Why We Ruck

This week’s blog comes to us from the mind and keyboard of Tod Grantham, the leader of our “Kent Island Ruckers” ruck club.  Tod and I had a philosophical discussion during our last outing about why we ruck every weekend, and why some more of you might be interested in giving it a shot!  I hope you take five minutes to read Tod’s take on “Why We Ruck” – he is a very creative and eloquent writer and I always enjoy reading his stuff!
Why Do We Ruck?
And what is this rucking thing people at the gym keep talking about anyway?  Well, borrowing heavily from the official GORUCK site to help explain it succinctly, rucking is basically “cardio for people who think running sucks”!  But its way more than that…
Since you’re reading this on a CrossFit blog, you’re presumably already fitness-conscious and aware of the value of regular physical training…  AND the awesome benefits of simply getting on your feet and relocating from point A to point B.  Whether you walk, trot, sprint, lunge, cavort, prance, farmer-carry, frolic, or shuffle, running in its various forms does massively beneficial things to mind, body, and spirit.  This we intrinsically understand as humans since we were originally designed to chase down our meals, not to mention the extensive body of substantiating research that bears this out.
However, as much fun as it may have been to chase your food or run for sport in one’s younger days – when you were still pliable, had more energy, both lungs worked at capacity, and nothing hurt yet – the day comes for some when that pliability, energy, and lung capacity start to involuntarily degrade, despite one’s best efforts to keep up the pace.  You find that, ultimately, it’s in your best interest to start looking for alternatives to the recurring joy of shin splints, blisters on blisters, and pulled hamstrings.  Enter the sheer delight of rucking.
Rucking has been around since cavemen first fireman-carried animal carcasses back to the crib for dinner.  More recently, those who’ve served in the military likely got their absolute fill of carrying a heavy pack for long distances as part of their jobs.  Both basically employ the same movements, although the tools and techniques have become vastly more refined since then.  But you’re not carrying food home on your back, or being threatened with endless push-ups if you don’t pick up that bag and get moving, private!  So why would one voluntarily sign up to do this seemingly silly thing?
Let’s start with those runners that are finding it more difficult and less enjoyable to run.  According to contemporary sports orthopedics research, some of which is reiterated in the linked GORUCK site information, walking / hiking with a modest amount of additional workload provides many of the same health benefits as running, but without the musculoskeletal stresses imposed by the repeated pounding of joints upon running surfaces and the associated degradation of cartilage and connective tissues.  The additional weight emulates the muscular, core, and body frame stresses of running but without the deleterious effects of recurring impact.  It’s a good thing.  My knees thank me.  Yours will too.
Moreover, in addition to giving you a viable alternative to running…

  • Rucking is straight-forward to master, in three easy steps: 1) Get a backpack – any pack that’s able to hold weight without tearing, 2) put some weight in it – any weight you’re comfortable with, or a weight you’re completely uncomfortable with, depending on your motivation / objective, and 3) start walking – short distances at first to test your fitness capacity and ensure your footwear is up to the challenge, then longer distances as you acclimatize.  That’s it; you’re rucking!
  • Rucking is simple, but not necessarily easy: Make no mistake, rucking is a legit cardio workout, but it’s not the HIIT experience of your typical WOD.  The preferred intensity level of the group can be adjusted as needed on the day to accommodate all conditions and skill levels, up to and including the mac-daddy of all rucks (so far), the 50-miles-in-20-hours Star Course contest three of our illustrious and more capable members recently completed, successfully.
  • Rucking accommodates all willing participants: Short, tall, thin, round, fast, slow, drunk, sober, employed or looking for work, married or single, with or without a boat, rucking doesn’t care. Weight, distance, and pace are all user-selectable and can be adjusted in flight as needed.  No one is excluded by any aspect except your willingness to give it a go.
  • Rucking can be performed anywhere at any time: Around the block with just you and your dog, in a group of four mates down the Cross Island Trail, on a star course pub crawl around the Narrows, or along the entire Appalachian Trail with 100 hardcores you’ve never met – all you need is your rucksack and boots, some hydration & munchies, adequate motivation, and a sense of humor, and you’re ready to rock! Hot, cold, rain, snow, humid, dry… doesn’t matter, as long as someone is interested and shows up, we go.  And you may just end up with a bunch of new friends you didn’t know you had.
  • Rucking connects you to a burgeoning enthusiast community: Although you don’t need anyone else to ruck, an outfit known as GORUCK was formed 10 years ago to bring some structure and organization to the sport (along with a place to buy ruck-tested-and-approved kit that’s purpose built to withstand the stresses and abuse). They do this by providing special operations veteran instructors, aka “cadre”, to lead rucking events, simulate the military training experience for civilians, offer pointers on guerilla tactics and reconnaissance skills, and provide commentary on their wartime experiences.  By participating in GORUCK-sponsored events, attendees gain insights and appreciation for the efforts of those who rucked professionally, not for sport but as a means to surmount typically physically demanding military objectives.  The residual impact of civilians participating in this community is instillment of a sense of pride and accomplishment that’s unparalleled, and you’re part of a movement that’s literally exploding as a fitness practice.
  • Rucking is a lot of fun!: Most importantly, rucking events provide a chance to get together with like-minded mutants under a collegial, low stress, and non-competitive basis, and just enjoy each other’s company and camaraderie for a few hours. The routes are varied to keep the scenery interesting, typically 3 to 10 miles long depending on group proclivities, may or may not include some light PT at various points to engage the less active muscle groups, and usually end up somewhere that serves adult beverages afterwards so we can compare notes and tell tall tales while we rehydrate and cool down.

So there you have it – why we ruck, in a nutshell, with a few good reasons to join us in taking up the sport.  If you want to know more, check out the links in this post, and/or contact your local ruck club leaders, and/or just show up at the next scheduled event and try it out for yourself (in our case, that would be this coming Sunday, 04.August, at 8:30am, start point to be announced on the Kent Island Ruckers email list).  Your Sunday mornings will never be the same, and your knees & heart will thank you.

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