Ruck march programs

There really isn't a lot out there, that takes ruck marching and applies the principles from other sports/activities, so I will attempt to outline here how to fit ruck training into your work out sked.

First of all, to have a sustainable model, I break the work out year into 4 x 12 week sessions. This gives me roughly a week of rest between each session. Each 12 week session is also organized into roughly 3 x 4 week mini-sessions. The 1st 4 weeks are base training, just getting in the mileage or movements; the next 4 weeks are moderate exertion, building strength and stamina, and the last 4 weeks are where you go hard.

Then to break that down into a weekly sked. I will alternate 3-4 days running, with 3-4 days of strength training. Now the runs days will include a ruck, on a rotating sked. The runs are speed work days, interval/hill repeat days, and long run days. I will do at least one ruck run, on a rotating sked during the week, and then maybe another ruck march on the weekend, depending on which 4 week session I'm in. I try not to do more than 2 ruck workouts in any given week.

Each 12 week session builds on the last. So after a week of rest, I will try and end up at a slightly higher level at the end of each session. Until the last one, where the year is done, and then I'll fall back and start again the next year.

The idea is to start slow/easy and gradually build up through your 12 week session. So in this case, I start with maybe 15-20 lbs, and maybe 3 miles. This will be gradually increased to say 45lbs, and maybe 12 miles. Whatever your mission requires. This is opposed to just throwing on a full load out, and gutting out 10-12 miles until you get good at it. Sound familiar? Yeah that's how they used to do it. Probably still do.

There are plenty of good 12-week run programs on line. Find one that fits you needs/level, and just substitute ruck runs in there. For example, one week you wear a ruck on your speed work out day. Start with 400-800 intervals x 4-6, with 60 sec rest intervals in between. Of course this stuff varies, but let's say you do 7:30 min/miles slick. You would then aim for 9:30 min/miles under ruck. The next week you run hill repeats. Say 12 repeats of long 1/4 mile, or short punchy hills, as desired. Next week it's long run day, so throw on the ruck and do a nice long run. Here again, if you can run 8:30 min/miles, aim for 10:30 min/miles.

A word about running under ruck. Some guys will tell you not to do it. And they're right. And wrong. I would not attempt to ruck run without at least one solid year of regular run training. It takes time to harden all the connective tissue and so forth so you don't get injured. So yeah build a solid base first, before attempting something like this. And once you reach your target load out weight, be very conservative, as in slow way the fuck down, and do 90% at a fast march, not running. I would say a practical limit for running under ruck is about 35 lbs. Beyond that, without extensive time building a base, you risk injury. So at that point, substitute a brisk walking pace during those workouts.

Also finds a good running shoe with plenty of cushion to ruck run in. You will need this extra cushioning to avoid injury in the roughening stages. Slowly work in with your boots. Then do regular ruck marches on the weekends and watch how your performance climbs.

And another word about missed workouts. You will get sick/injured/havetodoothershit. So when you miss a workout, just let it go; don't adjust the sked, don't try and make it up. You will be just fine. If you miss more than a week (it happens) then return to base week stuff, but still end 12 week session and take a break, wherever you end up. This is important. If you skimp on recovery time, you will get injured/sick/or otherwise fucked up.

I have found that this approach, as in supplementing a regular work out program of running and lifting, with loaded workouts, is superior to a ruck-centric plan, that tends towards overloading and injury. By starting with one loaded work out per week, and progressing to two, in the 2d and 3d 4 week sessions, gives you the best bang for the buck. A steady diet of more than two rucks per week is a recipe for disaster.

I keep thinking of things; in no particular order. Each Wo should have 3 parts: your warm up, main set, and warm down. This gets more important as you get older. So you would do 1-3 miles warm up, depending on where you're at, then jam on the speed, hills, intervals, etc. This is followed by a nice cool down period. If you do this you will avoid the common injuries people get from tearing up muscle and connective tissue before it's good and warmed up. And you give it time to flush out before stopping.

On hydration. Of course terrain and weather, but in general, shoot for 16 oz per hour. This gets more important as you get into multi-hour WO's. On really hard days, which is any ruck WO, I will add "Tailwind" powder to my water for an extra kick. This will go down in the winter months but don't stop completely. On really hot days this can double.

On nutrition. If you can eat before a WO, then you should have enough fuel for about an hour. After that you should shoot for 70g of carbs per hour. As most gels are about half that, you can see you need about 2 per hour or supplement with drink powder like Tailwind. This takes some experimentation, to see what you and your gut like, but find a combination that you can reliably fuel on for 4+ hours.

On diet. This also will vary. But garbage in, garbage out. I am big on carbs pre-work out, and proteins post. Check out Fitzgeralds "Making Race Weight" for some good recipes. Again as you get older this becomes more important. Try for a sustainment diet, not a purge and binge cycle.

On rest. This gets important with high intensity work outs. All the little micro tears are getting repaired in your sleep. If you skimp on this, you will pay. Naps are an awesome way to increase repair cycles, if your schedule allows.

You may have seen "Body Glide" at your running/tri store. This is magic pixie dust for endurance athletes. Basically a body wax to reduce friction, well, use your imagination. You can get it at a 1/4 of the price in a drugstore. It's called Mennen Power Speed stick. Used extensively by tri guys, it keeps you from rubbing raw, especially when you are wet. Apply liberally to pits, crotch, nips, feet, etc. The antidote to the infamous "monkey butt".

In each 4 week mini-session, you slowly work up in speed/distance/weight, and then each 4th week is "fall-back" week. You reduce the volume and duration (but not intensity) that week, and then that Friday is "Test Day" . So every 4 weeks you are basically doing a diagnostic, to see if you are making any progress. If not, analyze and try something different.

If you keep a WO diary of this shit, you will see what works outs "worked" for you, and what didn't. You can track exactly what you were doing when the wheels fell off, and you got sick or injured. Lots of times that's not random; it's usually self-inflicted. So as the years roll by, you will discover what works for you, and what doesn't. Then you dial your work outs in.

Something to add onto the carbs and rucking conversation. Once you get up in mileage and speed (think timed 12 milers for schools or such where you aren’t allowed energy gels etc) it’s not a bad idea to eat a stack of saltine crackers or a pop tart before you start. As you’re rucking you are building up acids in your body, not just lactic acid in the muscles but also in your stomach from your metabolism going into overdrive. If you have a empty stomach this will start to make you sick and throw up. The crackers or pop tarts give carbs but they also put something in your stomach to absorb the acids thus staving off the puking session for a little longer. The extra salt from the saltine crackers doesn’t hurt either.
Very good point. I forget you guys don't have access to a lot of stuff. In that case, in addition to RW's technique, I would also recommend getting used to getting up as early as possible and getting as big breakfast as possible in your ass. This takes practice, as I never liked working out on a full stomach, but you need the energy. You also have to work out the timing on the other end of this technique.

I was amazed in Wales at the Fan Dance, where if you come early, they have this huge English breakfast for participants. This was SOP for their SF selection and was carried forward by the staff for the civvies. So yeah you might have to work around your particular chow hall and snack access, but try it out.

When I tried out for Racoon, we had this "Recon Indoc Program" you had to go through, modeled on the "Ranger Indoc Program" at the time. It was SOP for the other teams to sneak out to the jungle and re-supply you with high-carb snacks when instructors weren't around. Man that shit tasted good. So yeah, remember your buddies when they are getting smoked.

Unfortunately this is a technique they like to use; starve the students. And it sucks. But whenever possible, get nutrition.

I have basically reversed my eating habits in my old age. Big breakfast, medium lunch, light dinner.