UPDATED: Ruck Training – Some Thoughts

Spring Ruck Training Start - 80 pounds - 2 miles - 35 minutes

Spring Ruck Training Start – 80 pounds – 2 miles – 35 minutes


The photo above was taken in March, 2015, just as I started the Heavy Pack Conditioning stage of ruck walking after a long winter’s rest.

This year, I’m a bit behind as I haven’t started the heavy pack conditioning stage.  I’m still on the light pack (25 lbs) at 5 miles.  I’ll do that 3 times a week for the next 2 weeks and then transition.  I’m going longer with lighter weights, but I’m older and need to condition longer before I go bat-shit crazy…just sayin’.

So, you’ve started training with your ruck, right?  I mean, you’re taking walks of varying lengths with varying loads in your ruck on a regular basis, sometimes pushing the edge of your personal capability envelope and sometimes just maintaining your capabilities, right?

That’s great – as NPT members, core strength and the ability to walk long distances with varying weights on our backs is indicative of our potential effectiveness in a grid down situation in relation to being able to perform an outside the wire security patrol for ______________ days.

You’re interspersing your ruck walks with running with the ruck on no matter its weight, right?  Some folks call this, “modified burst training.”

WHAT?!?!?!?!  That’s crazy talk!!  KneesAnklesJoints!  My age! My back!  My toes!  My shoulders!  My traps!  My heart! My lungs! My achin’ a$$!

Nope.  Not crazy at all.  Yes, running with a heavy ruck, or a light one for that matter, cannot be done by everyone due to physical or medical limitations.  For those who don’t have those limitations, however, it’s an effective way to increase your capabilities.  And you should be the judge of when and how far you can do these runs.  Remember, a little at a time.

If you practice this and stay consistent, going as slow as you need to to ensure you don’t hurt yourself or over-train, after a few months you’ll find that when you’re doing other field related NPT training, especially patrolling, you don’t tire as easily and have more energy at the end of the day.  Of course, coupled with any training program is the foundation of good nutrition (cut back on the alcohol, processed food, bread, and sugar/starches) and sufficient rest (7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep).  A quick aside on injuries:  If you find yourself with a pulled whatever, don’t be afraid to knock off a week or two to let your body heal.  Training will always be there, and improvement won’t come as fast if you try to train while injured.  Pushing through discomfort is one thing; trying to push through an injury is quit another.

The key to success in this kind of conditioning, at least in my experience, is consistency, not necessarily intensity, at first (intensity will come later, as your body gets used to the muscle work and adapts to it, and you want to improve more).  Time really is on your side here.  So, take your time, don’t go beyond what your body (not your ego) tells you is working, but keep at it.  It will pay off by increasing your fitness level and capabilities.

Training Progression Suggestion:

  • Start:  1 mile walk with light pack, no more than 25 pounds X 2 days week X 2 weeks.
  • Medium Pack walk:  Up to 2 miles with 35 – 50 pound pack X 2 days week X 2 weeks.
  • Initial Heavy Pack walk:  1 mile w/heavy pack (65 – 80 pounds) X 2 days X 2 weeks.
  • Heavy Pack Conditioning:  Incrementally longer walks from 1 mile to 4 miles; 20 minute miles X 1 day X 3 weeks.
  • Breaks:  At the onset/sign of any strained muscle used in walking, take at least a week or 10 days off.
  • Ruck Walk Maintenance and Improvement:  Random weight selection from light to heavy; intersperse running with pack on for 100 meter increments (or as far as you can up to 100 meters) with at least 100 meter rest (still walking) periods.  See below.

Right now, my personal ruck regimen consists of the following:

Ruck Program:

  • “Heavy Day” Training:  65 – 80 pound ruck weight average – depends on the day, mood, distance, and other variables such as heat, humidity, and time available to train.  It will be anywhere from 2 miles to 10, average speed 16 to 17 minute miles.  The objective here is to carry a lot of weight for a long time.
  • “Light Day” Training:  25 – 40 pound ruck weight average – see above for varying weight differences.  Average speed objective is 15 minute miles or faster.
  • “Heavy/Light Day ‘Burst’ Training:  See weights and distance parameters above.  The key here is to intersperse sprints of varying distances between walking intervals.  It really does work.  Last year, my last ‘Burst’ session was with a 65 pound pack and 4 miles, averaging 13.3 minutes per mile. You can do better!
  • Clothing:  Long pants (always), good boots (I will use either my Merill hikers, or my Danners GTX or combat hikers outfitted with SOLE Softec Ultra Footbeds and Vermont ‘Darn Tough’ socks), wicking t-shirt, unbuttoned OG-107 long sleeve shirt (sleeves rolled up), DTG patched baseball cap, and an OD triangular ‘ranger rag’ bandage for sweat mopping.
  • Terrain:  Mostly sidewalks, with some gravel, some grass, flat to gently rolling ‘ripples’ (not hills, really).
  • Time of Day:  Typically right before afternoon rush hour; that’s when my schedule allows up to 3 hours for ruck walking.
  • First mile and a half:  Warm up – not really hard and fast walking, but increasingly fast, so that at the end of the first mile and a half, legs, core, lungs and arms are warmed up.
  • Second mile and a half:  At per-determined land marks (typically intersections), run at a full stride for 100 meters and walk the next 100 as fast as possible.  Starting out, I was able to do only 2, but as time goes on and strength and endurance came along, I’m doing 6 runs during this portion of the walk (this is burst training woven into a ruck walk).
  • Third mile:  Walk fast as possible; ensure hydration along the way.
  • 4th mile:  Run 440 meters at ‘double time’ (not a full run; not a jog); walk the rest and recover.  Simply stamina training.
  • 5th through next to last mile (could be 6 to 10, depending):  Walk steady; attempt to keep no slower than a 15 to 17 minute mile (15 minutes for light days; 17 minutes for heavy days).
  • Last mile:  Decrease speed and cool down.

In the days between ruck walks I do my PT (body weight & free weight exercises).

Nutrition:  Extremely small amount bread (meaning once in a blue moon), lots of green things and other vegetable; about 1/3 protein and 1/3 natural fat.  Alcohol mostly kept to weekends (and NEVER right after a workout!).

Rest:  7 – 8 hours nightly.

Hydration:  Minimum of 32 ounces of purified water fortified with stabilized oxygen daily.  During ruck walks, hydrate as needed, but don’t drink more than necessary.  In other words, don’t go through your bladder before the ruck walk is over.  After it’s done, and you’re in recovery stage, slowly hydrate until you feel like you’re good to go.

Now, nobody says the above ruck program is for you, but you can and should develop a program you can live with, especially if you consider yourself to be a NPT leader/member.  Age doesn’t really matter, either.  What matters is your determination and resolve.

So, think this over, and do what you can.  Some readers will look at the above and chuckle because it’s child’s play to them; others will think it’s insane.  Whatever you choose, remember:


29 thoughts on “UPDATED: Ruck Training – Some Thoughts

  1. Pingback: DTG: Some Thoughts On Ruck Training | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. BradyBunch

    Do you wear boots, or walking shoes? Or am I being a pussy for even asking?

  3. Defensive Training Group Post author

    LOL…no, you’re not being a pussy! It’s not about that. First, to answer your question, I will wear one of three styles of Danner boots. The ‘combat hikers’ as they are new to me and I’m breaking them in. They’re the lowest boot I use. I change between the Danner TFX and the Acadia. I imagine you could use walking shoes if they gave you enough support, but I do know that when I run with my ruck on, I’m always happy when it’s over that I work a full support boot.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Tom

    You better wear REAL F-NG BOOTs. Learn from my mistakes. Go to Cabelas in the off season. Go to the bargain cave. Spend more than you wanted to but find something that is designed to hold your weight and additional weight. If you do not you WILL blow your arches. I did it last year. Two back to back 7 milers with a 55b up and down some hills. Cost me 3 weeks of training and a fair bit of pain since I walk for my job 4- hours a day. Don’t skimp on proper foot wear. The clearance section is your friend always. I just got a pair of Scarpa’s for 100 bucks. Yeah that seems like a lot til u look them up and see your model at 260 on the web.

  5. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Good quality boots as well as some good quality orthotic insoles make all the difference! Danner’s and the Softec work well for me, but I echo your advice! Thanks for dropping by!

  6. Rick

    I wear boots just about every day. Time is short and magic hour could occur at any time when you least suspect it. Always keep a pair of boots in the vehicle you’re in. Without good boots, you’re done before you even get started. If an EMP occurs and you’re 30 miles from home with flip flops on, you’re done.
    As far as the walking or hiking, push hard. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I find that after 10 miles, the pain and soreness does not get any worse so technically you could go as far as your energy has the capacity to take you. And the most important thing I have found about energy is keep the electrolytes flowing into your system. When hiking long and hard, the water will just wash your electrolytes out of you and you’ll never quench your thirst and will become very tired. I always take Sqwincher Qwik Stik’s with me and down one at about 7 miles in. What a major energy boost! They are relatively cheap and are easy to pack. The instructions say mix with 20 ounces of water, but I just empty the contents onto my tongue and gulp down 10 to 15 gulps of water. These are the most essential hydration additive I have ever used and I have these in all my kits and packs. 100% essential.

  7. dangero

    If you haven’t done one before I’d recommend a GoRuck event (I have no affiliation with them). I’ve done a few of the Challenges and have never been pressed as hard in my life (I nearly quit during my first one and I have never quit anything in my life). They’ll smoke you non-stop for 12 hours while you wear a rucksack full of bricks. There’s a 24 hour event as well in case you find that easy….bring your friends.

  8. Pat T.

    I’m a 70-year old civilian who just came upon this site yesterday. What is the reason for “rucking”? Just to get in shape in case you had to bug out from your home? I live in the country and walk nearly every day with or without a small pack, up and down trails. I do this to try to keep what muscle I have. What reason, other than that is there for “rucking”?

  9. Defensive Training Group Post author

    First, thanks for stopping by! Second, you’ve about got it right from the perspective of preparedness. Folks like you set the example: 70 years old; walking every day with/without packs up and down trails to stay in good shape! For folks not so motivated, there’s a lesson in that on who’s going to have a better chance taking care of others or just making it through harsh times. From a Neighborhood Protection Team standpoint, though, the core conditioning one gets from carrying varying weights of packs over long distances helps when security patrols outside the protected area must be done for days at a time. Again, thank you, sir, for stopping by!

  10. Pat T.

    I’ll go out soon this AM and will be wearing Danners, but this spring I had them re-soled with Vibrams and they are heavy. Great trainers, but I get tired when I hike 3 miles with a 30-lb pack. As soon as I can afford them, I will purchase Vasque Men’s Breeze 2.0 GTX. I tried them on in an REI store and they are comfortable(Much cheaper online). Like Danners, they are not cheap to buy.

    Over the past year I have built a series of mountain trails using a Polaski and short-handled hoe. Pulled a hip stresser doing that but I’m finished with a total of around 5 miles of trails on both mine and timber company land.

    When I go this AM I will have a total of 32 pounds which will include a 3.5 lb handgun on my waist and a .22 handgun in the pack. This also includes two trekking poles. Last night I did a 40-minute walk with pack and no poles. Feeling macho, I guess! Not a good idea! I slipped on small rocks and fell backward on the pack plus by forearm got hurt, while walking dowhill. I will use the poles from now on. I am also on a blood thinner, so I need to be more careful, even if I do have a good med. kit.

    As soon as the daytime heat, here in the West, drops out of the 90’s, I will add probably another 5 pounds (bivy-bag and ammo) plus I will carry an AR on a Viking Tactical sling. At 70, this is hard work especially when I have two not-so-good knees, but my physical therapist advises against knee replacement until I am so bad I can’t walk.

    One thing I did over the past 8 months which has greatly improved my ability to train as I do, was lose 55 pounds. I can now walk up very steep slopes without my prescribed $1200 knee brace, and I never get winded even when most fellers in their 40’s would. This sounds like a site filled with military types who are mostly in super shape from years of infantry training, so I feel a bit out of place, and my eyes kept me out of Vietnam and the Army. Maybe my old man example of training will help a newbie prepper. If I, with all my problems can train, most preppers can.

  11. Defensive Training Group Post author

    Don’t worry so much about the ‘mil speak’ here…yes, some folks have a lot of military training, but a bunch don’t, and that’s why we exist: Provide the knowledge we’ve gained over the years to those who didn’t have the chance for whatever reason. Nobody is out of place here, except in one circumstance: People that come here to tear down the efforts of others or basically cause dissension aren’t welcome. We’ve had very few of those….

    Great job on the weight loss! Another great example! As far as being is ‘super shape’, doesn’t matter what your background is, it takes work to stay in any sort of shape! I enjoy being fit because I like not having the doctor as my ‘buddy team’ member.

    Keep it up; you’re a great example for those ‘fellers in their 40’s”!

  12. Pingback: DTG: Thoughts On Ruck Training | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  13. Longbow

    I have said my thoughts on this topic before. Start light to moderate, no more than 35 pounds or so. Work on speed first, then distance, then load. Make four miles per hour your initial target. It can be done by just about anybody with the motivation to do it. When you can do 6 to 8 miles comfortably to standard, then increase your load, but don’t train with more than 45-55 pounds. There is no sense in it until you have mastered the task. Speed first, then load. Next set a standard of 4.5 miles per hour. This is where it begins to get difficult. It takes real effort to discipline yourself enough to move quickly, without running. Stretch out that stride, swing your arms. It can be done. Remember, this is conditioning phase. You can add monstrous weight later. The time may come when you MUST, due to mission requirements, carry eighty or more pounds in your rucksack. But by then, the body and mind is trained to move in a certain way at a certain speed. At that point, the weight won’t matter. It may slow you down but not as much as you might imagine.

    In the mid eighties, when I arrived in the 1st Ranger Bn., as a new Rippie, I was astounded that there was a battalion full of men who could do 5 miles per hour with a combat load. That was six hundred plus men, moving in tactical road march formation, without any accordion effect, without any fallouts (…move further, faster and fight harder… and all that). A few months later, I could (and did)
    do it in my sleep. We did perimeter road at Hunter, 10 miles, in two hours or less, and twelve milers in 2 and a half hours. We did 16 miles around the impact area at Ft. Stewart, in four hours but that was on sand trails.

    Its all in how you train. Train smart!

    P.S. I do not think there are any better boots than G.I. Jungle boots, broken in and softened with kiwi. Period. End of argument. Do not retort. I don’t want to hear it. Unless you live where it is frozen all the time. Then life just sucks…

  14. shocktroop0351

    Ditto on the Danner’s and Sole insoles. I’ve got the ones you heat up in the oven then put them in your boots to mold them to your feet. A piece of advice from a guy who has hiked quite a bit, hydration is important, but so are electrolytes. I encourage your readers to get some pedialite and sip on a tall glass the night before your heavy hikes. I was taught you start hydrating and eating with the hike in mind 3 days before the hike, it’s always worked good for me. Thanks for a good write up, I’ll be sharing it.

  15. revjen45

    Right now my routine is physical therapy for a fatal heart attack (brought back on the 5th application of the defibrillator).
    Planning a range trip later this week.

  16. Wolverine

    Great article & comments! I was killing my knees last year with only one (long & heavy) ruck day/week. I figured I could just “tough it out”. At 48, I gotta work smarter, not harder. This article helped me realize a few things. Thanks.

  17. Mark Can

    My comments would be that I totally agree w the general rules you describe for weight, distance, frequency, incremental increases, diet. Not sure about the need for purified water w stabilized oxygen. Any well designed studies to support that? And lastly, carrying 80lbs with that pack loaded that way is an absolute guarantee that the vast majority of guys trying to do this will find that unacceptable, even if they work up to that weight. Get a good backpack that has a very good suspension system that rides closer to your body and can be packed to have that weight carried on your hips, not your shoulders, and in a much more natural posture over varied terrain. Look at Kifaru pack systems. They’re pricey, but priceless if you actually have to carry a load of any weight in any kind of an uncivilized environment. Note: I have ZERO connection to Kifaru other than I own a Nomad and love it. And I will buy another one of their packs this summer.

  18. Pingback: Physical conditioning: Walking with a ruck - Men Of The West

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