Yup, here we are in Mid-Autumn. Rucking is for good weather, right? Somewhat, but you can still get in some good miles and keep yourself in good shape no matter the time of year.
The key to success in this kind of conditioning, at least in my experience, is consistency, not necessarily intensity. 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.
For you older ruckers (see what I did there?), something you have to ensure you do prior to starting a ruck program is to A: Get checked out by the doctor, especially your joints, arthritis levels, and so forth. If you don’t pass the physical, concentrate on what you can do without carrying a rucksack. Get the auxillary going. You can also help yourself (whether or not the doc passes you) as well by getting on a good supplement program, and no, I don’t mean the kind you can buy for $5 per thousand doses. The purer the better. The absolute minimum requirements are:
- Trace Minerals – Mine are in tablet form and I take once a day in the evening.
- Vitamin C – 4000mg a day, minimum. If I’m traveling, 6000mg. I take the gelatin pills, but have also taken the pure ascorbic acid powder in water once a day. If you try that, do it incrementally to avoid ‘explosive’ cleansing. Just sayin’
- Vitamin D3 – 12,000 IU per day, split into 2 ‘shifts’ – one in the morning, one in the evening
- CoQ10 – 300mg dose per day – heart health and all
- Salmon Oil – Wild Caught, 2 per day
- Saw Palmetto – Hey, I’m at that age where it’s necessary for prostate health….and other things.
- Cromium Picolonate – single dose per day for digestion
- Ginko Biloba – Memory, if I remember correctly
So, let’s say you’ve got the physical OK from the doc, you’ve been on some good supplements, altered your diet as described below, and you’ve also started your stretching, push ups, and ab conditioning, at a minimum, right? OK….then here we go.
Training Progression Suggestion:
- Start: No pack walks for 1/2, 1, 1 and a half, 2 and 3 miles. Again, incrementally. Don’t push, but be consistent.
- Light Pack: 1 mile walk with no more than 25 pounds X 2 days week X 2 weeks. or until you can do 25 pounds for a mile without too much trouble. If you can only start with an empty pack, then do that. Don’t overdo.
- Medium Pack walk: Up to 2 miles with 35 – 50 pound pack X 2 days week X 2 weeks or until you can do the 2 miles without too much trouble.
- Initial Heavy Pack walk: 1 mile w/heavy pack (55 – 80 pounds) X 2 days X 2 weeks. – no time limit (if 55 is your limit, then stay at 55). Again, no time limit – the goal is completion. This is simply conditioning. Or keep doing this until you can do a mile and think you could have gone farther and faster.
- 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. Remember, you’re in this for the duration, not some sprint contest.
- Ruck Walk Maintenance and Improvement: Random weight selection from light to heavy; intersperse running (if your body can take it – if not, don’t worry about it) 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 (about a quarter mile) at ‘double time’ (not a full run; not a jog); walk the rest and recover. Simply stamina training, and only so far as my body will allow.
- 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: No soda. Period. WAY too much sugar!! 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.