Rucking Can Add Some Variety and a Fresh Challenge to Your Fitness Routine
If you’ve ever carried a bag of groceries to your car or a child through a park, helped a friend move, or hauled sacks of mulch from your car to your backyard, you’ve taken part (perhaps unwittingly) in a physical activity known as rucking. While you may not have heard of it, it’s growing in popularity as a way to boost any type of walk or hike with more endurance, strength and cardio benefits.
What Is Rucking?
Rucking is considered a low-intensity interval training workout that involves walking with a weighted rucksack (or backpack) for a set distance. All you really need to get started is a backpack, some good running or hiking footwear and something to increase resistance. You can use almost anything for weight, from gym plates (also known as “ruck plates”) to water bottles, books, light-to-medium-weight dumbbells, bricks or any other heavy items lying around the house.
Rucking has numerous physical benefits such as building muscle strength, improving your cardio and increasing your endurance (and it’s much easier on your knees than running). Numerous studies show that being active outdoors and connecting with the environment is great for mental health, emotional well-being and mindset.
A Little Background
Rucking evolved out of military training and dates back to the first iron-clad army, in the seventh century B.C. The ability to march a certain distance carrying a load of equipment is fundamental to almost all military units and is still a part of military training today. In the armed forces, Army Rangers are required to carry a 35-pound rucksack over 12 miles and maintain a minimum pace of 15 minutes per mile.
What Is the Difference Between Rucking and Hiking?
Many people go rucking as a component of their overall fitness program, whereas hiking is typically driven by more aesthetic motivations, such as a desire to visit a certain place or check out a scenic view. Rucking is done with added resistance in the form of a weighted pack or weighted vest, but you don’t need to add extra load to go on a hike or long-distance walk. However, if you’re carrying a backpack containing a couple of water bottles, snacks, your phone and other personal items — well, you’re technically rucking!
Tips for Beginners
- Check with your healthcare professional before beginning any new form of fitness or exercise.
- Experts recommend an initial resistance weight equal to about 10% of your body weight. Gradually increase it by five pounds as you become comfortable with each weight level.
- Try rucking for 20–30 minutes to start, at a beginning-level weight appropriate for you. Gradually go for longer distances, trying to maintain at least a pace of 20 minutes per mile as you get more comfortable.
- Experts recommend limiting your rucking exercise to just one or two times per week, allowing enough days in between to recover.
Sources: “The Comfort Crisis,” by Michael Easter; GORUCK.COM; Healthline.com; “Foot Marches” (U.S. Department of the Army, published April 2022).
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