When you think of physical fitness, perhaps those who call themselves Navy SEALS come to mind. The training and exertion required to be in such a position is clearly a great physical exertion. An example of someone who worked towards becoming a Navy Seal is John MacLaren. Although he has served his country in that role, he said that no one would have thought he could become one when they saw him as a younger man. Despite being a runner and even being a member of a Navy 10K running team when he was 19, he was on the smaller side.
"I was very, literally, so skinny and weak in my upper body that I could see my heart beating in my chest, which was embarrassing," MacLaren admitted. "People think I'm joking when I say I can see my skin cracking as my heartbeat beats, but it's very accurate. I could not have passed the PST to enter BUD/S if my life depended on it.”
After meeting a bodybuilder in Puerto Rico, reading Muscle & Fitness, and committing to training at a gym for more than a month, MacLaren continued to achieve new standards of personal excellence well after those first 30 days, and it paid off for him.
"Eighteen months later, more or less, I was in BUD's training and graduating from the Navy SEAL teams," MacLaren revealed. He served in the Navy for over nine years, including serving as a SEAL in over a dozen countries. He was part of several responses to acts of violence that threatened the way of life of many people. He credits fitness as the reason he was able to serve and protect people in his home country and around the world.
"To say fitness has changed my life would be the understatement of the century," he said. "All from an amazing conversation and a commitment to hitting the gym for 30 days!"
He also continued to study about the subject and even took this research to a new level, thanks to his study and application of what he had learned, as well as his love for psychology; he found another way to serve the people of America.
Courtesy of John MacLaren
“Through the study of biomechanics and drills, I have begun to understand neuroscience, behavior and injury prevention to the extent that I now create and conduct training and development programs with the highest successful completion rate for Naval Spec War and Special Operations candidates.
John MacLaren is the executive director of Direct Action, Inc., his organization that helps students prepare their jobs to become Navy SEAL and BUD/s graduates.
"The programs help thousands of military and civilian young people each year transform their careers through fitness and personal development."
While it takes a great deal physically to get in the shape required to complete these programs, MacLaren also offers a lot of education about mental health that he feels doesn't get the attention it should. He also has other programs that reach many people in a positive way.
Some of the people he has helped range from survivors of domestic violence to those who felt neglected and many other walks of life. Regardless of where they come from, mental health can be a factor that can never be addressed too soon.
"It's everywhere, it's not just in an HBO movie," he explained. “I always push it with the youth in my programs and even with the management. That's what I get up in the morning for."
MacLaren has conducted numerous programs and sessions over the years, including some specifically for the brain. He expressed that many people have automatically worked in the negative gyms that reside in their minds and that the focus now needs to shift to the positive gym that they may not know already exists.
“Life trains the hell out of your negative gym. So you have to do a lot of positive reps, which are very specific behaviors," he said. “Your brain is very well trained for the negative part. It will record repeats throughout the day, every day.”
Many people associate positive thoughts with being grateful and expressing gratitude. MacLaren advises his students, and anyone interested in learning, that positive review is a lot easier than you think.
"One of the easiest ways to activate your prefrontal cortex, or positive gym, is to just say 'hello,'" he said. “When you take the time to greet and hug people, you train your positive gym. You activate your prefrontal cortex.”
MacLaren explained that the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that performs critical thinking. It is also responsible for motivation and drive, both of which are essential for a student to be able to complete SEAL or BUD/S training. It also goes beyond mental health, as the people sitting under its learning tree may be responsible for guiding others in the future.
“When you're talking about mental health, you're talking about leadership. It's the same conversation," MacLaren said. “The more positive reps you do, the better. It's literally an antidepressant.”
Programs like John MacLaren's are already making a big difference to both participants and the military. It comes at a very important time in our nation's history, as statistics show that more people are failing tests required to enter some of the more advanced positions in the armed forces. One example he shared was the training of women for ministry.
“There is almost a zero percent success rate for women in military programs at the highest level. In fact, there is a lower success rate for top-notch programs today than in our country's history. This failure rate is not necessary,” he shared. He also gave a reason why he thinks this rate is so low for women and offered a solution.
“Biomechanics is no longer taught. One of the things we've done is revolutionize the women's exercise regimen so that it's not that bad for the hormone profile anymore."
Whether it's through his training programs, speaking engagements, or any other method he uses to reach younger people, MacLaren knows that every opportunity he seizes can help change a person's life for the better, which can have a knock-on effect who will help other people later.
"I'm always looking for ways to create service areas," he says proudly. Visit www.directaction.us to learn more about John MacLaren and his programs.
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