When one thinks of physical fitness, the gold standard that comes to mind may be those that can call themselves Navy SEALS. Clearly the training and effort it takes to be in such a position is a great physical commitment. One such example of someone who has worked to become a Navy Seal is John MacLaren. Even though he has served his country in that role, he said that no one would’ve thought he could become one if they saw him as a younger man. Even though he was a runner, and was even a member of a Navy 10K running team at 19 years old, 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 am joking when I say that I could see my skin jumping as my heartbeat, but it is 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 making a commitment to train in a gym for more than one month, MacLaren went on to achieve new personal standards of excellence long after that first 30 days, and it paid off for him.
“Eighteen months later, give or take, I was in BUD’S training and graduating into the Navy SEAL Teams,” MacLaren revealed. He would serve over nine years in the Navy, including his time as a SEAL in which he worked in over a dozen countries. He was a part of several responses to violence acts that threatened many people’s way of life. He credits fitness as a reason why he was able to be in the position he was in 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 one fantastic conversation and commitment to train in the gym for thirty days!”
He also continued to study more about the topic, and he even took that research to a new level, Thanks to his studying and application of what he learned as well as his love for psychology; he found another way to serve the people of America.
“Through biomechanics study and exercise, I began to understand neuroscience, behavior, and injury prevention to the degree that I now create and deliver training and development programs with the highest successful graduation rate for Naval Spec War and Special Operations candidates.
John MacLaren is the executive director of Direct Action, Inc., his organization that helps prepare students work to become Navy SEAL and BUD/s graduates.
“The programs help thousands of military and civilian young people change their trajectories through fitness and personal development each year.”
While it takes a lot physically to get into the kind of shape it takes to graduate from those programs, MacLaren also provides a lot of education on mental health, which he feels is not receiving the amount of attention it should. He also has other programs that are reaching many people in a positive way.
Some of the people he has helped range from domestic violence survivors to those that felt neglected, and many other walks of life. Regardless of the place 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’m always pushing it with youth in my programs, and even with executive leadership. That’s why I get up in the morning.”
MacLaren has done numerous programs and sessions over the years, including those specifically for the brain. He expressed that many people have automatically worked in the negative gyms that reside in their minds, and now the focus needs to shift to the positive gym that they may not be aware is already there as well.
“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 expressed. “Your brain is very well trained on the negative part. It’s going to take in repetitions all day every day.”
Many people associate positive thoughts with being grateful and expressing gratitude. MacLaren advises his students, as well as all people that are interested in learning, that a positive rep is much easier to perform than one may think.
“One of the simplest ways to activate your prefrontal cortex or positive gym is by simply saying ‘hello,’” he said. “When you take the time to greet and follow up with people, you’re training your positive gym. You’re activating your prefrontal cortex.”
MacLaren explained that the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that performs critical thinking. It also is responsible for motivation and drive, which are both essential if a student is able to move on to graduate from SEAL or BUD/S training. It also goes beyond mental health because the people that are sitting under his learning tree may be responsible for leading others in the future.
“When you’re talking about mental health, you’re talking about leadership. It’s the same conversation,” said MacLaren. “So, the more positive reps you perform, the better. It literally is an antidepressant.”
Programs like those that John MacLaren offer are already making a big difference for both the people taking them and for the military. It comes at a very important time in our nation’s history because the statistics indicate that more people are failing tests that are required to enter some of the more advanced positions in the Armed Forces. One example that he shared is with women’s training for service.
“There’s almost a zero percent success rate for females in top level military programs. There’s actually a lower success rate across the board for top rate programs now than in our country’s history. This failure rate isn’t necessary,” he shared. He also gave a reason he feels why that rate for women is so low, and offered a solution.
“Biomechanics aren’t taught anymore. One of the things we’ve done is revolutionize the female training program so that they aren’t as much of a disadvantage to the hormone profile.”
Whether it’s his training programs, speaking events, or any other method that he can reach younger people, MacLaren knows that each opportunity he takes advantage of can help change the life of one person for the better, which can have a domino effect that helps other people later on.
“I’m always looking for ways to create service areas,” he said proudly. You can learn more about John MacLaren and his programs by going to www.directaction.us.
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