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!! Knees! Ankles! Joints! 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:
- “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: