As we frequently do here at SpecialOperations.com, we post pieces on what many times are based on our messages or messages on Twitter. And this week I’ve gotten a few messages and questions concerning rucking. And when it comes to rucking, we get about 50/50 with our messages and/or questions regarding that or Land Navigation. And sometimes both will get mentioned.
So, the questions and comments this week center around building up speed with rucking. A couple of potential Special Operations Forces candidates have messaged us here this week and were worried that they’re speeds and times while toting a ruck are not up to standards yet. I wrote back a response and asked two questions, how much weight is in their ruck and how long have they been prepping for Selection.
The answers I got was that each potential candidate hadn’t been prepping longer than 2.5 weeks and while two were following the 45-lb weight that we put out in the PT prep that we publish, which is 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a- year, BTW. The third candidate said he was going with 70-lbs dry weight before food and water.
Another candidate had started his training prep about two months ago and is really struggling with getting his rucking times down, where he right on the cusp of meeting the standard or failing. But he’s very short at 5’4, so that is an entirely different circumstance which we’ll get to at the bottom here.
But first, let’s remember a couple of things, rucking isn’t a sprint it is a marathon. We have certain standards and gated events that candidates must pass, like the standard 12-mile rucksack march but in Special Operations, any of them, in any service or unit, things are different. You will ruck until the mission is done, whether that happens to be 4-miles or 40.
That is why all of the training you’ll go thru is based on rucking and carrying a rucksack. It is one of the rites of passage for all of SOF units and you have to learn how to love it. If you think of it as a curse or just something you have to do, then your stay in SOF won’t be a long or particularly happy one.
We had our Sunday Ruck on the schedule just like every week and it is something I still look forward to doing. Even though, while shooting a high school football game on Friday night for the newspaper, I got spiked really hard along the sideline.
Trying to get a shot of a kid catching a pass along the sideline, late in the game, the defender pushed him out of bounds and then tossed him to the ground well outside the field of play. As the receiver rolled, I tried to get out of the way, but his cleats came down hard on my shin/ankle. Both are swollen and my shin looks like a lion clawed me. But training doesn’t stop and there are no days off…right? I’d be lying thru my teeth if I told it was a record-setting time on Sunday but you gotta keep going and not let anything get in your way.
So, back to the subject at hand. There is a really good reason we have such a long PT prep program that we ask guys to follow. Because the prep time to adequately get ready for Selection is measured in months not days. If you ruck 2-3 times a week and you’ve only been prepping for 2-3 weeks, you haven’t gone out much yet. And it does take time.
Rucking is a skill (as we’ve said here many times) that takes time to master and remember, isn’t one that you can excel in the first few days of doing it. If you’re expecting to be smoking times just two weeks into prep time, you are putting undue expectations on yourself.
Follow along with some of our older rucking pieces and keep working at it, but speed isn’t the priority first. Get everything else right and work on getting the right and correct stride down. The speed will come with repetitions. The more you do this and push yourself, the better you’ll become at it. But it is like anything else, rucking requires practice, practice, and even more practice.
For my man starting out with 70-lbs and your subsequent email where you pointed out that on the teams, you’ll be carrying even more than that, you are correct. And BTW, I DO know that and spent over a decade in Special Forces so you aren’t exactly breaking some new news to me there. I remember quite well how heavy the rucks were at times.
But as a said to you, do you consider yourself mission ready today? And of course, the answer was no. And that is because you have a lot of training and experience to do before you’re ready. And starting off your prep for Selection with 70 pounds is not correctly preparing, it is preparing to fail.
If you begin your training preparation with this kind of weight and trying to smoke the standards, you will end up hurting yourself and set your preparation back even farther. Trust in the process and the benefits of our experience, I am far from alone on this one. Our physical training pieces are the guide to get you where you want to be.
After a while, your body will tell you if you need to add more weight or speed up the pace or even back it down a bit. But don’t go hog wild on Day 1, let your body, your joints and ligaments build up strength and endurance and then you’ll be ready to kick the pig.
And for our shorter candidate, this is actually a more common problem than you would believe. I know of many candidates who were outstanding runners, regularly scored 300 on their PT tests but just had a very hard time rucking.
The first thing you must do is to have your rucksack, packed correctly and the straps, shoulder, chest and waist belt all adjusted to you where the ruck fits your body like a glove and won’t pull down on your lower back.
In the past, I’ve written about increasing my stride and I think that has confused some people. While rucking, I tend to stride a little bit less than a normal fast-walking gait. Because, for me, what works is to increase the speed of my steps. When I hit a downhill slope, I will increase my stride, or as you wrote that others told you to “step it out.” But that is counter-productive in the long run.
Rucking is tougher for short people, just like running inside the middle of a formation sucks for guys with long legs!. Stick with it, keep practicing and increase your tempo not so much your stride. Build up your endurance and strength and once you get to the course, do what you have to do to pass. If that means shuffling on all the gated rucks…then so be it.
I hope this makes sense for you folks who took the time to write. To the transgender female, don’t worry about stereotypes, or dwell on things you can’t control. When you get to Selection, make their jobs easy by kicking ass and taking names in every event you take part in. If you excel in everything thrown your way, the cadre will be much less likely to worry about stereotypes and treat you as just any other candidate. That’s the goal…right?
Photo: US Army