If you’re in the Army or an Army spouse, you know what a ruck march is. The Army prides itself in this physical fitness standard, and in the personnel who live up to it. For 1-2 2-3 A Co., the age-old practice of rucking occurs every single week.
Ruck marches – The Breakdown
Now, for all of you unfamiliar with the Army’s physical regulations: a ruck march is a forced march in which service members must carry at least 35 lbs of weight in their rucksacks — and often more — for a distance of two to 12 miles. This distance can be extended or shortened at the discretion of the commander, and the addition of chest plates and other combat gear can add 60-100 lbs more weight onto their bodies. It is designed to test the service members’ ability and endurance to march with a full combat load.
The Army began enforcing weekly ruck marches for this unit over the past month, mainly due to a high number of poor performances. The goal is to increase overall combat fitness. It has come as a bit of a shock to most service members, including SPC Alexander J. Salazar.
Salazar is an 11B Specialist stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He has been in the Army for six years, which packs in quite a bit of rucking experience. He believes there should be more time in between marches to allow service members to recuperate.
“In my specific unit we had done rucks every other week, which we thought was better because it gave us the necessary recovery time to do the next one,” Salazar said.
Ruck marching is a physically taxing duty that can extend past just the day of the march. Oftentimes service members will be up for 1-2 hours the night before packing their rucksack. Their gear must total a specific weight set by the commander, and if it doesn’t meet this requirement, weights will be added. The march itself can result in blisters, as well as leg and back pain.
How to Prepare for a Ruck
Just like any other exercise, ruck marching gets easier with practice and preparation.
The key is to train the major muscle groups in your legs and lower back, where most of your exhaustion will set in. Develop a regimen that includes running and leg training, where you can incorporate targeted exercises such as squats, lunges, and deadlifts.
Keep up your cardio with long distance jogs or stationary bike training. Make sure you’re properly stretching and attending to sore muscles so you don’t injure yourself; hip flexors are a good focus point, as your hips can take much more weight in a ruck than your lower back. Eat high-protein, high-carb foods that will help build your muscle and increase your energy, especially on the day of the ruck.
During a ruck march, you can’t avoid discomfort. You’re going to be tired and sweaty, and your feet will probably hurt, but taking steps to minimize this pain will help you in the long run.
- Wear reliable, standard-issue combat boots that are well broken in, with good insoles.
- Put on one tight-fitting pair of socks underneath a thicker pair of regulation socks. This provides an extra layer to protect your feet from blisters.
- Avoid running with weight, even if you’ve fallen behind. This can damage your shins, knees, and lower back, and ultimately worsen your performance.
You should take short, fast strides at a steady pace. Zig-zag up hills to avoid tiring the leg muscles, and bend your knees going downhill to absorb the shock of each step. Make sure to stay hydrated and pace yourself for the distance; don’t burn yourself out on the first couple miles.
so, Why Ruck?
Although it may seem excessive, rucking in the Army has a purpose. It’s a great activity for overall fitness. It burns up to three times the calories of simply walking, and builds much more strength and stamina. It also improves posture and and decreases the likelihood of injury. These benefits are essential for service members, who run the risk of deployment at any point in time; rucking ensures that Army personnel will perform at 100%, 100% of the time.
It’s unknown how long weekly rucking will last for Salazar’s unit. It could be dependent on their performance, or potentially set a higher standard for what the Army requires from its service members. Salazar doesn’t expect it to change anytime soon.
“I am here to take orders and complete them,” Salazar stated. “If Big Army wants me to march, I’ll march till Big Army tells me to stop.”
SPC Alexander J. Salazar
Smith, Stew. “How to Train for Ruck Marches.” Military.com, Member 30298028, www.military.com/military-fitness/army-workouts/training-for-ruck-marches.