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Add Some Intensity to Your Outdoor Adventures with Rucking

Ready to take your walking (or hiking) to the next-level workout? Meet rucking. It’s a surefire way to boost your VO2 max and endurance without entering a gym. Instead, it’s all about embracing the great outdoors as your training environment.

If you come from a ruby-playing country like Ireland or New Zealand, the word ruck probably conjures up groups of men piling on each other, trying to get their hands on an oval-shaped football. But no, it’s not that kind of rucking. This one is much more suited to solo (or sociable) workouts and those with adventurous spirits.

So, why exactly is rucking taking the fitness world by storm, and what does it have to do with military training? We look at this challenging, rewarding workout that torches calories, strengthens your entire body, and leaves you feeling like a total badass.

What is rucking?

Rucking is simply walking with a weighted backpack – a ‘ruck’ – on your back. The weight can range from 10 to 45 pounds (4 to 20 kilos) or more, depending on your fitness level and goals. The key is maintaining a steady pace over varied terrain, challenging your cardiovascular system, core strength, and mental resilience.

It’s similar to military training styles like tabbing, yomping, and loaded marching, where soldiers walk quickly and energetically while carrying heavy equipment. It’s a means of building endurance and strength that’s lower in intensity than running or lifting weights. In fact, it’s an ideal form of cardio for anyone who doesn’t love either of these workouts but still wants to get their heart pumping and lungs screaming (in the best way possible).

If you’ve ever left the car at home and walked back from the supermarket carrying a heavy backpack full of shopping or hiked with a toddler on your back, then you have some idea of what rucking feels like.

If you’ve ever left the car at home and walked back from the supermarket carrying a heavy backpack full of shopping or hiked with a toddler on your back, then you have some idea of what rucking feels like. The beauty of rucking is that it’s accessible to anyone. You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership. Just grab a backpack, fill it with some weight (books, water bottles, anything heavy), and head out the door. 

Benefits of rucking workout

Rucking may have exploded recently as a TikTok fitness trend, but there are some genuine benefits from this type of workout. The genius is in how simple yet effective it is. Let’s look at how it can transform your body and mind.

  • Gets you outdoors: Ditch the gym and hit the trails. Rucking is a fantastic way to explore your surroundings, get some fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of nature.
  • Strengthens your entire body: Think squats, lunges, planks – all rolled into one dynamic movement. Rucking engages your whole body, from your core and glutes to your quads, shoulders, and even your biceps as you adjust the straps. This total-body workout builds strength, improves posture, and boosts your overall fitness level.
  • Improves cardiovascular health: The sustained effort required for rucking strengthens your heart and lungs, increasing your VO2 max and endurance. This boost translates to better performance in other activities, from running to swimming to simply climbing those office stairs.
  • Burns serious calories: Rucking is a calorie-crushing machine. Carrying extra weight forces your body to work harder, burning up to three times the calories you would during a regular walk. This workout style makes it a fantastic way to shed weight and build lean muscle.
  • Toughens your mental game: Rucking is tough. It pushes you physically and mentally, forcing you to dig deep and overcome challenges. This mental grit translates to other areas of your life, making you more resilient and determined in the face of adversity.

Rucking workout for beginners

Ready to ruck? We’re talking primal, outdoorsy badassery here.  

It’s time to ditch the treadmills and ellipticals, get out there, and conquer unknown terrain like a one-person army.  

Firstly, you need a backpack and something to bulk it up. The good news is that you don’t need anything fancy, but make sure your ruck has wide straps that effectively distribute the load across your shoulders. Then fill it with whatever you have to hand – weights from your home gym, large bottles of water, even bricks or tools as long as it feels comfortable against your back. Start light, 10-15 pounds (4-15 kilos), and trust your glutes, as they’ll be burning by sunset.

Secondly, find a natural environment that is more challenging than an air-conditioned gym treadmill. Trails, hills, open wild landscapes – whatever you can access. Get out and explore what the world around you has to offer.

Thirdly, kickstart your workout by customizing your Polar sports profile to suit what type of adventure you’re on. Select walking, hiking, orienteering, or the Other Outdoor sports profile to suit your adventure. With one of Polar’s outdoor or multisports watches, you can edit your sports profile to include a range of valuable metrics, including altitude, compass, back to start, and Hill Splitter™. By adding these features, you can ensure that you’re tracking your training session to see how you tackle those inclines and raise your heart rate. Plus, if you’re a Polar Vantage V3 user, you can even download offline maps from Polar Flow and transfer them to your watch.

Once you’ve set off, remember to focus on how you are walking, especially on uneven terrain. You’re carrying considerably more weight than usual, requiring more attention to your balance and how you place your feet. Engage your core, keep your back straight, and let those quads and glutes fire like pistons fueled by determination. 

Finally, listen to your body, not your ego. This session isn’t a race to Everest. Start slow, build gradually, and treat your body like a temple made of steel, not cardboard. If something hurts, don’t be a hero – adjust the weight, take breaks, and remember, rest is an integral part of the process.

How to enhance your rucking experience

If you’ve tried walking with a ruck and think you’ve got the handle on it, then there are some simple ways you can increase the intensity with this workout. After all, rucking is an optimal sport to build endurance and exercise in heart rate zone 2, the sweet spot for sustainable fat-burning and cardiovascular improvement.

The ruck’s weight naturally elevates your heart rate into zone 2 without intense effort, making it easy to maintain for extended periods.

How does this happen? First, the ruck’s weight naturally elevates your heart rate into zone 2 without intense effort, making it easy to maintain for extended periods. Second, the repetitive low-impact movement minimizes stress on your joints, allowing you to train longer and recover faster. Finally, the outdoor aspect promotes mental engagement and reduces boredom, helping you stay motivated to push through longer sessions.

So, lace up your boots, grab your pack, and try one of these ways to intensify your rucking experience and become a stronger, fitter you, one zone 2 heartbeat at a time.

Adding more weight is an obvious enhancement. Don’t rush to overdo it, but try steadily increasing the load with each session to understand what you can handle. Then, over time, adjust as your capacity grows.

Hills are another great way to challenge yourself more. As you head uphill carrying the additional weight, the high intensity will increase your VO2 max and push you closer to your maximum heart rate. Coming downhill also has benefits because you may find maintaining your stability a little more complicated, while the muscles in your legs will experience more muscle eccentric contractions.

Remember, solo missions are excellent, but rucking with a pack of like-minded adventurers adds a whole new dimension. Find a rucking group online, or be the trailblazer and start your own. Trust us; sharing the sweat and the stories fuels the fire and makes even the most challenging hills feel conquerable.

You’re ready to ruck 🤘

You can already picture yourself rucking, right? Out in nature, feeling the sunlight drifting through the trees, hearing the crunch of dry leaves and stones under your boots. You’ve got a heavy backpack weighing down your shoulders, grounding you in the earth. Now, you just need to check your maps and plan your route. Adventure truly awaits you.

So, what are you waiting for? As you can see, this workout is a simple adjustment to your usual walk or hike. Now go forth and join the rucking revolution.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to share so that others can find it, too.

Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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