We’ve looked at ancient warriors in the past. How their drive, intent, grit, and raw power made them into the most formidable people in their day. And how the lessons that they were taught such as how to work out and live we can also appropriate for our own uses in this day and age. However, we don’t have to look to the far past in order to find warriors that have risen in the ranks to become more than just people.
Enter, David Goggins, “The toughest man in the world,” and currently a motivational speaker and triathlete. He is the personification of both mental toughness and physical grit, having done insane feats of strength and endurance between his ultra-marathon running and world records in pull-ups.
Goggins is the man to follow as an inspiration. By looking into his daily routine and using it in your own life, you can turbocharge your mental and physical fortitude, bringing it to crazy new heights. His whole thing is getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Never settling for what you have now and what you’re capable of now, but rather, always pushing for more into territory that makes you uncomfortable.
In his book, “Can’t Hurt Me”, Goggins highlights how in his youth he faced poverty, prejudice, and abuse on a regular basis. After school, trying to get out of a bad situation, he joined the military and served in the Air Force until the age of 23. After being medically discharged, his weight blew up to nearly 300 pounds when he was 24.
This is also when he decided to join the Navy SEALS, which required him to get down to a weight of at least 191 pounds in order to even try the Navy SEAL training. Getting into a rigorous training regime—something which would be the backbone for the rest of his professional life—he lost over 100 pounds in two months.
It goes without saying that this man of pure drive made it through the SEALS training, effectively becoming the only person to have ever completed Air Control, US Army Ranger School, and US Navy SEALs training.
But he didn’t stop there, as the completion of over 60 ultramarathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons, shows. His story as an endurance athlete begins after leaving the military and after a helicopter crash in Afghanistan that called a number of his friends. As a way to raise money for charity (the Special Operations Warrior Foundation) in order to help their families, he decided to get into long-distance running.
But not just any long-distance running—the toughest long-distance runs in the world. At first, he attempted to get into the notoriously difficult Badwater-135 ultramarathon, which is set in Death Valley over a 135-mile stretch. However, he was told by organizers that the event was invite-only. Being the kind of man he is, Goggins decided that he would get into that race even if he had to play by the rules.
So, he entered the San Diego One Day ultramarathon, running 101 miles in just over 19 hours—even though he’d never ran a marathon before. This ultramarathon was followed by a Las Vegas marathon and the Boston Marathon, but he still wasn’t invited.
The golden ticket to getting into Badwater was the Hurt-100. And just as the name suggests, it was another extremely tough ultra-marathon in Hawaii. This time, he placed 9th while only 23 runners finished the race. This finally allowed him to get an invitation to Badwater.
With Badwater, he cemented his position as one of the world’s greatest endurance athletes. Finishing 5th overall, this was completely unheard of for an ultramarathon novice in an event such as Badwater.
Goggins has continued his ultramarathon career, having now run over 60 races; the latest in 2019. But that’s not even the most impressive part. He’s done all of these feats while suffering from asthma, obesity (for a number of years), and a congenital heart defect (ASD) that prevents people from doing activities such as scuba diving and anything at a high altitude.
David Goggins is without a doubt a “mind over matter” type of guy. But it’s not like he’s just better than the average dude—he truly believes that anyone can be like him and that it just comes down to having the mental fortitude. And once you see his daily routine—both in terms of exercise and diet—the term “mental fortitude” will have a whole other meaning.
In his memoir/self-help book, Goggins places a lot of importance on mindset. Specifically, he believes that most people only put out 40% of their maximum output when it comes to anything. Goggins argues that whenever we feel that we’ve pushed ourselves to the max and we can’t go any further, we’re actually only 40% of the way there.
Less than half. Imagine if we took this mindset into everything we did—specifically when it comes to endurance activities. That moment we feel that we can’t go any further is actually less than half of what we can do. Understanding this mindset that Goggins holds very close to his heart will help in not only motivation but also understanding the rigorous regime that he holds on a day to day basis, especially when training for an ultramarathon.
Now, brace yourselves, this daily routine isn’t for the faint of heart. Also, keep in mind that this routine is probably held most stringently when training for an ultra.
This is a rough breakdown of his routine which he’s offered in the past, but let’s break it down further and add in some of the missing pieces.
The importance of stretching is a major part of the Goggins routine. At the peak, he was stretching for up to 6 hours a day. On average, he keeps up a stretching routine daily (as in, he’s only missed a couple of days since he began), which consists of 2 to 3 hours in the morning.
His weightlifting routine consists of about 90 minutes a day, focusing more so on endurance rather than the heavy weights of strength training. He believes that a strong back and core strength are the root of good endurance, which is where the majority of his strength training comes into play.
All in all, his routine is absolutely gargantuan. A 3 a.m. wakeup call is enough to make anyone shudder, not to mention the 150 miles of cardio he does in a single week. And the point here isn’t necessarily to be Goggins. But it is important to understand how far the human body is able to be pushed, and have a firm grasp on the framework which makes top-performers tick.
And it’s not even like Goggins enjoys this himself. He’s mentioned in the past that he hates to work out, specifically running, swimming, and biking. Yet he does this every single day, and he’s one of the best at it. And he doesn’t do it for the acclaim, according to his book, but rather to push his body to the max to see what it’s capable of doing.
It goes without saying that Goggins is above all, and endurance athlete. But while the majority of his workouts consist of cardio, there is also an emphasis on bodyweight exercises and some weights. Specifically when it comes to training the core and the back, which are essential when it comes to endurance and cardio.
Much of his workouts consist of functional fitness, bodyweight exercises, with different variations, supersets, and combinations. The core and back, to Goggins, are essential. This is due to his background in ultramarathons, which require a large amount of endurance. Furthermore, when Goggins had to lose over 100 pounds in 2 months, focusing on the core helped him reach this goal.
When it comes to the core, you can do:
V-Ups: A great core workout, it requires you to lie back on the floor, lifting both your arms and legs by using your abdominal muscles.
Broomstick twist: Sitting down with feet flat on the floor, you want a bar resting on your back delts, behind your head. Use your arms and hands to hold the bar in place, and then firmly contract your abdominals and twist from side to side.
Russian twist: Sitting on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lean back so your body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Linking your hands together in front of your body, brace your core and lift your legs off from the ground. With your core engaged, rotate your arms from side to side.
By far the most extensive exercise that Goggins does is cardio. We’ve already touched on this above, but it essentially comes down to:
This gives Goggins well over 100 miles of cardio every week, with swimming and more biking added in. If the “dreadmill” is your worst nemesis, then this doesn’t look too good for you. But at the same time, remember that this is meant as a general guideline of what you’re capable of.
Even doing just a fraction of the above will get you in amazing shape, and there’s no feeling like pushing yourself to extreme heights when it comes to cardio.
While Goggins is all about endurance, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do his fair share of bodyweight and weighted exercises. He is, after all, the former world record holder for most pull-ups done in 24-hours, at 4,030.
His gym workout includes:
While we could give you reps and sets, the point here is to absolutely smash your endurance and go through fatigue. Especially if you’re going for endurance, doing workouts until failure, and focusing on the core and back will give you amazing results in the long run.
But where Goggins really shines in a unique light is when it comes to stretching. For years he was taking prescription medications in order to get through an illness that had him sidelined. Doctors were stumped. Goggins, being the toughest man on Earth, decided to do something about it.
This something turned out to be a daily 6-hour stretching routine—an insane amount of time. Still to this day he continues with 2-3 hours of stretching daily. We’ve written previously about the frog stretch, but others you can include are:
Stretching is essential when it comes to warming up, and also for post-workout recovery. And when you’re working out as much as Goggins, you really need to maximize your recovery in order to allow your body to heal.
In the book “Living With a SEAL”, Jesse Itzler, a successful entrepreneur, asks Goggins to live with him for a month and take him through Goggins’ routine. As you can imagine, Goggins took Itzler through a number of insane workouts that pushed Itzler to his limits.
These might not be part of Goggins’ bread-and-butter, regular workouts, but they offer a good benchmark for what Goggins expects of himself—the highest standards.
One of these was termed “Nickels and Dimes”. It involved doing 5 pull-ups (nickels) followed by 10 push-ups (dimes), every minute on the minute—for 10 minutes. The total is 50 pull-ups and 100 push-ups. Apparently once Itzler got to 4 minutes, he dropped and couldn’t continue. Another simple, yet brutal workout, was 150 push-ups with a 50-pound vest. You’re allowed 30 seconds of rest in between each set and don’t forget to load up on some good pre-workout supplements first.
Run, Push-up, Run, was another one of Goggins’ tests. It involved doing 25 push-ups every half-mile, with each mile time having to be faster than the last. So you’d start at a 9-minute mile pace, doing 25 push-ups after a half-mile, and once again at the mile mark. At the mile mark, you’d run the next mile at an 8:50 mile pace. Now, do this for 6 miles. With the 6th mile having an 8:10 mile pace and 300 push-ups under your belt.
And lastly…the 4/4/48. Simple, yet brutal— run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. This gives us a total of 48 miles in two days. Goggins trained Itzler by making him run 4.25 miles four times in 24 hours; still quite the feat. All of these workouts perfectly encapsulate what Goggins is all about—unforgiving, brutal workouts that emphasize the fact that your mind has to be just as well trained as your body.
However, a rigorous training regime isn’t even half the battle when it comes to becoming Goggins-level superhuman.
It follows that the toughest man alive probably follows one of the toughest diet plans—a combination of the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, and healthy eating in general.
First things first: the ketogenic diet. A lot can be said about this type of diet, but it essentially boils down to low carb and a high amount of healthy fats. It puts the body in a state known as “ketosis”—which makes the body super-efficient at burning fats since there are no carbs to burn. Furthermore, the keto diet provides a number of health benefits. This includes improved mental clarity, weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and lower insulin levels.
When looking at Goggins’ ripped physique, it’s no surprise that he’s turned his body into a fat-burning machine. But putting his body into ketosis isn’t all he does.
Goggins is also a firm believer in intermittent fasting. This means not eating for a majority of the time, and only having a very limited number of meals over the course of the day or a few days. Even though he might wake up at 3 in the morning, he doesn’t have his first meal until 11 a.m. when he eats steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries. After that, he eats dinner in the evening, and that’s about it.
Goggins is, no doubt, a machine. Working out more daily than a lot of us do throughout the week, he’s pushed the human body to its limits, and with it, his mind. Nevertheless, even Goggins takes a day off every 7th day in order to allow his body to recover and heal. Doing just a fraction of what he does will put you miles ahead, literally and figuratively. And more important than the routine itself is the mindset. If you do something with intent and with drive, there’s not a force in the world that’ll be able to stop you.