Navy SEALs invading Bellevue for fitness challenge
July 8, 2009 · Updated 1:31 AM
U.S. Navy SEALs are operating in the Puget Sound region this month on a mission that's a bit out of the ordinary, at least by their standards.
The normally clandestine war fighters have come front-and-center for a public-relations tour aimed at promoting exercise and nutrition through the Navy SEAL Fitness Challenge, which takes place Aug. 8 in downtown Bellevue.
The event, which consists of a 500-yard swim, a 1.5-mile run, push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups, gives participants a taste of the physical-screening test that Navy special warfare candidates must pass to enter the SEAL training program.
"We want to pull back the curtain a little bit and show people the type of lifestyle that we live," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Torrey, one of the SEALs overseeing the event. "We're active, athletic warriors."
The fitness challenge begins with a 500-yard swim at the Bellevue Club Athletic Pool and then moves to Surrey Park for strength exercises and the start of the 1.5-mile run.
SEALs will direct the events, offering the occasional bit of military-style hollering for effect.
Participation in the event is free, and entrants must be 13 or older.
Entrants are paired up into teams, with the top finishers from each age bracket receiving awards in every event. Prizes include medals and T-shirts.
The fitness challenge is intended to draw all types, from teens interested in the military, to middle-aged men and women who want to get back in shape.
Torrey recalls a man who cried after finishing a previous challenge. He was overjoyed at having lost nearly 100 pounds while training for three months to participate.
“That’s the kind of thing that makes me feel good about this,” Torrey said. “We’re trying to help people and be an inspiration.”
The SEAL Fitness Challenge is in its third year. Previous competitions have taken place in seven major U.S. cities, with some of the events drawing up to 600 entrants.
Participants have been known to road trip from one challenge to the next, according to Torrey.
“It has a following,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s the Grateful Dead, but the following is there.”
The SEAL team overseeing the fitness challenge will spend the next several weeks drumming up interest in their program. One way they’ll do that is by meeting with teens involved in club sports programs so they can train with them.
"It's always humbling to work out with these kids," Torrey said. "I feel honored. How many kids when they get up at 5 a.m. don’t just hit the alarm and go back to bed, but get up and go to practice instead? That’s the kind of dedication and fortitude we encourage.”
One thing the SEALs don’t plan to do is recruit.
“We don’t actively look for people,” said Chief Petty Officer Audie O’Dell. “This program sells itself. We want motivated self-starters.”
Information about preparing for the SEAL Fitness Challenge is available at www.sealfitnesschallenge.com.