Britain’s Special Forces are the envy of armies all over the planet. That’s because only men at the peak of mental and physical conditioning make it into the SAS, they really are the best of the best. Training in the most hostile environments and learning to combat the deadliest enemies makes even the average man’s most intense gym session seem like child’s play.
We talk with Jason “Foxy” Fox, star of Channel 4’s show: SAS: Who Dares Wins. Foxy saw action in Afghanistan taking on some of the most manly roles the military has to offer, including being a demolitions expert and a combat swimmer. We ask him what it takes to workout like you’re in the Special Forces and he begins by telling us about the worst night of his life.
‘On that night my goal was to rescue a hostage who was being held by approximately 400 Taliban insurgents. So we have to run off the back of a helicopter into a hail of bullets. About 100 meters down the way one of my men ended up getting hit and I just jumped into a ditch. While I was there recalibrating my weapon, and I was only in there for a nanosecond, this emotion came over me of just wanting to be a ten-year old boy back at home with my mum.’
How did you get out of the ditch?
‘Obviously I was just feeling immense fear. But what I needed to do was just register the moment and then crack on and get on with what we had to do. I learned what we all need to do in life, with training or work or life in general, is to focus on the end result. With fear or exhaustion you just have to recognise that moment for what it is, and then put it back in its box and get on with the long term goal.’
What are your long term goals?
‘During my 20-year career I’ve always had to be at the top of my game. But as we all know, sometimes that isn’t enough. I try to stay mentally fit and keep all-round fitness. If I’m not doing anything my mind wanders and can lead to bouts of being down in the dumps or whatever you want to call it. Keeping physically fit really just helps me to keep mentally fit. At the end of the day whatever your long term goal is you have to have a bloody minded attitude and never give up.’
That tenacious attitude must have helped you when you joined the Special Forces?
‘I knew the selection process was going to be a long slog, and it was very endurance based in the beginning. It takes its toll on your body, so I got mine into great shape. Then, of course, we had a Christmas holiday and so I actually started having perhaps eaten and drunk a little bit too much. But in the end what did help me was going in with the mental attitude I needed. The physical side was knowing a base level of fitness would let me push myself to the limit. It was all there in my mind, I could see myself completing the course.’
What did your selection process involve?
‘My course started with 350 guys and finished with 13. Everyone has the opportunity to take on the challenge but the first step is the hills phase which is where you essentially spend four-weeks running up hills in Wales carrying 70 lbs of equipment, plus a weapon. Most people either get injured or check themselves out.’
What do you think about people quitting?
‘It’s understandable. You are living in Wales, it’s grim, its raining, you have insanely early starts, and for a lot of people it phases them and they just end up giving up. By the time you go into the tactical, mental side people who can’t keep up physically are all gone.’
What does the mental testing involve?
‘We were flown out to a jungle in Brunei where we lived for six-weeks and were assessed on everything we did 24 hours a day. For a lot of people it’s just too hellish. It’s very close and claustrophobic and everything is trying to eat you. But it’s bit like marmite you either love it or you hate it, and personally I really like the jungle. The toughest thing about being there is that you don’t know when you’re being watched and tested. Nobody tells you if you are doing a good job or not, so or a lot of people they start to self-assess and think they’ve some how ruined it.’
How do you train to mentally cope with situations that tough?
‘In my experience people in the Special Forces are determined, bloody minded but also very adaptable. They are more flexible characters. If something out of the norm happens it doesn’t phase them because they are not set on routine or bothered by breaks in that routine. A dynamic attitude towards life helps when it comes to wanting to get something done, whether its a mission or a even just a training session.’
Did you ever think about quitting?
‘It literally never crossed my mind. For me I don’t see the point, especially when you’ve got that far and after all that hard work. Thats what you should think about if you are considering jacking it in or giving up. If you’ve got this far stick at it because everyone can surprise themselves.’
What are your fitness and training goals after leaving the Special Forces?
‘I like Crossfit, it’s the perfect fit for an intense schedule. If I’m not doing Crossfit I will do my own HIIT training which is basically Crossfit without the rigid plan. Because I get bored really easily it’s good to just always try to do different stuff like cycling, running, or rowing.’
Jason Fox was speaking on behalf of Reebok at the CrossFit Nano 7 launch, reebok.co.uk