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David Goggins: What the Toughest Man Alive Can Teach You

David Goggins: What the Toughest Man Alive Can Teach You
Soldier saluting.

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Whether you call him the “toughest man alive”, or the “toughest athlete on the planet”, there is no denying it, David Goggins is as tough as they come.

He is the only U.S. Armed Forces member to complete U.S. Army Ranger School (graduated as Enlisted Honor Man), Air Force Tactical Air Controller training, and SEAL training (including three Hell Weeks).

Any of those accomplishments alone are impressive, but that’s not all.

Goggins was a 2013 Guinness world record holder for completing the most number of pull-ups under the 24-hour category. Alongside that record, he has gone ahead to compete in (with multiple first-place finishes) some of the most brutal ultra-endurance marathon events that attract some of the most formidable global competitors.

Still, many would say that David Goggins’ biggest accomplishment is his mental toughness and the ability to push through the pain to get the job done. He explains his life story, achievements, and his ability to push through obstacles using the 40% Navy SEAL rule in his 2018 book, Can’t Hurt Me.

People around the world have found inspiration in Goggins’ journey from an obese, depressed 23-year-old to a leading and accomplished endurance athlete.

David Goggins’ Crazy Achievements

Goggins has amassed numerous noteworthy accomplishments under this belt that have earned him the title of the world’s toughest man. He is an unstoppable force not only due to his impressive military achievements and his record-breaking athletic feats but also due to his iron will. Some of his accomplishments include:

  • In 2005, he finished the San Diego One Day ultramarathon as a novice.
  • He’s the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to finish Army Ranger School, Navy SEALs BUD/S training, and the Air Force Tactical Air Control (TACP) training.
  • In 2013, he set a new Guinness World Record after completing 4,030 pull-ups in 17 hours (Most Pull-ups in a 24-hour window).
  • He has completed more than 60 marathons, triathlons, ultra-marathons, and ultra-triathlons.
  • Goggins’ biggest triumph is overcoming any seemingly insurmountable obstacles in his way, including asthma, a sickle cell trait, academic struggles, psychological and physical abuse, a congenital heart defect, and obesity.

1. Military Career

Goggins initially applied to the United States Air Force Pararescue but failed his ASVAB twice. He then entered “the Pipeline” for pararescue training, but despite passing his physical, doctors advised him to take a one-week medical leave on account of a Sickle cell trait.

He eventually entered the United States Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) where he served from 1994 to 1999 and left the U.S. Air Force.

Goggins entered BUD/S training for the NAVY SEALs and graduated in 2001 after three attempts. He served in SEAL Team Five in Iraq. Later in 2004, he graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School with a Top Honor Man distinction.

2. Marathon, Ultra-Marathon, and Athletic Feats

David is best known for his superhuman athletic feats of strength and ultra-endurance. In 2005, after several of his friends perished in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, he decided to honor their memory by tackling the toughest endurance challenges on the planet to raise awareness and funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). SOWF provides support, grants, and scholarships to the children and families of fallen special-ops soldiers.

Since then, he has set numerous racing career highlights including:

  • 2005: San Diego One Day (100 miles) where he finished as a novice.
  • 2006: Ultraman World Championship (2nd place) and the Badwater Ultra Marathon.
  • 2007: Badwater Ultra Marathon (3rd place). He also completed The Leadville 100 and The Grapevine 48-Hour National Championships (205 miles).
  • 2008: McNaughton 150 Miler (1st place), MiWok 100k Race, Kona Ironman World Championship, and Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc 103-Mile.
  • 2009: HURT 100 Miler Endurance Run (4th place).
  • 2015: Hellgate 100k (5th place).
  • 2016: Music City Ultra 50k (1st place), Infinitus 88k (1st place), Strolling Jim 40 Miler (1st place), and Zane Grey 50 miler (13th place).

3. Guinness 24-Hour World Pull-Up Record

In 2013, David Goggins broke the Guinness world record at the most pull-ups done in 24 hours event. He completed 40,030 pull-ups in 17 hours. His first two attempts ended in pain after he partially tore his right extensor pollicis complex in September 2012 and injuring his left palm two months later in November 2012. These injuries were brutal and would have wrecked a normal human. But, Goggins is just something different. He came back to more after these two failed attempts and he set the record with approximately 7 hours to spare. Goggins pull up record was bested in 2016 by John Orth. John Orth did 7,600 pull-ups in 24 hours. 

4. 4 x 4 x 48 Running Challenge

To most people Goggins just seems like a guy that likes to torture himself physically. While there may be some truth to this…I believe Goggins would tell you that he loves to find the limits of his capabilities. Once he has found those limits he strives to see if he can push past that limit. 

He has extended to his “followers” is an invitation to join him in an annual challenge he has created for himself. This is a running challenge where he runs 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours straight. That’s right. 48 hours straight. So, the challenge is just not about the distance that you have to run but also about doing it when you are sleep deprived. 

For most people this may be a once in a lifetime challenge. For Goggins – it is every year. So, there you go – the 4 x 4 x 48 challenge.

Mental Toughness

David Goggins: What the Toughest Man Alive Can Teach You
Man feeling determined climbing up a steep mountain side.

So how does David Goggins consistently push himself to reach these extreme physical and mental limits? In his book Can’t Hurt Me, he explains where his drive comes from and how he continually pushes himself. Below are six of his biggest lessons.

1. Purpose Trumps Motivation Any Day

Goggins does not believe in motivation and goes ahead to insist in his autobiography that “motivation is crap”. However, he does believe in purpose, which is something that has fueled some of this biggest personal feats.

2. The 40% Rule

Goggins believes that whenever you feel completely wiped out, you are only at 40%. Only those who can push themselves to their limits and tap into their reserve tank can reach their full potential.

3. Learn to Deconstruct Things

The process of mental deconstruction is something that all Navy SEALs must learn to survive hell week. The idea is to break down things into small pieces and focus on one challenge at a time. When you add up the little bits, you find that you have accomplished something most people find impossible.

4. Mental Visualization

Goggins believes in conceiving something in his mind before his body achieves it. Seeing yourself succeed and do impossible feats can drive you to attack any challenges in front of you every day.

5. Be Willing to Suffer

Goggins sees suffering as the actual test of life and believes in taking the path of most resistance to push himself further. It’s how he became the toughest man alive.

6. Use the Setbacks You Overcame for That Extra Push

Goggins reaches into his “cookie jar” containing every setback he overcame to get that extra push whenever he is about to break. The idea is not to dwell on your accomplishments, which can be a distraction but to revisit them for fuel occasionally.

A Day in the Life of Goggins – Will Tennyson

We were flattered to learn that our article “David Goggins Complete Diet and Workout” became the inspiration for Will Tennyson. Will Tennyson is a fitness influencer with a large following on YouTube. He wanted to see how hard it would be to tackle the Goggins daily routine that he used to whip himself into shape for BUDs.

Tennyson followed the routine for ONE DAY. That’s right…just one day. Check out his video to see how it went…needless to say, he was wrecked.

Over to You

Whether you are looking to lose weight, get fit, start running marathons, or just get better at something you love doing, you can learn something from David Goggins. To learn more about his weight loss diet, workout, and fitness routine, check out this article “David Goggins’ Complete Diet and Workout.”

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About the author



Hello! My name is David and I am the voice behind I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and a fitness and outdoor enthusiast who decided to create this site to help anyone on their health or fitness journey! If you have any comments or questions, please visit our Contact Page.

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