We’ve seen celebrities succumb to the pressure of an SAS course, but is it really that hard? This journalist took the test and ‘died’.
We’ve all seen the stars of SAS Australia take on challenges that push mind and body to the limit.
From a shower with paprika spray in the face to jumping from a helicopter into a speeding boat – the kind of training to get to that point is unimaginable to most.
So, could I, a 26-year-old woman who wears a size 16 and trains five times a week, train like a SAS soldier?
As part of Amazon Prime Video’s release of The terminal liststarring Chris Pratt as a former Navy SEAL officer – the American equivalent of an SAS soldier – investigating why his platoon was ambushed during a cover mission, I was invited to take on the challenge.
Hosted by Sydney personal trainer Jono Castano at his Acero gym, he put a group of us to the test and completed a SAS inspired workout.
I’m not going to lie, I was a little hesitant about this challenge. Thanks to a diagnosis of celiac disease and a little emotional eating, I’m a curvier woman. Despite the fact that I do two sports and exercise five times a week, I felt that these challenges would be way out of my reach.
While there are a lot of plus-sized people out there who would have killed this, I doubted I’d be one of them.
But, as Jono reassured me beforehand, it was all about pushing myself to the limit – whatever that may be.
“A workout like this involves a lot — strength, stamina, speed and intelligence,” he said.
“But when it comes to exercising, it’s just about getting moving.
“For an ordinary person, I would only recommend this based on their purpose. If they are advanced and want to try something that will push them, this is for those people.”
He said that any training should be tailored to each person’s skills and goals and that the training for this challenge would be intensive, even for someone like him.
The physical Navy SEAL screen test includes a 470m breaststroke swim to be completed in less than 12.5 minutes, 42 push-ups in 2 minutes, 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes, 6 pull-ups, and a 2 minute run. .4 km in 11 minutes.
Fortunately, this workout, while challenging, wouldn’t be nearly as terrible.
The workout would be 13 exercises that we had to complete in 45 minutes, plus a warm-up, with a sign to tick off what we’d been doing in that time.
“A little friendly competition to see who can tick off the most,” Jono joked.
As we gathered in a circle, Jono revealed that we would be warming up to the infamous squat track “Bring Sally Up.”
Only, this time we would do it as pushups.
Immediately a thought crossed my mind. “I have made a mistake.”
I’ve done the squat version dozens of times and my legs are easily my strongest body part. My arms are my weakest.
My shoulders were on fire after the four minutes and then I had to do 50 chest presses with 10kg in each hand right after.
One exercise, which I found to be the most challenging, was actually a balance-based exercise. With one leg in the air and the other foot on an inflatable disc, toss a tennis ball against the wall and catch the other 25 rounds.
I can’t save my life and my hand-eye coordination is shocking, despite being on sports teams, and I got frustrated.
How could I not do this most basic task?
But Ben Putland, another trainer at Acero, came over and helped me adapt the task so that I could actually get a workout while using it.
The part that broke me, though, was jogging a mile on a treadmill on an 8-inch incline. I knew it would take me about 10 minutes, but what I didn’t expect was how much the incline would get me.
After three minutes I was gasping for air.
I didn’t want to do it anymore, but I had no intention of cheating myself.
At one point, tears began to sting my eyes. I was tired, sore and ashamed. I felt like everyone was watching me, but I knew they probably weren’t.
I tried to distract myself.
One way to do that was to repeat Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” in my head.
Another was considering whether I should take a nap under my desk after training.
But, I got through it.
Finally, Jono announced that there were 10 seconds left and began to count down.
I only did 5 of the 13 exercises
At the end I felt absolutely shattered but triumphant. I hadn’t completed every task, but I felt good about what I had done. My face was flushed, I was gasping for air, and at the time felt like I would never recover.
It had been hard and there were often times when I wanted to stop or cry during the routine. I had felt so stupid compared to all those people who were extremely fit. But when I looked around the room, I saw that I wasn’t the only one who regretted my life choices that day.
Jono said the exercise industry has shifted after the pandemic, with people moving from weight loss goals to more holistic approaches.
“I love it. So many people create these toxic worlds in our heads where it’s all about these crazy diets and having to exercise every day,” he said.
“It’s a positive shift. We’re finally seeing the benefits of what exercise is – it’s about exercise. That could be today or a walk with friends.”
So as I died in this workout, I walked away knowing that any move is a good move.
After I finally caught my breath, I went about my day and even played hockey that night.
The next day, after training, I was in such pain. I could barely lift my arms, my core ached with every breath, and I walked around like a cowboy.
It’s not a workout I’d do every day — or even every week — but it’s definitely one to try if you want to shake up your routine.
Until then, I’ll put on cowboy boots so I don’t look too stupid while my muscles calm themselves.
The Terminal List will be released on Prime Video on July 1.
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