11 Rucking Tips to Safely Enjoy the Experience

Rucking is excellent exercise. It’s easy enough for those who don’t want to exhaust themselves with over-strenuous activity, yet sufficiently tricky for those who wish to challenge themselves.

Even those who have been rucking for years can find new ways of testing themselves with the sport… all while enjoying the weather, meeting new people and getting a good workout that builds strength and endurance.

Who wouldn’t want to try it out at least once with all these benefits?  Regardless of whether or not you’ve done it before, read on discover my 11 best rucking tips to enjoy the experience safely… and have fun!

What is Rucking?

Before defining “Rucking,” it’s helpful to have a bit of a background for the term. “Rucksack” is a UK term derived from the German word: der Rücken, or “back,” merged with the item carried on the location, a sack.

The concept of rucking dates as far back as ancient Roman times, despite it not having that name back then. The reason the idea of “Rucking” is important military jargon is because troops have to carry their equipment on their backs, often for long distances in times of war.  

Rucking, or “Ruck Marching,” as it’s sometimes called, is a less intense type of workout than running. This activity increases caloric burn, amplifies endurance, and strengthens muscles by adding weight to a backpack for a walk or hike. The weight can be increased or decreased depending on your physicality.

Some Benefits of Rucking

  • Rucking increases heart rate. With walking alone, it’s quite a bit harder to increase the heart rate. Rucking is a “forced march” style of movement that increases blood flow.   
  • Rucking can help aid in weight loss. Combined with a healthy diet, rucking can be a component in losing weight. How can rucking do this? It burns almost as many calories as jogging.
  • Rucking is less injury-prone than running or jogging. The critical point when rucking is to maintain proper posture/form. On the other hand, running causes so many problems because the force applied to your knee joints is 12X what is typical.     
  • Rucking helps increase metabolism. Metabolism is how the body breaks down calories consumed into energy it can use. A higher or more efficiently caloric burning metabolism gives you extra energy and aids you in weight loss – and once it’s off, it helps keep the weight off; it also enables you to sleep better.   
  • Rucking counts as a form of weight lifting. Because you’re carrying extra weight that you wouldn’t usually have in your daily life, the activity counts as lifting.
  • Rucking can help increase muscle mass but in select areas only. Rucking shouldn’t be construed as a replacement for standard weightlifting regimes, particularly if you need arm strength. 
  • Rucking Can Help with Posture improvement. If you’re rucking with poor posture, it can lead to injuries or discomfort over time. Proper rucking posture is your eyes front-facing, not at the ground beneath your feet, lean forward slightly, tightening your core, aligning your spine and hips. Swing your arms at a natural rhythm, bent slightly. Be careful not to stick your butt out or look down, as doing either of these things can tire you out or cause injuries. 
  • Rucking helps you prepare for a disaster scenario. If you want to prepare for an emergency, pack a “bug-out bag” that contains all the necessities you’ll need for an extended time away from your home. The critical idea in doing so is to be able to carry the bag for long distances. You can only do so if you’re physically fit enough.

If this sounds like the workout for you, here are some tips to get the most out of your rucking experience safely… and hopefully avoid injury!

11 Rucking Tips to Safely Enjoy the Experience

Rucking Tip #1. Pick the right Rucking backpack

While the concept of rucking is “throw something heavy into a backpack and go for a hike,” there’s a bit more to it than that. Using a backpack that’s not designed for rucking can ruin the bag over time, cause you to tire out more quickly than you might ordinarily, and even cause injuries. A good rucking backpack is sturdy, designed to carry “rucking plates,” and is comfortable. They range in price from $95 for a basic model to several hundred dollars.

Rucking Tip #2. Pick the correct types of “rucking plates.”

Rucking plates are different from “standard weights.” Standard weights are distributed away from the handle with dumbbells or kettle weights and will shift uncomfortably. Rucking plates are designed to be ultra-compact, fit into a rucking backpack, and stay put in their compartment. Some brands have a handle on each side so that you can do other exercises with them. If you’re, rucking without a bag designed for the weights, use a lightweight cover/ throw or yoga block to support it to ensure it can’t move once the bag is closed.  

A quick search online shows rucking weights come in 8.75 lbs. – 45 lbs. and range in price from $21 – $200, depending on the manufacturer.  

Rucking Tip #3. Pick the right socks & shoes

Proper footwear is vital because your legs and feet support your body while rucking. What should you look out for when choosing rucking shoes or boots? Rucking footwear should be durable, lightweight, and preferably water-resistant, yet breathable construction – leather or synthetic nylon fabric, designed for rugged use. Breathability is essential, as water or moisture trapped in the shoes will result in blisters.

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Proper footwear is vital because your legs and feet support your body while rucking.

Pay careful attention to the glue and stitching of the boots. While rucking, you produce more torque than average. The shoe’s sole should be shock absorbent, comfortable, and provide good traction for wet and dry weather. They should fit snugly and comfortably with toe room and provide proper ankle support.

While on the topic of footwear, you also need to consider socks. Some enthusiasts suggest one cushiony, wicking pair, while others suggest always wearing two to decrease blister chances.

If you’re going to have a backpack with you, you can always have two pairs of socks, and when you find out it’s too warm, you can always remove one pair and throw them in your pack. You can also take the opposite tack, wear one pair, and if you find you need the 2nd pair, throw them on over the first pair.      

Rucking Tip #4. Keep Hydrated  

Hydration is vitally important because dehydration can cause headaches, muscle cramps, dizziness, fainting, and fatigue, as well as rapid breathing and heart rate. It’s pretty easy to get severely dehydrated without realizing it because you’re paying attention to everything except how thirsty you are. When rucking, you can use a hydration bladder or a wide-mouth, heavy-duty BPA-free water bottle with a tight-fitting cap to stay properly hydrated.

While hydration is essential during rucking, it’s equally important to ensure that you’re adequately hydrated for several days before you ruck. Two to three days before you go rucking, drink a gallon of water each day.

Rucking Tip #5. Break in Your Gear

Break-in your equipment; the worst thing you can do is wear shoes or boots you’ve never worn before on a ruck. It’s also a good idea to wear an outfit you’ve worn a few times. The last thing you want to do is wear something new only to find out that it chokes or pinches you uncomfortably or affects your stride. Even headgear should be considered – a hat that’s too tight or too loose may ruin the experience for you.

Rucking Tip #6. Start with light weights

While it can be tempting to throw as much weight as you can handle into a backpack to increase fitness quickly, it can cause injury. When starting, it’s best to limit the weight to 10% – 20% of your body weight. For most people, it falls within the 10 – 45 lb. range. Adding more weight than that before your body is used to it can cause injury or cause you to get tired faster.

Rucking Tip #7. Ruck with others

Rucking is an activity you can do with others. Unlike other forms of exercise, the point of the exercise is not to exert yourself to the point that you can’t breathe. If your rucking is so strenuous that you can’t hold a conversation because you can’t breathe, you’re pushing yourself too hard. Socializing while rucking will help you keep up with your routine, too.   

You even can ruck using your dog. Rucking with your dog as weight seems like the perfect combination. You get to spend time with your pup, the dog gets some air, and you get exercise to boot. If you plan on having your dog run with you while you ruck, just make sure to bring poop bags, water, and treats for Fido and ease him into the activity. Pushing your dog too fast will only risk injuring him.  

Rucking Tip #8. Consider the weather

Because you’ll be outside while rucking, you need to plan for and adapt to the weather. When it’s sweltering outside, you’ll need to adjust the duration, the time you ruck, or the weight carried. Furthermore, you’ll need to bring and consume extra water with you to prevent dehydration.

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You need to plan for and adapt to the weather since you will be outside while rucking.

If it’s rainy, you may wish to avoid slippery locations. If it’s cold outside, add some additional lightweight layers that you can “peel” off if you get too warm. Just make sure that you have room to store them in your backpack.

Rucking Tip #9. Terrain is a key consideration  

When first starting to ruck, your treks should be on relatively flat terrain, maybe 1% – 2% incline/ decline on paved or stable surfaces like asphalt, concrete or packed gravel. As you get more experience, your ability to tackle hills will increase. Also, avoiding unstable surfaces reduces your risk of injury.

Rucking Tip #10. Heartrate Matters

Keep within your target heart rate for each “zone” to maximize your rucking time. A good rule of thumb is target heart rate (THR) = 180 beats per minute (BPM), minus your age. There are four zones. Max heart rate for Zone 1 = 70% THR; Zone 2 = 80% THR; Zone 3 = 90% THR; Zone 4 = 100% THR. As a part of an overall fitness routine, ruck once weekly to add variety and improve fitness. When starting, you should ruck for no more than an hour.  

Rucking Tip #11. Distance Matters 

When starting to ruck, there’s also a maximum distance you should start with. This distance is determined by a variety of factors including your age, fitness level, among other factors. A good distance is 2 – 4 miles to start off with, though you may find that if you’re just starting out, even the minimum listed here is too much. . 

Final Thoughts on 11 Rucking Tips to Safely Enjoy the Experience

Rucking is an excellent way of getting in shape and gaining health benefits similar to that of hiking. If you use some common sense, don’t overexert yourself, employ proper posture, and use the right equipment… it’s easy and enjoyable!

It’s also a fairly inexpensive hobby and a great way to meet people. For more group activity ideas, be sure to read our article on running clubs and how to find one!

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