June 6, 2024
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June 6, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

(l-r) Yonah and Evan at the top of their favorite parking lot overlooking downtown White Plains.

If you are like us and looking for a method of exercise that’s not quite as taxing as running but more challenging than walking—we suggest you try rucking. Rucking is simply walking with extra weight, usually in the form of a weighted pack or vest. The idea is simple: by adding extra weight, you’re increasing the strain on your muscles as you walk, and getting your heart and lungs to work harder than they would if you were walking without the weight.

Put another way, your body is lifting weights with each step, making you fitter and stronger. Longevity expert and best-selling author of the book “Outlive,” Dr. Peter Attia, touts rucking as a great way to combine both the strength training and cardio fitness our bodies need as we age.

For the last two years, the two of us have been rucking together four or five days per week in and around White Plains. For Yonah, rucking is about fitness and cross training; it has certainly helped him get more fit and made him stronger. For Evan, it’s a little less about fitness and more about preparation. As a scoutmaster for the Jewish Boy Scouts Troop in Westchester, Evan uses rucking as a way to stay in shape for hiking treks he takes with his scouts. He is currently preparing to take 15 teenagers on an 80 mile 12-day high adventure backpacking trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico this summer.

Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, we’ve piqued your interest, and maybe you’re even wondering how to get started. Fortunately, getting started is easy—get yourself a sturdy backpack and stuff it with some weight. While there are plenty of rucking specific backpacks with special pockets for weights, you certainly don’t need to buy one of those to get started. Your best bet is to use a military surplus or a hiking backpack—which all can easily be bought on Amazon or at a store like REI. Ideally you want something with good supportive shoulder straps, and a waist belt, which helps offset the load the bag puts on your shoulders.

A word to the wise, most school or computer backpacks won’t cut it. They might work well for a few weeks, but eventually the strain of the weight will tear them apart at the seams. They also typically don’t have the proper shoulder straps and many don’t have waist belts.

You can use practically anything for weights: you can buy some rucking specific weight plates (Yes4All on Amazon sells reasonably priced models), but you can also use barbell plates, dumbbells or kettlebells, as well as household items that are relatively uniform in size. (For example, Yonah used a college textbook as a weight when first getting started). As for how much weight you’d like to use, that’s entirely up to you,but it’s best to start small and add more weight as you acclimate. When you’re just starting, we’d recommend not using much more than 10% of your body weight –e.g., if you weigh 175 pounds, start with 15-18 lbs. of weight and work your way up.

As for shoes—we recommend you use hiking boots or shoes, or sneakers with a sturdy sole and possibly some additional cushioning. Remember, the added weight will likely cause your shoes to wear out faster. If you have weak ankles, plan to walk on unpaved and/or uneven trails, you may want the ankle support that boots afford.

Now that you have your weight(s) and backpack, it’s time to get set up. As you pack your bag, you want to make sure it’s set up in a way where the weight is centered when you wear it. If the weight is offset too much to one side it can potentially lead to injury because one side of your body will be working harder than the other. You can use a rolled up towel or a foam pool noodle (as well as your backpack’s cinch straps) to keep your weight centered and snug so it doesn’t wobble around in your pack while you are rucking. (An added bonus of wrapping your weights in a towel or cloth—they prevent the plates from causing an abrasion on the bottom of your pack, adding to its longevity).

With your backpack set up, you are ready to start. You can always ruck locally around your neighborhood. Again, we recommend that you start small and work your way up. Maybe start with a short, flattish loop, and as you acclimate, move on to longer and more challenging routes.

One way to increase the difficulty of your workout is to add climbs to it as well, either by means of a hill or stairs. For example, our daily route has us walk about one mile to a local parking garage and then climb all nine flights of its stairs three or four times. This workout has all of the elements of a good HIIT workout (High-Intensity Interval Training) as it includes a warm-up (the walk there), three to four intervals of high intensity (climbing the stairs) and a cool-down (the walk back). This route is about three miles long and takes us about 70 minutes to complete.

In short, rucking is a good way to keep fit and strong. Start small, and build up weight as you go along. You will gain a lot by rucking on flat ground, but adding elevation in the form of hills or stairs will increase your gains. To find out more information about rucking, there is plenty of information online; We suggest checking out the Reddit rucking community as a good starting point. Alternatively, feel free to reach out to us—[email protected] and we can try to help answer your questions.

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