I found GORUCK through the obstacle racing community on Facebook. Many OCR enthusiasts were also doing GORUCK events and I decided to check them out online. I was immediately drawn to the mental and physical challenge to completing them, so I signed up for a Light, then a Challenge (now Tough).
After losing about 100 pounds, I found that keeping them off was far more difficult. I learned that training and fueling for athletic goals was much more fun and motivating than just dieting and exercising. Rucking is something that appealed to me because it’s more about endurance than athleticism. It’s also great for building core strength and bone density, both helpful in my 50s and beyond. Last but definitely not least, it’s something I can do with my active friends. Bonding under bricks is healthier than bonding over a buffet. Not that we don’t enjoy a bite or a beer afterward!
I joined the GORUCK Masters group on Facebook when I was training for my first event. They’re so generous with their advice and support on everything from gear to “getting your head right,” as one Cadre put it. We also joke with each other nonstop about the aches and pains of rucking for Boomers.
It’s Not Just a Rucksack, It’s My Rucksack
I bought a GR0 (Old School 21L GR1) before my first event and have used it ever since. One of our local GRTs had lent me hers to see if it was a good fit, and it was. (I had tried someone else’s 26L GR1 and it was too long for me.) I bought my GR0 well in advance so that I could train with it, something I think is important when preparing for any event.
I love my GR0. It’s black and basic, but meets all of my training and event needs. In addition to my GORUCK events, it has also completed the Bataan Memorial Death March, Climb for Heroes and all of my hikes, including Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. It will be coming up Kilimanjaro too, so I’m using it in all of my training rucks and hikes.
I’ve been really impressed with the quality of all of the products I’ve bought from GORUCK. I added a sternum strap, side pouches, hydration pack and water bottles to my gear set. I’m also really enjoying my new Performance Tac Hat, which I bought for Kili training. It’s fun to be able to change patches on it to match my mood. Right now, it’s my Vetus Bellator > 40. Some days, it’s my Not Today, DFQ or event patches. I also have a favorite memorial patch for a local Navy SEAL who was killed in Iraq four years ago. It has the place of honor on my GR0 right now to remind me what fortitude really is.
I have friends I ruck with, and I really enjoy that camaraderie, but with the prohibitions on gatherings right now because of the pandemic, I’m sadly solo. My companions “for the duration” are podcasts and audiobooks, but it’s important for me to keep my training going. I’m still able to go out for rucks as essential exercise, but it can’t be done with anyone outside of your household. So since I live alone, that means I’m rucking alone too. Many of the trails I’d normally ruck are closed now, so I’m limited in my routes, but I increase my intensity with longer time under weight and adding more stair repetitions. It’s a nuisance doing it with a face covering, but if it keeps me and others safe, it’s worth it.
Rucking Empowers Me
Rucking helps me feel capable and strong, which are both important to me. I’ll be turning 60 at the end of the year and I want to remain as fit as possible in this new decade of my life. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis five years ago and with arthritis in my feet at the beginning of this year. I won’t let either of those keep me on the couch. When I was sedentary and 233 pounds, I couldn’t get myself up a hill, much less my body plus weighted ruck. Now I’m always looking for bigger hills to ruck! Being strong means aging more healthfully.
It has also been incredibly helpful in other aspects of my life. Doing the events showed me that I’m capable of achieving much more than I believed was possible for me, and to sign up for more personally and professionally than I would have otherwise. It has also taught me that most of what I worry about never comes to pass, that being focused on the team strengthens each individual team member, and that if I tell myself I’m not tired and focus on the body parts that aren’t sore, I feel better and go farther. This last lesson has gotten me through many events since then, including two marathons. I have a feeling it’s going to become even more valuable in achieving my Kilimanjaro goal with arthritis.
I also think the experience of rucking with friends has strengthened our relationships. It definitely enriches my life to have people I can message to say ‘meet me at 6 for a 90-minute ruck.’ We get out, get caught up on each other’s news, and get fit together. I really look forward to rucking with friends again when we’re past this period.
What I tell people is that I went into the first one with a goal to survive it, and I got in the best shape of my life training for that Light. The second one I did, a Challenge, (now Tough), was with the goal of everyone surviving and getting our patches together. That was a much more rewarding experience. Yes, the training still got me into great physical shape, but the mental piece was even more life changing. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re completely mission and team-focused.
I know there are other companies that offer military-style endurance events, but the reason I chose GORUCK and have recommended it to friends, is my confidence in its cadre. Given their experience as special forces veterans, I know that if there were an emergency during an event, they would have the judgment, skills and experience to handle the situation. I can’t say that I have that confidence in someone who may look or dress the part, but without that background.
I also respect the quality of the GORUCK products, the customer service and warranty that accompany them, and the satisfaction of supporting a veteran-owned American company.
While our team events are on hold right now due to COVID-19, now is the time to start training for future events. Or why not tackle a DIY Star Course on your own? Extra miles won’t do anything but good at this point.