Friday, August 17, 2018

Book Review: Living with a Seal: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

This post contains affiliate links. 

A while back, Allie, who blogs at VITA Train for Life, reviewed Jesse Itzler's book Living with a Seal. She loved it and after reading her review, I was intrigued. Who on earth would invite a Navy Seal to live with them as a means to get in shape?

Jesse Itzer, entrepreneur and successful businessman wanted to get whipped into shape and he was looking for some mental toughness, so he chose Navy SEAL David Goggins, aka The Toughest Man Alive to train him. Goggins agreed to train Itzler but only on one condition: that Itzler does everything he said.

And he meant EVERYTHING.

This guy is hardcore. The training makes for a good story, but the way Itzler tells it, it's hilarious. There's no whining. There's no quitting. To emphasize Goggins' no-nonsense approach, Itzer only refers to him as SEAL throughout the book.


"What do you want, a fucking leotard? Man, we start, and then, motherfucker, we finish. That's what we do up here," he says. ~SEAL in Living with a Seal
On the first day, SEAL makes Itzler run 6 miles in 14 degree weather. When Itzler complains about the cold, SEAL tells him that "the temperature is what you think it is, bro, not what your computer thinks it is." After the run, they take a tour of Itzler's home gym, where SEAL has Jesse do 100 pull-ups. Jesse tries to quit and SEAL tells him he has "a shitty ass attitude."

And so it goes throughout the book. Each chapter starts with a quote from SEAL and some of them are absolutely hilarious. The funny thing is, SEAL doesn't try to be funny, in fact, I don't recall reading about him ever cracking a smile. The guy is all business. There's one workout where Jesse is running on the treadmill and he starts to feel sick. He has a stomach cramp, which he pushes and releases as gas. He pushes harder and a loud fart ensues. SEAL just looks at him and makes a farting noise in exactly the same tone as the fart. Jesse keeps running but is laughing. SEAL doesn't crack a smile.

IS THIS GUY EVEN HUMAN? Farts are funny, right?

I did a little bit of reading on David Goggins. Besides being a Navy SEAL, he is the only person to have graduated from US Army Ranger Training and Air Force Tactical Air Controller Training. Goggins is an accomplished ultramarathoner and placed fifth in Badwater in 2006 after only running for one year. He has placed multiple times in other ultra-endurance events and holds the record for the most pull-ups (4030) in 24 hours.

David Goggins and one of his many inspirational statements.
Why would Goggins train Itzler? Reading Living with a Seal made me ask this question. Itzler is a big personality with a history as a rapper on MTV and owns the Atlanta Hawks. His wife owns Spanx. Goggins wanted nothing to do with any of Itzler's creature comforts. Was it the money? Or the challenge of pushing this successful guy out of his comfort zone? I kept thinking as I read about the training, what would have happened if Jesse told ever SEAL no?
"I don't want the same shit you guys want. I'm not looking for anything else. I'm going to do the same shit I've been doing. Only I'm going to do it better." ~SEAL in Living with a Seal.
I won't spoil it for you, but besides being entertaining, there's a lot of inspiration here. Goggins continually motivates with his words.
"Coasting is for "pussies" as SEAL would say and it's when you dig deep that you feel the most alive. He lives his life that way. And some of that rubbed off on me." ~ Jesse Itzler, Living with a Seal.
This book is from 2015, so I'm sure some of you have read it. What did you think about SEAL's methods of training? Do you respond to tough love? Or do you prefer a more compassionate coach? What extremes would you go to get in shape?

Welcome to the Book Club! While there's no longer a link-up, I'd love to share your reviews of the book here on the blog. Send me the links and I'll add them to the post! As always, thanks for supporting the Book Club.


Next month, I'm really excited to finally read Endure by Alex Hutchinson. If you follow Hutchinson's Sweat Science column in Outside magazine (he used to write for Runner's World), you know that he applies science to endurance. Hutchinson was one of the few reporters allowed inside access to Nike's sub-2 project. Reviews of Endure have been overwhelmingly positive. My review will be posted on September 21.



I'm linking this post with Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for the Friday 5.


44 comments :

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    1. I kept reading and thinking, "there's no way..."

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  2. This sounds like a fun book. Interesting question on why he did it, but maybe he was up for a fun experience -- and welcomed some extra cash.

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    1. He does a lot of charitable work, so maybe it was for that!

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  3. Although my hubby was Air Force (and Air National Guard), I bet he's heard of SEAL. Dang...I'd be buckling on my knees (even my "bad" knee) under that kind of tough love ;-0 Sounds like a fun read!

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    1. It was a fun read! You'll have to let me know if your husband knows him! :p

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  4. Whoa that guy sounds super intense! I would be so intimidated being trained by someone like that!

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  5. That book sounds like a super fun summer read. I always joke about wishing I could go do the FBI training program down in Quantico for a weekend.

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    1. Yeah, not so much. I'm wimpier than I thought!

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  6. Not my kind of motivation but I bet it makes for an entertaining read. Now I'll have to read it to see what kind of shape he was in by the end of the month!

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    1. There's also a follow up article on Outside magazine to see what he's doing now, after all that intense training.

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  7. hahaha, this sounds like an entertaining read! This wouldn't be my kind of motivation but I'd like to see what ended up happening!!

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    1. I need a little pushing, but this is extreme!

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  8. Oh my! I definitely would have cried!! Haha, I just put in a request at my local library.

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  9. Sounds like a hoot and an inspiration at the same time. I'm wondering what kind of shape Itzler got in after the 31 days.

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  10. Sounds like an interesting book. I'm too much of a wimp to train with someone like that LOL.

    -MCM Mama

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    1. I don't know about that! You do all those back to back half marathons...

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  11. This sounds like a great read. I'm not sure how I'd respond to this hardcore approach!

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    1. I thought my CrossFit coaches were hardcore!

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  12. I've never had a personal trainer but I'm absolutely sure this guy would destroy my self confidence. I like to think I am tough, but I'm really a wimp.
    I needed a new book so I'm going to check it out.

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    1. It was really entertaining! Plus the book proved that body weight exercises rule. There was no weight lifting at all.

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  13. Oh man, this actually sounds like the kind of book I might throw across the room? Extreme personalities just rub me the wrong way. I also think it takes a certain amount of genetic gifts to thrive under that type of training, so I'm interested to know whether Itzler's joints all still work!

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    1. There was actually a follow up article in Outside magazine about that!

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  14. This book sounds awesome! I'll have to read it - maybe it'll give me a little push to work harder (and be grateful that I'm not being trained by a SEAL, egad).

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    1. Seriously! Happy to have my CrossFit coach!

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  15. This book sounds like a great read! Now I want to get it. Great review!

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  16. I'd either go all flippant and mock him or walk away, such is my wonderful personality. And I'd rather live with an actual seal. However, I do want to read this book!

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  17. That sounds like a great read... I just added to my reading list.

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    1. Such a fun read and you'll be glad you're reading about it and not participating in the workouts!

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  18. Sounds like a fun read! Great review!

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  19. What an interesting topic. I think I need a combo of tough and encouraging. But I don’t do what he did.

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  20. I'm definitely intrigued....the quotes alone are inspiring although a little harsh at the same time. I could probably train with someone like Seal....well maybe in my younger days :)

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    1. Yeah, he's pretty harsh. I kept thinking to myself, why doesn't he just tell SEAL no? I guess that's the point but it's really intense!

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  21. Oh my! 4030 pull-ups in 24 hours! That is intense! This sounds like a really good read! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It was excellent! Kind of crazy but well worth it.

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  22. In not sure if that would motivate me but some people need that I think it all depends on who your dealing with

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    1. My former CrossFit coach was pretty tough love but not like SEAL. At the time tho, tough love was what I needed.

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