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Rucking: It's Possible to Hike and be in a Bad Mood

What It Isn’t

Rucking isn’t your typical, care-free hike through the woods. It won’t make you smile and appreciate the great outdoors while on your trek.

What It Is

Rucking is one of the most gut checking experiences that you will ever have. It serves as an amazing physical exercise if you are working on your load carriage capability as well as your ability to “embrace the suck”.

While rucking, you will start to break down physically and mentally, and really start to understand the mind-body connection. Your body will break down eons before your mind will allow you to quit.

I personally experienced this first-hand during my time at Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course in Fort Benning, GA. We were conducting a 6-mile tactical foot march with our platoon equipment and I just so happen to get a tripod for the machine gun we carry. The “tripod carrier", or Assistant Gunner, has the heaviest pack in the formation (lucky me). Long story short, it got to the point where I could barely lift my feet off the ground, just enough to propel myself forward. The Squad Leader was beside me and he said that at one point he's sure I blacked out but kept trudging on. People to my left and right were falling over, quitting, from this march. My Platoon Leader made a very tempting plea for me to just give up and go to the back of the truck to be shuttled the rest of the way to the range, but I absolutely refused. I will be honest; I looked like hot ass. Nothing about my appearance exuded the qualities of a good leader. The only thing I had was that I wouldn’t and DIDN'T give up. I stumbled to the range and earned my breakfast that morning. And within a few moments after eating… I was fine.

This speaks to a lot of different problems. Too often, people give up before they really start. To be honest, I was sucking at mile one. It wasn’t until the last mile that I started to forget everything that happened. It only took orange juice and some cereal for me to feel back to normal. After breakfast we didn’t rest but continued on and conducted a weapons squad live fire. The bottom line is that we never really know our limits. That day I felt like I was on the cusp. But guess what? Now that I have visited that point, it has been risen. The bar has been raised. That’s the beautiful thing about adaptation, you constantly challenge your body and it will constantly develop.

Later in cycle, we completed a 16-mile march, 10 more miles than the story above, and it was remarkably easier. What do you have to do to find your new threshold?

Why Do It

The understanding of the mind and body relationship is enough of a reason to add rucking into your plan every now and then. You will understand your body more. You will understand the importance of planning for possible outcomes more than you ever had before. If you were ever that person in school and always needed to borrow a pen or paper from a classmate, this is a step in the right direction towards developing your skills regarding planning.

Carrying a rucksack for an extended amount of time will develop your posterior chain while challenging your anterior side as well. Back loading weight in your back will further develop your traps, entire back and musculature surrounding your hips. In order to keep your body from folding backwards, your core and trunk musculature must constantly be engaged to handle such load.

How To Do It

*Due diligence*, if you think you should probably do something before you leave, do it. Throw yourself a bone. If you are going to hike on a trial, research all you can about the trial before you go. Things to ask yourself include:

  • Is it down and back or a loop?

  • What’s the elevation?

  • Is it rolling hills or flat?

  • Is there access to water?

Err on the side of caution. Many ask what they should pack in their ruck. It’s simple. Pack for the worst possible experience. Think that you will get stuck out on the trial for at least three days. A sample packing list would be something like:

Bivy = Portable shelter/sleeping bag cover

Woobie = Blanket

If you only read one thing:

  • Plan 2/3, execute 1/3

  • Use hiking guidelines. Ruck with partner. Tell someone when you are leaving and coming back.

  • Drink water

  • Slowly progress. You will hate your body if you just jump into a Bataan Memorial Death March level of activity

  • Waterproof all gear

  • Don’t rely on your cell phone as primary mode of communication and navigation


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