David Goggins

Who is David Goggins? And What Can He Teach me About Motivation?

15 min read


14 Nov 2019

There are few people in this world whose story can inspire, motivate and teach others how to be a better person. Yet, David Goggin’s manages this with ease…

From the numerous health and physical obstacles he has had to overcome, to his impressive weight loss endeavors, to his world records and accomplishments in marathons; his story is the stuff of legends.

But who is David Goggins and why is he considered a tool for motivation? Let’s find out…

  • Who is David Goggins?
  • David Goggins motivation advice
  • How to train like David Goggins
  • Typical David Goggins diet
  • David Goggins

    Who is David Goggins?

    Some say David’s Goggins is the toughest man alive, and we would have to agree.

    Not only is he the only member of the U.S. Armed forces to ever complete training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger AND as an Air Force Tactical Air Controller; he is also a Guinness World Record holder for the most pull-ups completed in 24 hours (scroll down for the video) and a renowned endurance athlete.

    In fact, at just 44 years old he has completed over 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons and ultra-triathlons and have even won some of them!

    Looking at these credentials alone is enough to give you pause for thought. Yet, what is truly inspirational about him – and why we feel David Goggins is the epitome of motivation – is the steps he has taken to achieve these goals.

    Behind every success, he has demonstrated a drive, focus and determination that has pushed him to his mental and physical limits. Yet he has never given up. Far from it.

    Instead, he has applied the mentality of ‘day one, week one’ to every venture he has entered into and with its help has pushed himself to new heights.

    So how does he do it? 

    David Goggins motivation advice

    If you are to take anything from David Goggins story, it is his philosophy of living each day as if it were your first day of the first week in a new job.

    And it makes sense…

    When you’re preparing for an interview or first starting a new job, you’re an animal. You’re unstoppable in your quest to be at your best and knock the socks off your employers.

    That is why you put extra time into choosing the right clothes, eating right, studying the ins and outs of the business, and arriving early. You’re driven by the need to survive and fight for your place.

    Yet like all good things – this mentality eventually fades. As you settle in and get used to your job, you begin to think: ‘I’ve got the job, I’m good’. You no longer try, as your mind goes into ‘I arrived’ mode.

    And this pattern can be applied to so many areas of your life – diet, exercise, hobbies, etc. With time, this instinct to keep proving yourself fades because your brain is telling you that you’ve done it. You’re already there.

    However, David Goggins is living proof that you don’t have to fall into this pattern of behavior. That by applying yourself every single day – as though it’s your first day – you can achieve anything.

    At the same time, he refuses to let himself get comfortable or to think that ‘I’ve made it.’ Instead, he continues to set himself high standards.

    Now, we admit that this kind of advice and approach to life won’t be for everyone. But there are elements to his advice that ring true and can be used to boost your motivation.

    Take the following beliefs that he upholds:

    You need to be willing to suffer because it is a true test of life

    Interestingly enough, despite the numerous marathons he has completed, Goggins hates running. All his life he has been on the heavier side due to his passion for powerlifting.

    However, this larger physique quickly proved far from ideal during his first ultramarathon as it made him less efficient at covering longer distances.

    Goggins quickly realized this and knew that if he was going to raise funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation he was going to have to suffer. Yet, he did it willingly.

    In fact, he is known for embracing suffering in order to reach his goals. And does so by strengthening his mind and resolve, and voluntarily putting himself into situations where he knows that he’ll have to struggle.

    But he does it anyway. He chooses to callus his mind in the same way that you would do your hands, and prefers to take the path of most resistance on a daily basis.

      David Goggins Badwater Ultramarathon 2007

      Don’t let physical limitations stop you

      David Goggins is a testament to not letting health issues hinder your life. Until 2010, he lived with an undetected congenital heart defect (a hole in his heart) which left his heart functioning at only 75%.

      Normally this reduced capacity would stop people from doing things such as scuba diving or activities at high altitudes; but as his life story shows, he didn’t let it stop him.

      Yes, he didn’t know he had the condition, but it would have impacted on him. YET, he has accomplished multiple athletic achievements plus has got an amazing military career.

      In either case, he is proof that even at a disadvantage there is no excuse for you not going for what you want.

        How David Goggins lost 100 pounds

        David Goggins may now be seen as a badass of the fitness world, but it hasn’t always been that way.

        When Goggins was forced to quit USAF Pararescue School (in the middle of his training) due to being diagnosed with the genetic potential to develop Sickle Cell Anemia, his body suffered.

        He already had a love for junk food, so as his training opportunities disappeared – and his job as an exterminator prevented him from working out – he went from 200lbs of lean muscle to gaining 97lbs.

        Part of this weight gain was due to depression and disgust with himself from quitting. Whilst the genetic risk did pose a threat of serious injury from training; the real reason he quit Pararescue – in his heart – was because of his fear of the water segment of his training.

        As a result he lost respect for himself and turned to junk food to ease these feelings of guilt, because he was ashamed of what he had done.

        This all changed upon seeing a show on the Discovery Channel where some guys were put through Navy SEAL Hell week. It brought back memories of his Pararescue training and spurred him to want to become a Navy SEAL.

        However, at 297lbs no Navy recruiters in Indiana would give him a chance. He expanded his search until he found a Navy recruitment office in San Diego who was willing to let him join the Navy Reserve in California and then transfer to SEAL BUD/S training.

        Yet in order to be accepted he had to overcome 3 things:

        1. He had to weigh less than 191lbs
        2. His age – he was over 28 which is the top age for recruits
        3. A time limit – in order to overcome the age barrier he had to enter a BUD/S program that was ending in less than 3 months

        This meant that he had to lose 106lbs in under 3 months or he would never get the opportunity to become a Navy SEAL.

        Everywhere he looked he was told it was impossible for him to lose so much weight in such a limited timeframe – doctors, friends and family told him to give up the dream.

        However, he refused to give up again and instead embarked on an insane workout that has made him the legend he is now.

        Here is what he did:

        • 4:30am: Wake up / Breakfast: One banana
        • 5-7am: Ride on the exercise bike
        • 8-10am: Swim at the local high-school (about 2 miles)
        • 11am-2pm: Circuit workout / Full Body – 5-6 sets of 100-200 reps each
        • 3-5pm: Exercise bike
        • 5:30pm: Run 2-6 miles
        • 7:30pm: Dinner (no lunch): Chicken breast, sautéed veggies, small amount of rice
        • 8-10pm: Exercise bike
        • 10:30pm: Sleep
        • 4:30am: Wake up / Repeat

        To put it simply, every day he did roughly:

        • 6 hours on the bike
        • 2 miles swimming
        • 2-6 miles running
        • 3 hour circuit workout, over 1000 total combined reps
        • Calorie intake: 800 

        And despite the aches, pains and even hallucinations (due to the low calorie content) he endured from pushing himself so hard; he kept getting up each day and repeating it.

        In fact, for 85 days he repeated this process and managed to lose on average 1.1lbs a day, and the 106lbs he needed to begin Navy SEAL training.

        Now, obviously this kind of dieting and exercise regime is extreme and is something you should NEVER do.

        However, the reason we feel David Goggins weight loss diet is so inspiring is that he turned his life around. He took a moment of negativity in his life – where he felt ashamed for quitting – and used it as his focus to keep striving for his goals.

        He lived each day as if it was his first, and in doing so demonstrated the same level of passion day-in, day-out, despite pushing himself to his limit.

        He achieved what others called impossible – talk about motivating.

        David Goggins and Ultra Running

        You could say after everything he endured to get into Navy SEAL training, from that day forward he became unstoppable. If he wanted something, he went for it as seen in David Goggins 100 mile run.

        He originally wanted to enter the Badwater-135 Ultramarathon as a fundraiser. However, he was told that he first needed to complete another ultramarathon as Badwater is an invitation event only.

        Now, you would think that given how much he hated running to begin with that he would be deterred.

        This wasn’t the case…

        Instead, in 2005 he dug down deep and entered the San Diego 24hr ultramarathon and completed an impressive 101 mile run in just 19 hours and 6 minutes – all despite never having run a marathon before!

        And that was only the beginning. He then went on to complete his first marathon (in Las Vegas) and qualified for the Boston Marathon. From there, he was granted entry into the 2006 Badwater-135 Ultramarathon where he came in 5th overall – something that is still unheard of amongst novice entrants.

        From here, he has achieved the following:

        • Won 10 1st place trophies and 21 podium finishes in competitive ultra-distance marathons – many of these were over 100 miles in distance (the Death Valley Badwater 135-mile run, the 48-hour UltraCentric run and the Furnace Creek 508-mile ride).
        • Three months after completing Badwater, he competed in the Ultraman World Championships Triathlon in Hawaii and came 2nd during the three-day, 320-mile race, which consisted of 261 miles of cycling (in two days.
        • Finished 3rd (in 2007) in Badwater-135
        • In 2 years he competed in 14 ultra-endurance races, with top-five finishes in nine of them. He set a course record at the 48-hour national championships, where he beat the previous record by 20 miles, earning himself a spot amongst the top 20 ultramarathoners in the world.

        So how did he manage all of this?
        Well, ironically he doesn’t believe in motivation and thinks it is a load of crap. Instead, he believes in the idea of having a purpose; an endgame.

        He claims it was ‘purpose’ that enabled him to complete the initial 100 mile run he needed to do in order to gain an invitation for Badwater-135. His determination to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, gave him the drive/’purpose’ to power through this race.

        So despite not having the ideal body frame (he weighed 240-270lbs from his SEALs training and passion for powerlifting). And even though he knew he would have a harder time than most completing this marathon; he grabbed onto this purpose – his goal – and through sheer force of will managed to do 70 miles in 12-13 hours.

        Similarly, he soldiered on in spite of the metatarsal bones in his feet being broken, and dealing with stress fractures, shin splints, muscle tears and blood in his pee.

        He refused to quit and kept going until he finished the race within the allocated time.

        Now, many would argue that his actions were dangerous. And it is true, he was reckless with his health. However, the mental strength he applied to this situation – one that would break others – is still inspiring.

        He proved that with a purpose greater than yourself, you can move past the pain and keep striving for your goal.

        So how did he do it?

        He applied a mental deconstruction technique that he had learned from his training as a Navy SEAL – where you consciously only focus on one challenge at a time.

        By breaking it down into smaller, actionable steps; it stopped him from becoming overwhelmed and instead enabled him to overcome these obstacles with ease. No longer are they insurmountable, but are attainable and within his reach.

        And there is no denying that it worked for him. He took something others would deem impossible and made it a reality.

        David Goggins pull up record

        As with many of his accomplishments, his pull up record came about as a result of his desire to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

        He initially attempted it in 2012, but had to stop after 2588 pull ups due to the portable pull-up bar not being bolted down – resulting in a right extensor pollicis complex partial tear in his wrist.

        Now, despite raising more than $20,000 in this initial attempt, he kept on trying to break the pull up record until he finally managed it in 2013.

        In just 17 hours he managed to complete 4,030 pull ups making David Goggins the Guinness World pull up record holder:

        How to train like David Goggins

        We mentioned earlier the gruelling training regime David Goggins undertook to lose 106lbs. Similarly, we discussed David Goggins intense weight loss diet.

        Yet if you really want to train like David Goggins you need to do more than hit the gym hard. What really matters is changing your mentality.

        For instance, he holds the following beliefs which have served him in good stead in every element of his life:

          1. The 40% rule
            According to this rule, when your mind tells you that you’re done, you’re really only 40% done.

            And there is some credibility to this rule, as researchers have found that when subjects were told they’d been given caffeine – but had only received a placebo – they lifted more weight than those who had received caffeine.

            This suggests that we have all got a reserve tank within us that we rarely tap into. All you need to do to access it is to push yourself to your limit and break them. Do that and you can reach your full potential.

        1. Mental visualisation
          The reason David Goggins is considered the toughest man on the planet is because he thinks he is.

          This links to the idea that you have to see yourself accomplishing tasks before it can really happen i.e. your mind has to conceive it before your body can.

          Similarly, every time you encounter an obstacle or struggle, you need to ask yourself ‘what if?’ This will enable you to power through even when your mind and body are broken or is telling you to stop.

        2. The cookie jar
          Now we aren’t talking about an actually jar filled with cookies. No. The idea behind this motivational technique is to have a jar that contains every setback you have overcome to help remind you of everything you have achieved.

          In reading these notes and remembering previous events which have strengthened your mind you can escape this negative brain loop and see that the obstacle before you is nothing worse than you have faced before.

        3. Do not dwell on your accomplishments
          Goggins for instance only revisits them when he’s searching for that extra push to finish his current task. He doesn’t dwell, stroke his ego or spend countless hours admiring his work. Nor does he let his past distract him.

          Instead, he only accesses them when he’s looking for the fuel to advance onto his next task.

        Typical David Goggins diet

        David Goggins based much of his weight loss diet on ketosis. Whilst training to lose weight for the Navy SEALS, he adopted the popular ketogenic diet and still adheres to it today.

        In addition, he likes to combine it with intermittent fasting and healthy eating, as together they enable him to remain lean and strong.

        Ketogenic diet
        This diet embraces a low-carb, high-fat mentality where you encourage your body to go into a state of ketosis and use fats (burn fat) instead of carbs for fuel.

        Within his diet he includes: eggs, avocados, leafy greens, meat and poultry, fish, unprocessed cheese, healthy oils, butter and cream, nuts and seeds, low carb veggies, sugar free beverages and low carb condiments.

        He avoids: most fruits, low-fat milk, starchy root vegetables, grains and starches, beans and legumes, alcohol, unhealthy fats and sugar drinks/foods.

        For more information on the keto diet check out some of our earlier blog posts:

        Intermittent fasting
        This form of fasting enables Goggins to maximize his fat burn as it involves the practice of restricting your calorie intake/eating habits to certain times of the day. This causes increased production of fat-burning ketones.

        Typically Goggins skips breakfast and only starts eating from 11am.

        For more information on fasting to lose weight:

        Macro counting
        Goggins splits his protein, fat and carb intake into a 40/40/20 split.

        This pairs well with ketogenic dieting.


        Honestly? Staying motivated is hard, especially when one obstacle after the next threatens to tear you down.

        Yet, if we are to learn anything from David Goggins story is that anything is possible when you have a purpose. During his life he has overcome countless challenges, yet instead of letting them bring him down, he has grabbed a hold of his goals and not let go.

        And you can do the same… You can adopt the David Goggins ‘day one, week one’ mentality and use his advice as a motivation tool to success.

        So who is David Goggins? If you’re looking for a source for inspiration – he is your man.


        Read: Take a look at these inspirational athletes and their techniques for staying fit