[Rucking 101] Incorporating Rucking Into Your Training

Taking Things to the Next Level

In my last post, I charted how to get started with rucking from a runner’s perspective. In this post I’m going to explore what it looks like to incorporate rucking into your training regiment and discuss aspects of the mental and emotional strengthening that the rucking ecosystem unlocks.

Several years ago my wife and I did some intense interval training with a guy whose primary paid job was to train MMA fighters. His interval training mixed endurance, strength, agility, and pain which somehow kept us hungry for more every week. After one of our sessions he talked about his methodology, which was built around the type of mental and physical endurance that fighters need to build to stay alert during a fight. Our “resting periods” were often cut short with yelled verbal commands to sprint a quarter of a mile or flip a tractor tire up a steep hill, or do an inchworm for 50 yards. The interjections hijacked our brain’s tendency to let go while at rest and were intended to raise the level of our mental awareness and acuity.

Rucking benefits your “workout stack” in this same way, injecting the mundane and ordinary with something unexpected, albeit at a different scale.

The Unexpected

Your body gets used to routine. This goes for what you put into your body (food, beverage, alcohol, caffeine) as well as what you output from your body in the way of working out and spending energy. Eventually if you do the same the thing every time, expecting different results you will find that your physical strength and stamina begin to plateau. This applies both to our bodies physically as well as our brain functions. The concept of neuroplasticity explains our brain’s ability to become wired and re-wired across neural pathways.

When this becomes the case we need to hijack our body and brain by introducing something new. Rucking is one way to provide a disruptive force in order to push ourselves further in the direction we want to go. This same applies for other workouts adjacent to rucking: stair steps, sandbags, weights, and push-ups (which can all be augmented with a weighted ruck).

By wearing a ruck, changing workout distance and/or duration, or adding weight to normal workout routines, we can provide the needed leverage to push our bodies and minds in the right direction and give ourselves the needed edge to make sure we don’t become complacent.

Also, our body and mind are an integrated whole. Some times of workouts like. Cardio helps reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, increase mood and brain functions, and improves sleep. Weight training helps strengthen bones, regulates insulin, reduces inflammation, and improves strength and posture. Over-indexing on one type of workout means our body is unable to benefit from the fuller range of benefits offered by mixing cardio and strength.

Rucking enables us to achieve both and when mixed with standard running/cycling/swimming routines it can provide our bodies with something we desperately need: a varied and holistic care.

Mental and Emotional Strength

2020 has introduced many difficult challenges to the existing challenges of daily life.

Widespread lockdowns, varied social distancing measures, and restrictions on many normative activities has taken a toll (not just physically and financially) but mentally, as we seek to make sense and survive life in pandemic.

Rising depression and suicide rights are raising awareness that there are lasting effects of being locked up that we actively need to rally around, be aware, and help each combat.

“…mental toughness is… a simple choice you have to make. Are you going to go through this thing that’s hard, this thing that’s tough, this thing that sucks? Are you going to suffer through it? Or are you going to quit?”
—Jocko Willink

This quote from Jocko Willink is a reminder that we have a decision to make about what kind of life we want to chase down. We can accept the painful variables of pandemic life and feel a helpless kind of determinism set in. Or we can choose to band together and do something about it.

“When a human being decides that they are going to achieve their goals and they are going to go through whatever obstacles, then that’s where mental toughness comes from. It is a decision that human beings make to make it happen”.
—Jocko Willink

This isn’t to simplify or negate the complex medical, societal, and chemical realities of clinical depression and anxiety. As someone who has long wrestled with severe depression I can say these issues are very complex (and often personal). But the truth is we still have a decision to make about whether we are going to accept the status quo or whether we are going to fight and push against it.

Rucking has confronted me with my own weakness, and it is also a beautiful reminder that I am capable of pushing myself and achieving more than I ever thought possible. Stay in the fight! Life is worth living—no matter what obstacles are in our way.

Better Together

A huge challenge of pandemic life are the current restrictions and mandates on gatherings, which vary by state and country. Everyone needs community, and if you find yourself unsure of how to best get started with rucking and strength training, then consider joining the Sandbag + Ruck Training Program (SRT):


GORUCK’s SRT regimen is built around simple, timeless military principles:

KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Special Forces have been training with minimal equipment, and reaching the tip of the spear of human performance since forever. It’s not fancy and it’s not expensive.

If you want to try it out, you can sign up and the first two weeks are free!

Jonathan Simcoe

About the author: 

Jonathan Simcoe is an author, designer, and photographer who lives in the outskirts of Portland, OR with his wife and four kids. In his spare time he enjoys finding adventures with his family, getting outdoors, reading science fiction, and exploring new ideas. Jonathan is the author of A Little Book About Curiosity and his writing has previously been published in Dwell and Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola Akinmade Åkerström.

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