showing us all sorts of little tricks so, I’m sure that our listeners will get a lot out of this one. But I’m curious first of all, I think probably my single most burnt memory in my mind of you was, you spray me with the hose in the face while cocking as I hang from a bar at about 2AM in the morning after having spent a few hours in the ocean, and I know a lot of people have similar memories of you, so I’m curious what it feels like to be the man who strikes fear in the heart of a lot of folks who do this Kokoro Camps.
Lance: Well, I don’t know about the fear thing but you know, my leadership style I guess or is I’m never gonna ask someone to do something I haven’t done before or wouldn’t do now, and the fear thing, a lot of people is – basically because they know I’m gonna tell them to do something that they know they’re capable of but haven’t tried themselves, and you know, you can take that fear and use it as a motivating primary tool to achieve what you wanna do. So, the whole thing is just reestablishing and rechanneling that fear, and that’s what’s I – both fear and some other type of emotion and to get people to motivate them to do something and whatever it takes. That’s what I think. How about that?
Ben: So do you actually find that you put on almost more of a striking attitude when it comes to really trying to intimidate or to scare folks like, you do have to like step into a certain personality, or a certain aura when you find yourself in front of a bunch of candidates or in front of a bunch of folks who are basically there to get put through the wringer or uh you know, or are you at home you know, basically as a softer man I’m curious if you’ve got the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde side to you.
Lance: Well, I don’t know but my kids might think that uh you know, I’m always on coaching mode but it’s not really that way. You know, when you’re standing in front of people and you’re asking them – hey, I’m about to tell you to go run to the top of a hill 30 times with 50 pound logger, a 250 pound log on your back, and it’s not something that you really wish to do but after it’s over, I think everyone has a really great sense of accomplishment and you know, it’s I think I try to understand back and forth and I sit there and do it with them, and set the example for ‘em, so you know, Mark Divine and all of our coaches do the same way. We’re not gonna tell you or ask you to do anything that we haven’t done. So, we know it’s possible, we know what you’re capable of, and all you gotta do is tell yourself that, right?
Ben: Yeah, it make sense. Well, you know, you certainly can spark people into action and I tell you that, and later on in today’s show, I’m gonna tell some of you who are listening in more about some of the camps that Lance puts on and even one that he’s gonna be doing up here at my house later on in July. But in the meantime, I’m curious Lance, when did you decide that you wanted to be a Navy Seal?
Lance: You know Ben I was, I’m from Macon, Georgia. It’s a small town back from in middle Georgia. You know, I’ve been boppin’ around after high school and a 4 year junior college plan, no real rudder direction or anything, and I’m working on drill wagon for a demolition company, and I’ve got my scuba certification and you know, going out and havin’ fun on weekends, and my cousin tells me about – hey, here’s this occupation in the military, where you can go shoot and sky dive and blow things up, and get a pay check forward to and… now, to me that just said all the wickets man, I sit on the air, sign me up. What do I have to do? In my personal case, I had to spend a year in the fleet first kinda getting to know the game before I can even put in a package. I think that’s a great filter for a lot of people because they wanna do something in how many years to work toward that goal, and having a lot of different hooks, you have to jump there in order to get there, I think you have solidify that, or it may just let you know that maybe that’s not your direction in life. But once I heard about that, and I think I was in the recruiters’ office 2 weeks later and the rest is history.
Ben: At that point in your life where you kinda end to like weaponry and fitness, and things like that, I mean, was that what you kinda did?
Lance: Well, I was into a lot of things and we won’t talk about all that (chuckles) uh yeah, you know, I’ve grown up hunting and riding horses, and a lot of stuff out in the country and just… it wasn’t really fitness, it’s just goin’ out and havin’ fun and doin’ things. Yeah, I really didn’t think about it like it’s workin’ out but you know, if things started to get heavy, I kind of enjoyed it, and when you can put a science to it, after you go into the Seal Team is like you determined and you know what fitness is, and that means mission accomplishment or mission defeat to you then you really know you have to turn it up, and once you get into special warfare whether it’s navy or army, or anywhere, you know, people around you are at a different level, so you really have to start up in your game to stay there and maybe even set the tempo for the rest of ‘em.
Ben: Hmm, now you know, it seems like you’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, right? You’ve got a ton of different certifications. I’ve got a list among it in the show notes but I mean, everything from TRX certified, the Functional Movement System certified, like I mentioned you’re a doctor of chiropractic, you spent 30 years in the Seals, I mean, the list goes on and on. Do you think from like a high achiever standpoint that that was something that was perpetuated by joining the Seals or you think the… just one of those guys who’s hardwired, also be spinning multiple plates and always adding new feathers to your cap?
Lance: I don’t know, I’m a whacko at ADD or obsessive compulsive but uh, there’s a lot of different labels you could put on it. I surround myself with people who are at a higher level than me, and I try to suck everything that I can, and even people you know, I think when you look at the SealFit Academy and the coaches that are there, we get justice much out of the people that are coming to our academy as we do, as we try to give them, and for every academy or every event Kokoro Aamp or 20X that we run, we walk away better people, and more knowledgeable because we see movement dysfunctions and patterns and things, and we try to fix those, but we really tune in to the people that are there, and we try to get as much information out of them as possible. So, there’s a little psychology to the whole thing that we run, and part of that psychology is trying to make people live up to their potential.
Ben: Uhm, now for you growing up, I mean, did you have a lot of siblings who are also immersed in all sorts of activities like these or you’re kinda like a lone wolf?
Lance: No, I had an older brother who is in to a lot of different things you know, but I just took off with equaling my mom and dad loved horses, so I grew up on a horse ranch, and we started showing horses and using them for performances. So, I just kind of immersed myself in that world, and just try to take that as far as I could you know until I went into the Navy, and now I think that really helped me a lot because when you’re working with animals, this is a lot different than people, and you can kinda find yourself with animals and you don’t have to deal with a lot of (chuckles) yeah, the psychology and nuances of other people…
Ben: Yeah, yeah you’re telling me. I was just seeing goats around this morning trying to hoard up the – early the kids didn’t close the gate on their way out to school. So, it’s interesting chasing around animals, and I would imagine such trying to fix animals vs. fixing people. And I do wanna ask you a little bit later on about some of the really interesting modalities that you use like cold laser, and some of these other tools that you use in both injured people as well as injured animals. But I wanna ask a little about some of these other things you’ve done like pentathlon. I’m not that familiar with pentathlon. I can’t say that I think that I’ve ever seen pentathlon on television or studied it much. Can you explain to people what exactly pentathlon is, for people who aren’t familiar with it, and why you kinda gotten to that?
Lance: Well, for the naval pentathlon and of course it’s 5 different events, and I’m not sure if you’d ever seen anything like it on TV because all the NATO countries compete against each other on the same courses, so there’s – the courses are all set and there’s 2 swimming events, and an obstacle course, and there’s a running event, and then there is an orienteering type, all of them as well, so it’s not like Olympic pentathlon that you see but all 5 of – for the naval pentathlon all 5 of those are kinda naval oriented, and it takes uh, you can have one strong event but in order to be competitive in the pentathlon field, you need to be pretty well balanced across the board. So, even if you’re a great runner, if you’re not a good swimmer then it can really push some 3 foot fiber glass fence as hard as you can and hold your breath for a long time. You’re not really gonna do well, so the events for the naval pentathlon are completely different from military pentathlon which is a lot more army oriented, so there is marks from ship, right from a pistol, and then infused obstacle course that’s probably 800 meters, and then you run that as a team, a 3 men team.
Ben: So this obstacle course is like hurdles and ropes, and walls, and things like that?
Lance: Yeah, big pits and tunnels that you have to crawl though. I think I’ve seen one Youtube video, and they’re at the head of team of Brazilians running at who are doing quite well, but requires you to be fairly agile and nimble uh…
Ben: I think I’ve seen this video you’re talking about. It went viral on Facebook ‘cause these guys are flying to this course so fast. Is that the one?
Lance: Yeah. Well, you’re comin’ also about a 30 foot rope ladder from the top you know, landing in pig ravel, but you don’t wanna spin anytime comin’ down the ladder so you just jump off the top of it.
Ben: Yeah, yeah I know. The speed which these guys go through the course… and I’ll put a link to it in the show notes for those who wanna watch ‘cause it is pretty nuts. It push the shame like the best Spartan sprint athletes I’ve seen competing. It’s pretty amazing. So pentathlon, you get obstacle race, or for naval pentathlon at least, you get obstacle race and then you have a swimming race?
Lance: Yeah, you have 2 swimming races.
Ben: What are the differences between the 2 swimming races?
Lance: Well, for one you would have fence on and for the other you wouldn’t. And there’s actually an obstacle course in the pool that lets you going over and under while you’re doing your race. And by the way, you’ve got a set of coveralls on while you’re doing it as well, so…
Ben: Of course.
Lance: When you’re doing that it starts leveling the plain field out alike because you can’t just come in and be a race swimmer which we had some people do, but you know, when you look at the military pentathlon, all the events are – when you’re looking at, what would be a great courier be or something. What would they have to do you know, in order for to get a message through, do I need to have to swim? Have I have to run? And orienteer themselves from one place to the next, and throw grenades, and judge distances or accuracy, so all these things coming to play from the military pentathlon, and you know, they make you a better soldier, they make you a better field operator by going to those events and going to those competitions.
Ben: Now, do they have anything like this for civilians? Like a pentathlon that’s very similar to something like, I mean, this one that you’ve described that the navy does, like the obstacle race, then the swimming, and then the seamanship part of that. That’s rowing, correct?
Lance: That’s rowing? Yeah, but you climb a pole and put some pegs into the pole first, and then you haul a big 3 inch hauls of rope up on to the deck. You can tie a couple of knots on it then you take out from a row boat, you know, and going in and out of this course for time. So that’s all applicable to older I think events that someone would have to do if they win in it.
Ben: Oh yeah, yes like sailor skills basically.
Ben: So, do you know of any civilian events that someone could go to that simulates something like this naval pentathlon?
Lance: You know, I don’t but I’m thinkin’ about putting one up in our bay like resort where we do our events academy and stuff like that in the coming 6 months, if we have to bring it down here in California.
Ben: Keep me posted. That actually sounds like a pretty cool event. Pretty unique event. And you also, you paddled from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal in 15 hours. What were you paddling?
Lance: I was in an ocean kayak at that time, yeah, just self-supported trip. I had some – we were stationed down in Panama at that time, I was with the platoon down there, and we had couple of days downtime so I had a buddy take me up to the Atlantic side in Colon and drop me off, and it was originally gonna be a 2 –day trip, then I got about half way and I decided just to press on through. The difficult part was just waiting around for a boat to come and tie on to you so you can go to the locks. The other option was to take your kayak and ford around the locks with your kayak which was discouraged by the Panamanian security forces.
Ben: Interesting. So, when you did this paddle, you were just all on your own self-supported.
Ben: Did you bring anything with you? I mean, you bring food and stuff like that when you’re doing this long endurance paddle or you just kinda go?
Lance: Oh yeah, I was set for at least 2 days. So I had you know, some tunes, and food and everything, and I had gathered all my thoughts and just went for it.
Ben: Interesting. So you’ve also done a lot of other multi-day adventure races. What would you say are some of the favorite events that you’ve competed in, or things that you think the people should know about?
Lance: I used to do a multi-day adventure race up here in Malibu. I actually started at 12 o’clock, and then went through until the next day. I also done a couple in foreign countries with foreign military guys. We were a bunch of guys in Djibouti, and we were working with a French foreign legion so we came upon a nice little obstacle course, multi-day transitional event that we decided to throw together in a kind of feats US Special Forces against French Special Forces, and it gives you bragging rights, but when you program and go through a lot of these different events and I guess whatever you do is gonna make you a better person, a better soldier, and you know, when we throw those together, and we work with Allied Forces and it makes us closer working partners as well.
Ben: Now you’ve got kind of like a big subset of skills when it comes to looking at you know, crossfit defines like power and strength, and speed and endurance, and flexibility and so on, and one of the things that is my goal and I know it’s a goal of a lot of men and women who listen in is as they aged they wanna move like cats, and they wanna be strong, and they wanna be powerful. I’m curious for you like what your fitness routine looks like, and what you do to keep yourself put together and firing on so many different cylinders. And the reason I ask this is it’s like I know for example, I like master’s ironman triathetes and they could go for miles, but they’re just like skinny and emaciated and a lot of them looked like Ethiopian poster children you know, I think i’ts one thing to be able to just like go for a long periods of time, and it’s another thing to be able to maintain strength, and speed and power as you aged. I’m curious if you could share with us some of the things that you do.
Lance: Wow. Well, I – I think my head is I thought to live up to is, I wanna die young as late as possible. So, anything that I can do to make that happen, yeah, I wanna be around for my kids, and when they get married and stuff. I use them as workout routines, you know, I go in there and have my kids sit on your shoulders when you’re doin’ a set of squats or anything, but I utilized a lot of the TRX mobility platforms. I found that about 3 or 4 years ago and when it comes to injuries, I’ve probably put mush ahead about everything, but using the TRX really helped me regain a lot of mobility and it helped me work unilateral muscles, and maintained balance I think, and if you’re an obstacle racer I think that’s huge. It’s being strong and I don’t only have a domino side but being able to work that weak side and being a better balance person.
Ben: How often would you use something like a TRX? And for those of you listening in, this is one of those trainers that’s like a suspension trainer with 2 handles on it that you hang from – you can throw in a suitcase and hang from anything you know, a tree while you’re traveling, or pole in a gym or wherever. But how often do you use the TRX and how do you use it?
Lance: Well you know, when I go to travel that’s the first thing that goes in my bag. So, I’ll use that daily, I mean, I’ll do mobility work even if I’m gonna do a lifting set or if I’m gonna go out for hard run, I’ll do 5 minutes of mobility work first just to get stressed out in and at the end of the day if I’ve been traveling all day or something, and I got a lot of clients that are airline pilots and flight attendants, I make them buy this thing and I’ll say – here, once you do, you’ll love me forever but use this thing at the end of the day.
Ben: So, what do you mean when you say mobility work? What would that look like for the TRX?
Lance: Okay. Just some traction work on your back to help relieve all the compressor forces that you get throughout the day sitting and running, and doing everything else. You just add a little traction and it leaned back on, the handles and help your back traction out, so it elongate the spinal muscles, it elongate the disk and get the fluid back in to there, and doing things, small things like that on a consistent daily basis, it’s what gonna keep you healthy and happy because when you get injured, that’s just a setback and then it’s a domino effect after that, it’s trying to get back into shape, and then trying to relieve the compensatory effects of an injury. It’s crucial. I see a lot of – one of the reasons I got into FA mass and great hooks work is because he’s right about the dysfunctional pattern that you see in movement. So, if you can identify those dysfunctions and you can train your body alleviate those dysfunctions and compensations, and become balanced and strong, and not just upper body, lower body but right side, left side, then you can live a long healthy, happy life.
Ben: So, this TRX, you do this a few times a week?
Lance: Uh, I use that everyday.
Ben: Everyday. Okay. What else do you do? Is that the only type of strength training that you use?
Lance: The cool thing about that is you can use that for strength training, you can use it for mobility, you can use that for agility, doing dynamic exercises with it, but I do – I do some lifting as well probably 3 days a week. A lot of circuit training, I’ve got this huge tire that’s outside and go beat that thing up with a 30 pounds sledge hammer and flip it around a lot, you know, and try to get as much functional movement in as possible in a short amount of time. Now, I won’t go do curls or shoulder presses or something like that because I try to work all those lifts stand and during functional movement. And then that way you’re efficient as possible with your time if you’ve got a lot of plates up in the air, and you’ve got a lot of things in the fire, you don’t have 2 or 3 hours a day to workout. So you try to do as much as possible in a short amount of time, and you have to make that functional, mobile movements to the best of your ability, right? In order to work efficiently.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. And for your mobility, like for your flexibility, I think I’ve seen you do the full splits before. Are you just getting that type of thing from the TRX, or you’re doing, you know, things like Mark Divine’s yoga routines?
Lance: Well, I do yoga a little bit. You know, I do it with Mark, and I do it with the academy, but basically I try to set a pattern where it takes a while to get to do a split, or get to do a full some of the movements that we do but once you get there, it doesn’t take much to maintain it. So, I take 1 or 2 movements, and I work on that until I get it down, you know, until I can – I’m flexible enough that I can do that movement, and then once you are there, it helps your whole routine, it helps your whole agenda by being more flexible. You recover faster, you know as well as I do that, you’re able to do a wide arrange of motion, so you’re gonna be able to use your muscles more efficiently for any movement that you do. And for people like obstacle course racers who have to be agile, have to recover fast from one obstacle to the next, or one race to the next, that’s crucial.
Ben: So, when you are out paddling and rowing, is that part of your fitness routine as well, or you consider that just like a bonus?
Lance: Yeah, that’s therapy really. (chuckles) but it serves two purposes for me. I can get on the water with my one man out rigger, and I can go out and just pound it for an hour or 2 hours, and a lot of times I’ll just take and just go straight off the surf and go out and do some whale watching from my house and turn around and now the winds come and I can surf back and so it’s gonna takes short quick intervals to stay on the surf, and I also paddle with 6 other guys in a long 40-foot boat, and we going out and we hit it hard for about 3 days a week just trying to use a GPS, keep our speed up and then we start racing next month, and in the racing season for Out Rigger and the race goes all the way through October when we go to Molokai for the world championships.
Ben: Yeah, that’s something that I’ve started doing a lot more of now that spring and the warm months are starting to roll around appear in Washington as hitting the standup paddle board out in the Spokane River, but I’m always curious you know, for guys who have been rowing and paddling a long time like yourself if you find more benefit out of just like puttin’ the standup paddle board in the water for example, and just go in steady state hard for an hour or doing intervals back and forth, I mean, do you have any like favorite routines that you do when you throw a standup paddle board in the water or you just kinda like going with the flow?
Lance: Well, it depends on. I’ve got several different boards and for different variety of reasons, but I can launch off the beach, paddle up the beach for a while, go hit some surf, surf for a little bit. So that’s more sprint work and then once I (censor beep sound) enough of the surfers in one spot, I have to move on and go off the beach to somewhere else. But you can also if you’re doing river paddling like you’re doing, you can go into a hole and try to surf a hole for a period of time, pull out of it, go down and find another one. So, just a little bit of therapies, sprint work, you know, you get a lot of long distance endurance work as well. Uhm, I tend to – when I go to the Bahamas a couple of times a year, my wife and I worked in a clinic there so I go out for an hour or two at a time, and just tend to find the best fishing holes and the lobster holes that are 20 or 30 feet down because you can see ‘em from the standup board. So, I use that as uh, I guess a method of finding the honey holes down in the home beach.
Ben: Very cool, very cool! Yeah, I’ve seen a standup power board river surfing before, but I haven’t yet dove into a hole or hitting the white water. It actually – it’s a little bit intimidating to me right now. I’m still working on my skills.
Lance: You may wanna have some body alarm when you’re on when you usually try to know this…
Ben: Yeah. Helmet, white vest, check. How do you push your pain like you know, I know that you’ve been through a lot as a Seal, and you’ve done some really tough workout, and you’ve done the pentathlon, and this multi-day adventure races, etcetera, do you have any techniques that you use mentally to really push when the going gets hard?
Lance: Yeah. I think I do. You know, I’ve got a positive mantra that you say to yourself – if you’re feeling pain, and if I’m in the team of event like an hourly race with a bunch of other guys, and obviously I’m sure they’re feeling the same thing, so I try to motivate them, it kinda takes my mind off what I’m feeling, and helps me generate positive thoughts for everybody else in the boat. I’ve also got some people in my life that I look up to because they have had injuries, and they have physical conditions that don’t allow them to do the things that I can do, you know, I’ve got a great buddy I grew up with. He develops scleroderma in his early 40’s, and that’s a hardening of the skin tissue, but the internal organs also starts hardening. So this guy was a beast, I mean, he would do back to back marathons, jump rope for 2 hours straight and he’d go and power lift 300 pounds, and he was a beast, so I looked to people like that who has to get up every morning and stretch for 3 hours just in order to continue to do daily activities. And that’s my motivation because if not for the grace of God, that could be me. So, why I am not trying to live up to my best potential and you know, my buddy could be out there and he wouldn’t be cryin’ about being a little tired or being in pain or anything like that, so…
Lance: I’ve got those thoughts that kinda go through my mind, and I just finished reading a really good book called “The Mindful Athlete” by George Mumford.
Ben: The Mindful Athlete?
Lance: Now, and then he can analyze a lot of the mental games that the lead athletes play with themselves when they’re going through competitions, and he talks about the amount of pain that you’re in, and your perceived level of exertion, and during that pain and your level of exertion is really only the tolerance that you’ve set for yourself in the amount pain that you told yourself that you’re willing to accept, in order to achieve your goal.
Ben: Interesting. Yeah, I’ll link to this book in the show notes. It looks interesting, The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance. This is the guy who worked with Michael Jordan, right?
Lance: Right! Yeah, he is.
Lance: He worked with a lot of really good endurance athletes and elite athletes in developing the book, and he talks a lot about the things that go through your head during competition, and how to get to some one of the flow state in which you’re basically a third person watching the event, and it slows down for you much like Michael Jordan would shooting the winning the two-pointer in the NBA championships. Everything just kinda slows down and you go through the motion, and you are in your flow state because you’re operating in a slightly higher plane of performance than what you feel like you’re capable of. You’re not over your head but you’re setting a new level for yourself each time you do that.
Ben: Got it, got it. So yeah, I’m curious when you get injured or when you’re working with somebody else who gets injured, you know, if you do maybe push that pain a little bit too hard or you’ve got somebody who needs rehab. You’ve got a lot of tools in your toolbox. I know you’ve worked with the Cold Laser, you do something called Thermo Imaging… what do you do when somebody comes in with the soft tissue injury? Like what’s your approach as far as your some favorite tools to use in addition to things like the functional movement system that you talked about, and use of a TRX for mobility?
Lance: Uhm, soft tissue injuries are something that you have to get through, you know, as a chiropractor I locate the joints and all the soft tissue that surround the joints, well, if it’s not a joint dysfunction then I’m looking at the soft tissue that’s supporting muscular and tendons around it. So how do we get those out of the pain cycle? First thing that’s gonna happen with that muscle tissue is it’s gonna contract and you’re body is going into survival mode and it’s locking up that joint in those muscles around it in order to prevent further injury. So in order to alleviate that pain cycle that you’re in, and trying to get that soft tissue back to performance level, you have to break that pain cycle. And in order to do that you get in there with a – I like using low light laser therapy and class 3, class 4 lasers because it allows you to go in there, and expedite the healing process. You get a lot of helper T-cells in there and you get the immune system functioning at a higher level, therefore cleaning out all of the bad cells that are in there, and then coming and helping remodel that muscle tissue instead of creating scar tissue, you want good solid, smooth muscle tissue back in there. So I use a lot of that in a range of motion once you’re out of the pain cycle, started to get that range of motion back into it, and then once you get that range of motion pain-free, then and only then can you start the strengthening cycle again. Now a lot of people skipped that range in motion and they wanna start getting back into their workout regimen. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in a lifetime of athletic is… and I’ve learned it the hard way, it’s that you only get one chance to heal right, and that’s the first time you do it and any time after that you’re just trying get back over the scar tissue that you created yourself. So, do it right the first time, and that’s a hard lesson for most athletes to learn.
Ben: So these lasers, is it just a deal where you’re subjecting a soft tissue injury to a laser for a certain period of time? Is it like repeated exposures to laser? How exactly does this laser work?
Lance: Well, it’s – this laser light shine on to the muscle tissue, on to the muscles and I could – if I now have an injury then I would gently move my elbow in and out of the range of motion while shunning the laser on to it, and it could take 4 or 5 sessions of 3 to 4 minutes at each session. It doesn’t take a long time to do, but that will actually help expedite the healing process, and I use an Erchonia Laser, E-r-c-h-o-n-i-a, and if you go to their website and you can go to the physician locator, and find either physical therapists or a chiropractor near you who has got that laser, they’re worth their money.
Ben: So they’re solid. It’s called the serchonia.
Lance: Erchonia – e-r-c-h-o-n-i-a.
Ben: Okay, got it, got it. I’ll link to this in the show notes as well. And by the way folks, if you wanna go check out what Lance and I are talking about, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/20x, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/20x. And that leads me to the next thing I wanna ask you about, Lance is… I think a lot of people have perhaps heard of the Kokoro Camp. You know, this brutal, multi-day camp where you’re doing everything from night hikes to time spent in the surf, to log carries to beat downs, to just everything that you make you a stronger person for several days in a row, but you also have this 20X concept. Can you explain what exactly it means to you to be a 20X, and then what people can expect at an event like a 20X? Why it exists?
Lance: Okay! Great question. The 20X is a term that Mark Divine came up with because you know, we think you’re capable of doing 20 times, 20X more than what you feel like you can do yourself. And we like to try to show you that in a short 12 hours which is kind of like an abbreviated 50 hour Kokoro camp, that 20x is you train up for it, you come into it, we give you recommendations for physical fitness come again to it, so you come in there and you hit the minimum standards, but we take you and put you in a team environment, we put you in individual type scenarios where you have to pull out of yourself everything you’ve got and then we keep going, I mean, we keep raising the level, we keep raising the level, and you’ll find that even though you feel that you’re tired, you still got more into you, and we sprinkle a lot of the unbeatable mind concepts that Mark Divine came up with and we spread that out throughout the entire 20 hours by telling you and showing you that not only can you do more than you think you can, you can motivate others to do more than you thought that they could. So, what happens is if we do that on a Saturday, you go through the 20X on Sunday, you can take those same lessons and take them home, and you can apply those to your personal life. You can apply into your professional life with working with teams, whatever you do and the mental lessons that you learned and the concepts will stay with you the rest of your life.
Ben: So, it’s 20 hours long?
Lance: The 20X is a 12 hour event.
Ben: Okay. The 20X is 12 hours long, so you would start it like let’s say, you’d show up at 7AM in the morning and from 7AM until 7PM you would basically go through a series of both team and individual challenges that you guys on the team at SEALFit put together to specifically work on both body and mind.
Lance: Correct. And if you don’t have the mindset, you know, your body is gonna shutdown as soon as you start feeling a little pain. So we teach you how to do that. We teach you how to set that mental process up in order to – you’ve got a positive mantra, find your Why and your Why is whatever is gonna take you to get you through it specifically seriously challenging situations, you know, if you’re tired and you’re hurt and you’re hungry and you’re behind in the lines, and it’s raining like hell, you know, you’ve got to have a Why, and everyone has got some personal reason to stay alive, and they have to tap in to that.
Ben: So, in terms of for example, we’re doin’ the Eastern Washington SealFit and I had that in a podcast a couple of weeks ago, and this is where a bunch of SealFit coaches are gonna come up and we’ve got uh you know, few dozen individuals will gonna be part of this 20X Event that you guys put on. It’s actually at my house, you know, I’ve got about 10 acres out here in the forest for obstacles, and all sorts of places where one could be potentially challenged, but I noticed that what you wanted to do and what you’re kicking things off with is a 4 hour day or a 4 hour afternoon/evening the day before in which people are in a classroom style setting. Is that where you’re teaching the Why? Is that where you’re teaching like these Jedi mind tricks that you guys are gonna use in order to a lot of people to get through the next day?
Lance: That’s true. That 4-hour period, it could be crucial to you for the next 12 the next day. And in that we talk about, we have 5 mountains that we discuss in SealFit, that’s the physical mountain which is easy, anyone can do that. The middle mountain you know that, that’s all tied together, the emotional side and that your emotions motivate every decision you make whether you think they are in play or not. You know, the intuitional side and then finally is the Kokoro which is blend of your heart and mind into actions. We define all that and then we tie the gaps into why you do what you do. Why you make your decisions, who you surround you yourself with, and all those things come into play no matter what you do. So, when it’s time for you to go out, and even though you could be a physical stud, and I think some of the best athletes in the world get laughed at the starting line or get left behind when it came to a team evolution because they weren’t team oriented. But when it comes time to dig really deep and you have to find an inner drive within yourself, you’re using that emotional concept, you’re using that intuitional concept. You know, and you’re helping motivate other people, you’re taking your PD party away from you and you’re helping other people, and that’s I think you know, from a social perspective, and for all mankind that’s what it really drives everybody and makes you do things. You have to analyze what drives you first in order to know what it’s gonna take to make you come up to another 2 or 3 levels.
Ben: Okay. So you’ve got about 4 hours or so that people show up for on, in this case July 8th. That show up in Spokane, check in at the hotel, you’ve got this like mind-based seminar at the hotel, and the next day folks show up at my place at… what is this, 7AM?
Lance: Will start at 3AM if you want.
Ben: 3AM, well whatever time. Time could be determined. And at that point, how fit does someone need to be to get through something like this? Like or what kind of 2-part question, how fit do I need to be and is there some kind of a book or a training program or something they should be following leading up to showing up to make sure that they’re adequately prepared when they show up on July 8th?
Lance: You need a good base, I mean, you need – we have recommendations for a 1 mile run in boots and pants at 9 minutes and 30 seconds which is you know, it’s fairly benign, fairly benign is – a lot of people wouldn’t push themselves in that time, but you need to have at least that base when you show up. Uhm, 6 pull ups or 10 pull ups and 30 or 40 or 50 sit ups in 2 minutes time. You need that – look at the recommendations, go to SealFit, look at our 20X recommendations for your fitness level when you show up there, and if you don’t have that fitness level, then you need to start working specifically on getting for this event by doing those things and by using the proper techniques, not getting injured so you don’t want to start 3 weeks out if you can do a pull up, you know, you don’t want to start 3 weeks out trying to make sure you can get 10, but ramp up your fitness regimen until you can hit the numbers that we recommend at a minimum standard there.
Ben: Yeah. I see ‘em here, you’ve got 40 push-ups, 40 sit ups, 40 air squats. Each of those would need to be done in 2 minutes, so you’ve got to do 40 push-ups in 2 minutes, 40 sit ups in 2 minutes, and also do 40 air squats in 2 minutes, and you’ll be able to do 8 dead hang pull-ups if you’re a man, and 6 dead hang pull-ups if you’re a woman, and then you’ll need to be able to do a 1 mile run in boots and utility pants on the road in 10 minutes.
Lance: Yeah, which is – are not huge obstacles I think for fitness, for anyone who wants to jump and reduce. We don’t want you just to survive throughout the day and go from one evolution to the next, I want you to thrive. So, the fitter you are coming in, the better you’ll gonna be able to leave at the end of the day.
Ben: Yeah, I mean…
Lance: Not to stay dead. You won’t have a lot of tools and you won’t have a lot of new developments by the end of the day if you can’t reach those but those are recommendations for you to really achieve optimum capability.
Ben: Yeah, I’ll put a link to this physical standards in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/20x, if you wanna look ‘em up but I mean like I can tell you right now for me when I did Kokoro for example, I went and I got Mark’s book, The Way of the Seal was I think the book that I got, uhm…
Lance: No, it’s the Seal Fit…
Ben: Yeah, it was “8 Weeks to SealFit” and I thought you know, this is – this was written by the people who actually are gonna be putting this thing on. I’m just gonna do it exactly what it says, word for word for the eight weeks going into the Kokoro, and that’s exactly what I did. And so, I would recommend that if this type of thing you wanna do, if this 20X is the type of thing you wanna do, you go check out those physical standards and start to follow, you know so for example, the post-workouts on the SEALFit page, you’ve got like a little membership area there where you can do and do a daily workout, like a daily Seal fit WOD, and in my opinion that’s the type of thing that folks should be doing. Would you agree Lance?
Lance: I agree. You know, if you can be a master of body weight exercises, and that’s what we’re – we’re not asking you to come in and snatch 200 pounds on this 20X’s, but we’re gonna ask you to do some low PT and things like that. That your capability to do a good snatch will help you, but these are body weight exercises and the stuff you can take anywhere. And you know, I’ve been in some the most obscure places in the world and you don’t have anything but a rock to work out with, you know, in your own body weight, so you do what you have to doin’ order to stay fit, and if nothing else you know, your consistency and _____ [0:50:33.6] is the most important thing I think that and then being able to go to the best gym in the world where if you don’t know how to use the equipment there, then you might be as well be out in the middle of the desert or somewhere.
Ben: Yeah, yeah it makes sense. Well, what I’m gonna do is for folks who are interested to learn more about this, so July 8th and 9th is the actual SealFit event. The next day, the obstacle racer, Hunter McIntyre and I are doin’ an obstacle racing course instruction. We’re gonna teach you how to do 8-foot walls, 20-feet walls, traverse walls, 30-foot rope climbs, balance logs, rigs, monkey bars, spear throw, pretty much anything you’d expect in a Spartan race, and so, if you wanna shove it all into 1 weekend and you show up on July 8, you get this mental training seminar with Lance and the team at SealFit the next day. You get 12 hours of really becoming a stronger person, followed up with a nice little barbeque party at the end and then the following day, you show up and it’s not really so much of a beat down workout as much as a lot of really didactic instruction from Hunter and myself in obstacle racing, and you can shove all that into one weekend.
So July 8th, 9th, and 10th so you can meet Coach Cumings, you can meet the team at SealFit, and you know, if you’re thinking about getting into something like the SealFit Kokoro, or maybe you wanna do like a Spartan death race or what they call the Agoge now, or you wanna go out and do somethin’ that’s maybe longer than 12 hours at some point in your life, or you want the bragging rights/slap on the back/satisfaction of knowing that you have push yourself to the absolute limits and turned yourself into a stronger person, this is a pretty cool event to check out. So, here’s the deal: you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/20X, there you can access the show notes for everything that Lance and I talked about from the mindful athlete book that he recommends, to the TRX suspension trainer, to his bio and what he’s been up to as well as the SealFit events page, to my 3-part article series on my experience to the SealFit Academy in Kokoro and of course this event that’s taking place at my house, July 8th, 9th, and 10th in Spokane, Washington. And how many people do you limit this 20X’s to Lance?
Lance: Well, you’ve got 10 acres out there, so I think I could pack to spread to a hundred people out, and have them all gainfully employed for 12 hours without a problem.
Ben: Alright, there you have it. So this probably – we won’t start to sell you on scare so there’s probably enough room for you to get in, but I know for the obstacle dominator event, for that next day, we’re limiting that one to 30 people for that event, and that’s just because we can’t have so many people hanging from a 30-foot rope at that one time. Unless we get more instructors which we may, but either way we’ve got plenty of bonuses throwing in for anybody who signs up by June 15th. So, if you’re listenin’ to this podcast, get housed over to bengreenfielfitness.com/20x. Check out the 20X page, check out the obstacle training event that’s taking place as well as some of those other things that Lance and I have the chance to talked about today, and Lance, I wanna thank you for coming on and giving your time sharing this stuff with us, and also for how to put together this 20X.
Lance: Hey, I’m excited about it. This is gonna be an all ______ [54:08.3] weekend, and if someone can stay in there and go to this entire weekend and not walk away with something then we’re doing something wrong. I don’t see how that’s gonna happen. This is gonna be an awesome, unique weekend, just mind, body, and soul, and if you’re in in one of the best places in the world, and how can you go wrong with that?
Ben: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. This gonna be an amazing, amazing experience for any who decide to pull the trigger and show up, defy your fears, and check it all out at bengreenfieldfitness.com.
Lance: What’s up with you Ben in 2017? You got any big targets?
Ben: 2017? That’s a long ways off. (chuckles) I haven’t thought too much about 2017 aside from getting a few good hunts in, and right now I’ve kinda got bitten by the spear fishing bug, so I’ve been doin’ a lot of spear fishing. I was actually workin’ on my gun yesterday, and I’m plannin’ on a big trip out to Neah Bay near Seattle for some very cold water spear fishing and uh, so yeah, I’ve been enjoying to put on the old carbon fins and the mask, and workin’ on my breath hold, and going down and shooting tasty fish. So, that’s what I’ve been up to.
Lance: Yeah, there’s a big down one there at the – it’s called the Gorge Games on the Columbia River comin’ up in July where you paddle downwind backup river on the Columbia…
Ben: Yeah, that’s the unique part about that area of Hood River. Is it’s downwind but the way the currents run, and the reason is such a big kite surfing or wind surfing areas is the uniqueness of the wind and the currents down there in that part of the world.
Lance: You’ll probably find me there with my old rigger canoe in July.
Lance: And like it’s some of those big waves.
Ben: Yeah. It’s easy four drive from my place, so yeah.
Lance: And next year, SealFit is putting together a select group of clients to take over to Greece for a Sparta to the Mapoli Run Rock for Charity, and we’re gonna be putting some effort as well on that, but we’re taking 20-25 select individuals, and we hope to raise about a million dollars.
Ben: Sign me up. I’ve got a whole doorful of chama cream upstairs, so I’m in.
Lance: Yeah. That’s big, I can’t wait.
Ben: Sweet! Alright folks, well check out all the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/20x, we’re you can learn a little bit more about Lance, more about this 20X Event, all the other SealFit Events, the Obstacle Dominator Event with Hunter and I, and plenty more. So, thanks for listening in, and Lance, thanks for comin’ on, man.
Lance: Hey, have a great summer. Can’t wait to see you and Hunter in July.
Ben: Word. Alright folks, this is Ben Greenfield and Lance Cummings signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com, have a healthy week!
You’ve been listening to the Ben Greenfield fitness podcast. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com for even more cutting edge fitness and performance advice.
Two years ago, I reported on my experience at the brutal SEALFit Kokoro camp, a 60+ hour crucible you can read more about at “26 Mile Night Hikes, Surf Swim Torture, 450 Pound Giant Logs And More: What To Expect at SEALFit Kokoro Camp And 9 Ways To Get More Tough.“
In that article, I mention a guy named “Lance Cummings”. Coach Lance’s snarling face struck fear deep into the heart of every Kokoro participant in my class, and he is well known for being the man who dishes out extreme amounts of suffering and hardship for anybody brave enough to step into Kokoro.
But there’s much more to coach Lance Cummings than simply being a man who could kill you with his pinky finger.
Technically, Lance is director of training at SEALFit.
Before that, retired from Active Duty Navy Service with 30 years of combined Active and Reserve service. After graduating BUD/s Class 124 he deployed overseas in support of US Foreign Policy with six different SEAL teams on both the east and west coast. He served at the Naval Special Warfare Center as a Basic Underwater/SEAL (BUD/s) instructor where he earned his Master Training Specialist classification. He also worked several State Department Security Team contracts with private employers during his time in the Naval Reserves.
He left Active Duty in 1995 to pursue a Doctorate of Chiropractic degree, graduating in 2000 from Life Chiropractic College in Atlanta. While running a Chiropractic practice in Ga. and continuing to serve in the SEAL Reserves, he was recalled to Active Duty in January 2002 to deploy to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He made 7 subsequent Middle East deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq with three different SEAL Teams as well as contracting with Blackwater Security.
As the Training Officer at Naval Special Warfare Group 1, in charge of West Coast SEAL Team operational training and readiness, he helped establish the Human Performance Initiative, a tactical readiness assessment and evaluation testing system utilized by every SEAL team today.
Since retiring from the Navy in 2011, Lance has coached at SEALFIT Integrative Training, where he, Mark Divine, and numerous SEALs and selected civilian coaches conduct multi-day Academies, 20X, Kokoro Camps and custom team events, both locally and internationally.
His athletic accomplishments include hundreds of triathlons, multi-day adventure races (he once paddled from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal in 15 hours), endurance horse racing, and he has been a member of World Championship Teams in Military Pentathlon, Naval Pentathlon, Outrigger Canoe and Dragon Boat racing. He has won several Marksmanship awards in inter-service competition in both handgun and carbine categories, and also competes in Stand Up Paddle Board Racing, archery and mountain biking.
He continues his passion for Chiropractic, both with people and animal patients. He is certified in Cold Laser Therapy, Functional Mobility, Thermal Imaging, and is a registered Emergency Medical Technician. His wife is a practicing Emergency Physician, and he also has nine year old twins.
His certifications and experiences include:
Honor Graduate, US Army Master Fitness Trainer Academy
SEAL Team Training Officer
Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician
NAUI Scuba Instructor
US Navy Master Training Specialist
Certified Veterinary Chiropractitioner
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Doctorate in Chiropractic, Life University, Marietta GA
BS Education, Southern Illinois University
American College of Sports Medicine Fitness Instructor
TRX Suspension Training Level 1, 2 and Sports Rehabilitation Trainer
Functional Movement Systems (FMS) Level II Certified
Structural Functional Movement Assessment Certified
US Military Pentathlon Athlete
US Navy Pentathlon Athlete
USA Mens Dragon Boat Team 2011, 2013, 2015 – Team physician and competitor
Outrigger Canoe USA/World Championship Teams
So the guy is a wealth of knowledge on not just survival and warfare, but also fitness, taking care of aging and injured bodies, pushing through pain and much more. During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-What it feels like for Lance to be “the man” who strikes fear in the heart of all Kokoro participants…
-When Lance decided he wanted to be a SEAL…
-Whether Lance thinks he is simply “hardwired” differently from a genetics standpoint, or whether something happened during his childhood that made him a high achiever…
-Why Lance got into pentathlon (and this crazy Brazilian penthathlon video)…
-Lance’s story of paddling from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal in 15 hours…
-As one of the “fittest old dudes” I know, what Lance’s fitness program look like…
-How Lance pushes through pain…
-The top tools Lance uses as a chiropractor – tools people know little about, but should when it comes to enhancing recovery or managing injuries…
-What to expect at a SEALFit 20x event, and what can people expect at the Eastern Washington event at my house…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode: