Digging deep to find the motivation needed to make a change

By stew smith

Changing your life and deciding to do something different because you yearn to do it is something many people simply read about. I am here to tell you it can happen to you at anytime in your life. One day two men met for the first time, a 52-year-old Catholic priest and the other a 28-year-old Navy SEAL lieutenant. The two could never have foreseen the effect they would have on each other's lives. I know firsthand because I am the Navy SEAL lieutenant.

Father Hoog, who was from St. Mary's in Annapolis, Md., wanted to become a Navy Chaplain after almost 25 years as a civilian Catholic priest. I knew this was not going to be easy to accomplish, and I figured I would put as much into his program as Father Hoog did.

The first meeting went well as we discovered we both could contribute to each other's lives. We decided that we would meet weekly to exercise, and my job was to alter his weekly fitness program to meet the goals specified by the Navy. In turn, Father Hoog would help me with my conversion to the Catholic Church.

Father Hoog had to lose over 80 pounds, be able to do over 40 push-ups, 60 sit-ups and run a mile and a half under 13:00. The first week, we took a benchmark test to see where he should begin. Father Hoog could walk a mile, but not run at all. Push-ups on his toes, which was the requirement, were non-existent; and his weak lower back was preventing him from being able to do sit-ups. His high blood pressure was an issue as well and he was on medication for it.

Week one for Father Hoog was a week of walking, stretching, a few knee push-ups and crunches. Every day, I would see Father Hoog walking around the Naval Academy Campus. We also realized that he had to watch the sweets but decided not to start a rigorous diet the same week as an exercise routine. We tripled his water intake, for if there is such thing as a magic solution to losing weight it is water. He was drinking nearly a gallon a day. The water helped flush his system, enabled the body to burn fat as an energy source more efficiently and kept his body cool during exercise.

Two months into the fitness program, we decided to start monitoring food intake. This proved to be the area where he needed the most help, and the documentation of every piece of candy in-between meals helped him realize that. Soon he had given up sugary snacks for fresh fruits. The water consumption helped out in this area as well, for most people confuse hunger with dehydration. This was the month that his doctor reduced the high blood pressure medicine as well. So we were making progress.

At the sixth month mark, Father Hoog was now running with me for a few miles, then walking a bit in between. Father Hoog started running by just completing 50 yards at a time then walking 50 yards to catch his breath. We repeated this several time during the run / walk. This workout seemed to help rejuvenate the metabolism and melted nearly 50 pounds of Father Hoog away by Spring. Father Hoog now weighed just 230 pounds, could run the mile and a half in the prescribed time and pass the pushup and situps test. Our calisthenics program had paid off.

He was still determined to keep on pressing. Accomplishing the physical fitness testing goals were a big relief for us both, but we had no idea how hard the next 30 pounds would be.

The ninth month was depressing. It was the third month in a row with little or no weight loss. Father Hoog was stuck on a plateau, so I pushed him off with a course of weight training, more running, swimming and biking. After another two months, we were back on the road to losing weight steadily. Only 15 more pounds to go. Now Father Hoog's running had skyrocketed to as many as 10 miles nonstop. He could do 10 pullups, over 60 pushups and 75 situps. Father Hoog well surpassed the maximum scores for his age group.

Two months later, the Navy came to St. Mary's in Annapolis. The church held a ceremony for Father Hoog, and I was the Naval officer who got to swear Father Hoog into the Naval Chaplain Corp.

Stew Smith is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL, and author of several fitness and self defense books such as "The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness" and "Maximum Fitness". As a military fitness trainer, Stew has trained hundreds of students for Navy SEAL, Special Forces, Air Force PJ, Ranger Training and other physical law enforcement professions. E-mail Smith at stew@stewsmith.com or visit his official Web site: www.stewsmith.com.