Full title: Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

livingwithasealJesse Itzler leads an interesting life. As a successful businessman and entrepreneur, his off-the-wall ideas for solving difficult situations and for stirring the pot have served him very well. In this book,Living with a SEAL, he documents a month of training with a real life SEAL (who is called just “SEAL” throughout the book). The workouts were insane, potentially life threatening, but Jesse achieved some astonishing results in a very short period of time. He also bonded with his trainer and learned, through daily interactions, that the sort of conditioning that it takes to make a killer like his SEAL, takes place mainly in the mind and such training can leave its marks on the psyche.

Jesse explains his motivation:“I don’t know if I was thinking about my mortality, or fretting over how many more peak years I had left, or anything like that. I think I was just thinking that now was as good a time as any to shake things up. You know, to break up that same routine. And my SEAL-for-hire idea definitely shook things up. I believe the best ideas are the ones you don’t spend too much time thinking through. Which I didn’t, and I got a lot more than I bargained for.” loc 91, ebook.

SEAL thinks very carefully, bordering on obsessively, about safety and potential disaster scenarios for Jesse and his family. In this passage, he’s purchased an inflatable raft so that, if another 9/11 happens, that Jesse and crew could get out by taking the river. Here’s what Jesse’s wife, Sara, thought of this: “I’m supposed to grab my son, strap a fifty-pound pack on my shoulders, carry four oars, walk a mile to the river, inflate this survival raft, and then paddle to New Jersey… in the middle of a national emergency?” There is dead silence in the room. … I think to myself, she has a point. Finally SEAL interjects. … “Sara, don’t EVER underestimate the power of adrenaline,” he says. “People can accomplish great things on adrenaline. Adrenaline can make you do things you NEVER thought you could do,” and storms out of the room.” pg 961, ebook.

SEAL is a man who gets things done, sacrificing his own health to finish tasks that he’s started: “I found out SEAL once entered a race where you could either run for twenty-four or forty-eight hours. Shocker: SEAL signed up for the forty-eight-hour one. At around the twenty-three-hour mark, he’d run approximately 130 miles, but he’d also torn his quad. He asked the race officials if they could just clock him out at twenty-four hours. When he was told they couldn’t do that, he said, “ROGER THAT,” asked for a roll of tape, and wrapped his quad. He walked (limped) on a torn quad for the last twenty-four hours to finish the race and complete the entire forty-eight hours.” loc 1483, ebook. Amazing what people can accomplish when they set their minds to it. Personally, I would have stopped when I broke myself, but then, I suppose I wouldn’t make a very good SEAL.

The extreme exercise that SEAL demanded of Jesse had some surprising mindfulness benefits:“…with SEAL around, I’m learning how to be more present. It’s primarily because I have to. If I don’t, there is no way I will be able to finish the tasks at hand. I just go one step at a time. One rep at a time. And when I’m done, I worry about the next step or rep.” loc 1909

I was continually impressed by the physical displays of power and endurance from SEAL. But then, he’d have an interaction with Jesse or his family and I’d question the man’s paranoia levels and ability to function in society. In this passage, he’s encouraging Sara to mix up the times that she goes to get the mail: “Sara, you need to mix up your pattern.” “Pattern?” “Yeah, your pattern. … The time you get the mail. That’s your pattern. It’s the same every day. It’s predictable.” “I get the mail after lunch,” she says, “That’s the most convenient time.”… “Exactly. You know that. And I know that. The mailman most definitely knows that. So I bet EVERYONE knows that. For sure your neighbors know that.” “But I’m just getting the mail.. at my house… on our property,” she says. “Just do me a favor. Change up the pick up time.” loc 2161, ebook.

Living with a SEAL is a lot of fun, but as I said, there are hints of a darker reality that SEAL has learned to endure. It is never graphic or spills over, but you can feel it boiling under the surface. Recommended for runners, people who like to read memoirs, and those who are interested in the sheer power of the mind and body. Some read alikes: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, Explorers of the Infinite: The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes–and What They Reveal About Near-Death Experiences, Psychic Communication, and Touching the Beyond by Maria Coffey, or if the extreme nature of these books are just too much, pick up Confessions of an Unlikely Runner: A Guide to Racing and Obstacle Courses for the Averagely Fit and Halfway Dedicated by Dana L. Ayers.

Thank you to NetGalley and Center Street Publishing for a free digital copy of this book!  And, thank you for reading.

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