Co-Founder Pete “Bullfrog 13” Wikul’s Inspiration to start Mission Ready
The inspiration to start Mission Ready arose from my personal experiences as a former Navy serviceman and U.S. Navy SEAL for 39 years.
Like many other SEALs, I have had my fair share of injuries in my career. The worst case was in 1984 in South Lebanon. I was on an isolated United Nations Observation Post (OP) at Chateau Beaufort trying to help a fellow United Nations Military Observer in danger when a leaking butane gas cylinder ignited and exploded 10 feet away from me. I suffered burns to 75% of my body.
The explosion and my injuries from it led to a number of other health issues including PTSD, which was misdiagnosed at the time as mononucleosis. PTSD mixed with the other stresses of a military career caused significant sleep problems. Other health issues included a botched medical procedure that caused an internal infection for a number of years, which led to chronic fatigue and more bad sleep. My sleep issues were further worsened by obstructive sleep apnea and age, which meant that for 12 years I had very little REM sleep. Without sleep, it was nearly impossible for my body to heal.
The inability to get the sleep your body needs is a miserable experience. I personally struggled with mood issues and felt like I was unable to be my best at all times, something that was critically important to my survival during my 39 years of service. Most of the time, I just put on my team guy face and powered through it with a smile.
I kept searching for a solution, trying everything that was out there, including various pharmaceutical sleep medications but it became obvious that they were not the answer for me. I recently read a Scripps study about the increase in death rates just from taking sleep medications, which drove home the point that sometimes prescription sleep medication can cause more problems than it solves. I can identify because drowsiness can be life-threatening for a SEAL. Well-intentioned and dedicated to their profession, traditional MDs did everything they could to help but their solutions were temporary at best and I continued to suffer from the many health impairments that arose from my sleep issues, just like millions of Americans experience every day.
My journey into nutrition, supplements, and nutraceuticals began early when I was in SEAL Team TWO in 1975. One of my teammates was spreading the gospel on eating right, supplementing diet with vitamins, minerals, and herbs as well as performing resistance exercise with correct form and breathing. With his inspirational leadership, I became fascinated with the whole subject of health and I became his disciple so to speak. My teammate was way ahead of his time and he voraciously read everything about health, and so did I. The first two books I read were Adele Davis’ “Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit” and “Let’s Get Well,” and I haven’t stopped reading since, amassing an extensive health and nutrition library.
Having failed to find a solution to my sleep issues through traditional medicine, my hobby of studying nutrition and alternative medicine became a passion as I continued my search for true healing. It became a mission. I needed to be “mission ready” all the time, not just some of the time.
CrossFit- Commitment to Community and Health
Two weeks ago, a few folks from the Mission Ready team attended the CrossFit Festivus Games in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Each of us was thoroughly impressed with the work ethic and raw talent demonstrated by the athletes. Their supporters and the box owners also provided a unique spark to the energy at the Festivus events.
While I can’t speak for every team member’s complete experience, I’d like to share my observations from the event in a two-part series. This week, part one looks at two takeaways that made me realize the degree of commitment and sense of community amongst these athletes. Next week’s post will focus on Omega fatty acids and how athletes, and most people in general, know little about its importance to overall health.
Here are my first two observations from the CrossFit Festivus Games:
1– CrossFit is intense
I consider myself to be in decent shape for a guy in his mid-forties. I work out. I eat fairly well. I supplement my dietary requirements in areas where I don’t do so well, but I cannot perform many of the exercises the CrossFit athletes perform with ease. When I tried, I slowly completed the workout BUT COULDN’T LIFT MY FREAKIN’ ARMS AFTERWARDS. I guess I didn’t try to lift them higher than my driving position until much later, but after I’d made it home I couldn’t even lift my fork.
With that said, I admire you CrossFit athletes out there for sacrificing your ability to move limbs as a result of your commitment to wellness. Although, I wasn’t at first, I am now completely committed.
In case you’re headed to the gym or do your workouts at home and you want to find out for yourself, here is what I did:
Part 1 of the WOD (workout of the day) was called “Cindy.” It is 20 minutes of AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 5 pull-ups, 10 pushups, 15 squats. If that wasn’t enough, Part 2 was 10 minutes of Box Jumps and something they call “Burpees.”
You think you can meet the challenge?
2– CrossFit is community
When I first arrived at the Festivus Games in upstate New York, I had no idea what to expect beyond a couple of people with muscle and a few athletes with hustle. I did not expect to see an extended family of athletes, their supporters and box owners building camaraderie around living well, eating clean and doing what’s best for the individual. I heard so many athletes sharing health, nutrition, and exercise tips. Even if they were competing against one another, the majority of the CrossFit athletes wanted to help each other be better.
In the afternoon, a man walked up to my table and picked up a bottle of Sleep Ready and clenched it tightly in his hand. He looked me in the eye and said, “Will this help me get to sleep?”
Of course I could not say yes definitively because I didn’t know why he couldn’t sleep. I simply felt fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with the guy and talk about his sleep, a sore subject for him because he had not slept well in 20 years. Since he had been experiencing sleep problems for so long, he was emotionally exhausted by the search, high and low, for sleep solutions out of desperation. So I wanted to give him sound advice.
After pressing him with the hard questions about his self-reported activities and his symptoms, I think I got a sense of his sleep problems. I shared some sleep tips with him that I think will help everyone. I’ve embedded my favorite seven below as I have posted them on our Sleep Ready website, so that any member of the Mission Ready community can view them whenever she needs reminders on what might help her get some sleep.
*The athlete I spoke with eventually sent me a product review directly and he thanked the Mission Ready team for helping him to get a good night’s rest, not a prescription-drug induced zombie nap, for the first time in a very long time.
Stay tuned for next week’s observations from the CrossFit Festivus Games.
Achieving Your Peak, the Navy SEAL Way
If I want peak performance, I think about the Triad of Wellness: nutrition, exercise, and sleep. You can find this at www.getmissionready.com. If you eat the right foods, your brain will function properly and then everything else in your body will work optimally. You should maintain your fitness with exercise, and always have a good night’s rest to wake up refreshed. To me, those are the three main areas of focus.
However, with the way we live our lives in this fast-paced society, you can’t always work at your own pace or follow an exact plan. World events, the weather, and information are constantly changing. For example, in the 1980s when I was a U.S. Navy SEAL in a “training pace,” so-to-speak, and we got called for a mission on 24 hours notice and deployed for many months. That meant we weren’t getting much if any sleep that night and many more to follow. Instead, we were preparing to deploy overseas. And the few hours we did try to sleep, our minds were still racing with thoughts of planning and coordination—considering every contingency we could think of.
A lot of the time, when SEALs go on missions, whether they are training or real, they have been up for a very long period of time. It’s not a football or baseball game with a set number of hours or a marathon or triathlon where you know the distance. All our missions were fraught with danger— we lost men in peacetime training, honing skills for war. Unlike the sports you see on television, our “game” can last for days, and instead of tearing an ACL or bruising muscles or breaking bones (which we do routinely), some of our SEALs are severely wounded or killed in action. In sports, the players get a pre-game night’s rest and a hearty meal. In the SEAL business, you just might go to “the game” with no sleep and eating field rations along the way. At the end of “the game” you don’t get interviewed on radio and television along with a victory celebration, but instead you can get orders for a follow-on mission. It happens.
As a former Commanding Officer of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team TWO, our team participated in the most mentally and physically challenging and complex missions in special operations. We operated SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV) using submarines as a host platform. Any time you’re working with submarines, you at the least double the complexity of the mission set, not to mention that the maritime environment is the most difficult to master.
SDV and submarine missions are very long. SDVs are wet submersibles, which mean the SEALs operating them are actually in a dive status breathing SCUBA. Despite wet and dry suits providing thermal protection, it can get really cold. Piloting and navigating the SDV is also a mental exercise because you’re potentially driving for six hours or more. For a pilot flying a plane, he usually has a visible horizon and can look out the windows and see the land or ocean below and at night see the starts. In an SDV, you’re underwater, on dive status, driving a relatively slow moving vehicle with absolutely no horizon, with nothing but instruments in front of you.
And that is what Navy SEAL trains to do. In our basic training you learn how to mentally push through all forms of adversity. We accepted difficult challenges on a routine basis as the norm and that included lack of sleep. We performed optimally in all our mission sets because we were in great physical shape and our training gave us a mindset and discipline to power through the most difficult of circumstances. Most of us ate really well and a lot too. The disrupter at home was the fact that, even when we were not deployed on a training exercise or in a combat zone, two or three times a week you’re still working nights planning, coordinating, and executing training missions with the discipline and diligence you would in war. You train the way you will fight. So, you go back and forth between working days and nights, and you do this throughout a career. Meanwhile, your body is always trying to catch up on sleep.
When I was first in this business in the early 70s and 80s, we didn’t have a lot of administrative, technical, and combat service support, so we had to do everything. We had less sleep. Now, SEAL teams have a lot of support troops and technicians that help them do things that we used to do on our own. The SEAL operators of today are able to get some more sleep than we did, which is the better for them.
I was trained to do all parts of the “peak performance triad” over the years: be in the best shape you can be—i.e., have good strength and endurance, eat well, and get good quality sleep when I could get it. I would always try to do this to my best ability. There are other components to peak performance like training, discipline, and mental focus. We’ll talk about them in a future blog. But for now, if you focus on the triad, you’ll be able to achieve peak performance, too.
Meet Lori Tubbs
Hi, I’m Lori Tubbs, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in sports dietetics. I’m thrilled to be blogging for Bullfrog 13 & Friends, and really looking forward to sharing my life’s work with you. My philosophy and personal passion are to bring both fitness and nutrition to the forefront of any lifestyle change for better health.
For the past 14 years, I’ve been working as a military nutritionist and public health educator for many commands within the U. S. Navy. I have seen, firsthand, the hard work many endure on aircraft carriers, submarines and within the special operations community. Regardless of what military community one works with, anyone serving in the military, especially over the past eleven years, deserves a long lasting quality of life for the sacrifices made for this country. With the culture of physical conditioning and operational readiness, military members need to have the energy to sustain the pressures of the military and manage personal and family-related goals and objectives.
With respect to nutrition, people are all different with varying backgrounds and they have unique food likes and dislikes. Because people come from various environments, there is no one size fits all approach. It always helps for me to understand the motivation behind the lifestyle changes. Often the best advice is to look at food as a fuel, its fuel for the engine. You need high-octane fuel to perform as a weapon’s platform whether it is an aircraft carrier, F-18 jet or the human body. Changing eating habits for a lifetime can be challenging. It takes time and effort for a behavior to become long lasting.
It is an honor to be among a group as quality-driven as the Bullfrog 13 and Friends community. I’m excited to discuss my ideas and I hope you will share the challenges you may be facing with nutrition and lifestyle changes.