After a year spent with the team, Wetlaufer can't stay away. "I could never do a pull-up before," she confesses. Now Wetlaufer not only does pull-ups, she's mastered the rope. Braided thick, it's thrown over a limb nearly 20 feet in the air, daring Seal Team members to climb it hand over hand to the top and then down slowly. Even after months, many can't make it all the way to the top.
"Patty, when you first started how far could you go up?" asks McGuire in front of the class. "Nowhere," Wetlaufer replies. She jumps and grabs the rope making the perfect loop with her feet to shimmy up as easily and quickly as any man on the team.
It's these accomplishments that McGuire tries to encourage daily - and in everyone from the most agile athlete to the skeptical beginner.
Just four years ago, McGuire, a Richmond native, was a U.S. Navy Seal awaiting his next adventure. He's circled the globe twice on special missions throughout Europe and South Central Asia that he can't - or won't - talk about. But as the months spent apart from his wife and three kids in Richmond grew longer, the need for a new life strategy became clear. And after his 10-year mark passed, he did something he was never trained to do: He quit.
"Ninety percent of me wasn't ready to leave," he says. "I was parachuting and hanging out with diplomats and doing all the wild stuff that boys dream about when they say they want to be a Navy Seal. Every day there was a new challenge." The idea for Seal Team Physical Training finally tied together home life and his thirst for adventure.
In three years McGuire has had more than 400 takers who also thirst for adventure. They range in age from 17-year-old high school athlete Sean Matson to 57-year-old retired firefighter, Bill Cleghorn. And the list of recruits includes judges, housewives, CEOs, teachers, Secret Service agents and assistants to the commonwealth's attorney and the attorney general. McGuire claims only five recruits have not completed the two-week training. "One guy was an athlete and he pushed himself so hard the first day he threw up three times and never came back," he says. "He didn't know his limits. The funny thing is, he probably needed the class more than a lot of people."
McGuire pitches the payoffs - increased strength, endurance and team-building skills - to anyone who'll listen. Companies such as Merrill Lynch, First Union and BrannRMG have listened, fronting much of the initial $250 two-week training cost to put employees like Brent Nultemeier through the class.
"One hour of racquetball used to wear me out. Now I've gone as long as three total hours on the court before calling it quits," says the 27-year-old art director for BrannRMG. It's the kind of sugary praise that usually oozes from infomercials. But Nultemeier's endorsement somehow sounds sincere.
Like everyone who joins, from Secret Service agents to university music professors, Nultemeier had days at the beginning when his muscles seemed to burn to the bone. But after a few weeks, the body and mind adjusted, and the daily workout became something Nultemeier couldn't wait to start. "It's a great stress reliever," he says. "Since I sit at a computer at work, back pains used to bother me from time to time. Now they are gone. Hooyah!"
It's the call of Seal Team members. At 5:35 a.m. the red taillights of McGuire's shiny white Seal Team pickup truck
are the beacon members have come to expect. One by one cars pull up and engines turn off on the side street next to Bryan Park. Only a few minutes remain before today's Seal Team class of 11 is drenched to the core. Precisely at 5:45 two rows form and begin jumping jacks to McGuire's count. Water splashes everywhere. Team members call out their names, occupations and why they're here. The three new recruits - minus Morales, who shows up at the evening class - listen. There's Pam Robinson, 31, and Angie Rowe, 23, both with Capital One; and Alice Taylor, 30, with the printing company ColorMark. It's their second day of class and the soreness they feel today is nothing compared to what it will be tomorrow.
"I'm Bryce Rowe," yells a tall soaking Anderson & Strudwick employee and newlywed. "And I LOVE THE RAIN!" Recruit Angie Rowe smiles at her husband and rolls her eyes.
"This is going to be fun," another calls. Baseball caps and pullovers are useless against the sopping downfall. Just as the first light begins to seep through the gray wet morning, the team dashes around the yellow metal partition and onto Bryan Park's asphalt trail. Across the bridge, up the hill, around a gate, down a hill, up another, the team winds in broken clusters and salutes McGuire and his assistant, Barbara Bandeira, with the Seal Team call. "Hooyah, Instructor McGuire! Hooyah, Instructor Bandeira!" At the top of the hill the group falls to push-up position at McGuire's insistence. "It doesn't count unless you go all the way down," he warns. He does 20, and some are able to keep up. The team blasts off on a 14-minute run through pelting rain; the splashing pound of steps keeps rhythm. More push-ups follow, then it's a hard run to the soccer goal post and over to the sand-filled playground. With a partner each takes turns attempting eight regular-style and reverse-style pull-ups on a slippery swing-set bar that's nearly impossible to clutch. Those straining to meet the bar 16 times press their shoes into the spotters' upper thighs for support. The sand on their legs looks like crushed peanuts on a hot candy apple. McGuire splits the group into two teams. One goes with Bandeira to the tall itchy grass to do sit-ups, crunches and scissors kicks. [image-1](Stephen Salpukas / Style Weekly)Standouts in white, recruits Angie Rowe, Tatiana Morales and Alice Taylor of the class of 48 try - unsuccessfully - to keep from inching over to the other's team's side.
The other goes with McGuire to the tunnel slide.
"Hustle up," he calls. "You can walk when you get home. You can rest when you're dead." The team of six races in and among them, only two recruits don't know the drill. "On your mark, get set, GO!" charges McGuire. Hand over hand, two and three steps at a time, each sprints up the slide and barrels down the winding chute, reaches for McGuire's hand at the bottom and races back around to do it again. And again, and again. Everyone must move fast and get out of the way or else bodies will slam together. Panting, the team waits for McGuire to call out its time: 39 seconds. "Let's see if we can beat that this time," he says. And they go at it again. The two teams switch sides and the one in the field takes its shot at the slide and the chance to beat the first team's time. With 10 minutes left before the hour is up, the team races from the field back down a paved trail. Lastly, it's an easy obstacle over the yellow gate at the bottom of the hill. The team tightly huddles to watch and listen as McGuire demonstrates. So far, it's the only exercise that's seemed simple. It's not particularly high, and many of the high jumpers in the class probably could clear it. But that's not the point. McGuire lays his entire body flat atop the gate and gently eases over. "This isn't a me thing," he stresses. "Once you're over, you have to help your buddies." The point McGuire makes is that no task is too small to require teamwork. While the gate may be a breeze to cross, each team member climbs it snugly and once over, helps to cradle others over, too. It's practice for the more difficult obstacles they'll climb and cross over in the coming weeks. And gradually trust builds among them.
Despite softened feet and wrinkled fingers that have turned white around the edges, the team of warmed-up bodies seems impervious now to the weather. "Did everybody get a good workout today?" asks McGuire. Heads nod amid multiple cries of yes. "Go home, replenish fluids and eat a good breakfast," implores McGuire. "We're back here tomorrow." It's 6:45 a.m. Pulling away from Bryan Park there's still no traffic, just 11 Seal Team members and McGuire shoving off to start their days - again - in the not so awful rain.
Morales and the other recruits are getting it. Blood-red faces, aching muscles scratched knees and elbows show the hard-won progress. "At first you're just hiding the fact that you are a wimp," says Morales. "But now I want to push harder than I've ever pushed before." She's determined to do a pull-up and to overcome the slow and climbing Byrd Park course that spites her. "Oh, I still hate the running," she moans. But the intensity of the Seal Team program is what attracts people like Morales. It's supposed to be over-the-top. At the end of two weeks Morales, Robinson, Rowe and Taylor clutch their T-shirts and all promise to continue. It's another victory for McGuire - proof that his program may be crazy enough to work. It's just the warm-up, he says and then adds: "In Seal Team it's not whether or win or lose, as long as you win." Contact Brandon Walters at email@example.com or 358-0825.
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