Before celebrating Christmas with the family today it was time for some exercise. I was up before the sun and since everyone was sleeping in as we had been out late visiting family on Christmas Eve, I decided to take advantage of the quiet time to get some rucking in…and to work off some of the food I ate last night.
As I’ve said before, I love to go rucking in the early morning hours. It is therapeutic for your brain, most especially after a very long, stressful Christmas week. It is a very relaxing way to start the day, you get a good workout in and are prepared for whatever is going to get flung at you the rest of the day. Af our six-miler on Sunday, I figured another 5-6 would be a perfect way to begin Christmas morning.
Right behind our house are some large power lines that run for miles and are peppered with hills that make it a perfect rucking location. The terrain is broken up in spots, at times the trail can be pretty muddy or rocky. Today, however, the ground was still frozen from the cool night (about 29-30 degrees) from Christmas Eve.
Since moving here about a month ago, I’ve gone out a few times to test out the trails and they are pretty challenging especially after the torrential rains we had here about a week ago that turned much of it into a muddy morass.
The mud added to the rucking workout, and my legs were doing a slow burn after navigating a few of the hills. It does slow down your pace but at the same time, just like rucking in soft sand, it will better prepare you for what is bound to come once you get to Selection.
In Special Operations especially if you are a candidate to get in, there are no days off and it is a good mindset to get in whether you are waiting to get to Selection or an old fart like yours truly. It will serve you well. And I encourage you to test the waters and try different things. Don’t always do your rucking on nicely manicured trails or roads. As we all know…at some time the weather will turn to crap. And once you have the pleasure of rucking in lovely Camp Mackall in SFAS when the trails turn to a muddy mess, you’ll be glad you did.
My Bulldog was actually eager to head out with me this morning…good deal. Although I love the solitude of rucking alone, she doesn’t say much and is generally good company. I popped my iPod in and being in the Christmas spirit, I put on AC-DC “Back in Black” and off we went on another adventure.
As always with my ruck, and as yours should be, the 45-pound sandbag is packed up high between the shoulder blades as much as possible, in my case, inside the radio pouch of my ruck. As I was humming along and probably singing a bit out loud with “Back in Black”, I got a glimpse by my workout partner over her shoulder…as if to say that I was disturbing her solitude. Go figure.
I’ve found when rucking hills that it is beneficial to use the waist strap cinched so that, the weight rides more on your hips and not on your shoulders. This will allow you to loosen your shoulder straps up so that the weight isn’t all on them and your lower back, the weight will ride more on your hips. Ensure that the waist belt is snug but not too tight nor too loose. It requires a little bit of trial and error.
Everyone knows that I am an unpaid spokesman for Merrell boots and swear by them but today I was wearing an old pair of Belleview desert jungle boots that a buddy of mine gave me when he came home from Iraq with a bunch of brand new boots. I normally wear these just kicking around the house for yard work but I grabbed them and headed out with them today as they are super comfortable.
So, as this shows, you can never have too many boots broken in when you get ready to go to the course. Two pair that fit like a glove is the absolute minimum. Can’t state that enough.
After about a mile or two…“Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution…” and I’m getting that look again. Whatever dog, I’ll turn it off and we’ll walk in silence for a bit, so I’ll stop getting those looks. We paused briefly to let the dog do her business and back on the trail.
I had planned on picking up the pace on the second half of the journey but the ground is pretty broken up here and my partner is quite content to lope along at a leisurely pace. And the morning is nice enough to make her pant a bit. So we paused again and after I took a big long drink out of the Camelbak I gave her some as well. Although the temperature was only about 30, there was (for once) no wind and the sun felt pretty warm.
And our frequent public service announcement when it comes to rucking. I decided to forego picking up the pace this morning…Age does have its perks. However, you must learn to increase your speed without resorting to running. It is like any other skill you acquire and hone, it requires practice, practice and more practice. But trust me, if I can learn how to do it, you can too.
Running with a rucksack puts an incredible amount of stress on your knees. But as always temper it with the reality of the situation at hand. Without trying to sound like a hypocrite, I did write this:
“They’ll be times in your Selection course or the Qualification course that you’ll have to make up time or want to pick your pace, especially on the downhill slopes. At those times, you’re going to have to do what you must.”
Remember the standard is a 15-minute mile pace to pass the course. That is the minimum. You should be aiming to go much lower than that. I used to keep about a 12-minute per mile pace. It is plenty fast enough for where you’ll finish a 12-mile ruck march with just over 30 minutes to spare and is a pace that you can keep up for an even longer distance.
As I mentioned I took a short break to hydrate and then I realized that I hadn’t been drinking as much as I should during the ruck. With the cooler and cold weather, sometimes your thirst reflex isn’t as strong as the summer. But it is a good habit to get into during training to continue to push water all the time. If you get into the habit now, you’ll keep it up during the course. When you are even a little bit dehydrated, it affects the cognitive aspects of the brain. It can adversely affect mood, energy levels and the ability to think clearly. And you’ll need all of those to be working overtime in the Selection course.
My partner senses we’re heading home and she picked up the pace. I didn’t even have to. Gotta love it. The last two miles flew by at a nice quick pace. I said the heck with it and turned the music back on. “Giving the Dog a Bone” …. Don’t stare at me pooch, those are their words, not mine.
Beautiful day to go rucking, Merry Christmas to all, I hope your day was a great one. Ready to go do it again? Me too. DOL
Photos: DOD, Author
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