There is no exercise comparable to rucking, though movements like partner carriers, fireman carries, and other movements involving moving an external load “may simulate rucking,” Gerhart says. It should be carefully programmed, Gerhart advised, so the benefits improve athlete functionality, not inhibit it.”

What should I know about rucking challenges?

In November 2010, McCarthy set up the first GORUCK challenge. McCarthy collected 60 bricks in Columbus Circle, and around 1:30 a.m., a group gathered to carry them in their backpacks. “The class showed up, I’m like, ‘Alright, stuff ’em in your rucks, follow me.’ Five minutes later, they were doing bottom samples inside that lake in Central Park.” This was a “real rite-of-passage type of event that people are starving for,” he says.

To date, GORUCK has put on over 10,000 events and created “a new fitness category in line with yoga, running, take your pick,” McCarthy says. In creating these communities, McCarthy feels like he’s bringing people together and strengthening their physical and mental health together, which he’s more interested in than hyper-optimized routines and protocols “Activity is foundational,” he says, “not all of these life hacks that essentially don’t work.” 

What’s the rucking connection with the military?

McCarthy was first introduced to rucking as a fitness requirement in the military. His longest, worst time rucking during his service was around 20 hours, with a 125-pound pack, after jumping out of an airplane. “It’s been a test for military units forever, from the Roman Legionnaires to the British SAS to all infantry forces, anywhere you have to be able to carry things,” he said. “It’s been going on for a long time, and we didn’t invent this.” He also doesn’t see rucking as some kind of miracle health fad.

“This isn’t some new machine that we invented or a band that’s supposed to cure everything. Those don’t really exist,” he says. Though GORUCK has deep military roots, it’s not a core business component. “Rucking is not viewed positively inside of the armed forces, McCarthy says. “The military takes it to an extreme.” For the record, the rucking he recommends to civilians is much lighter, less intense, and does not involve any airplanes.

What is my experience rucking?

After hours of using GORUCK’s GR1 rucksack (starting at $345) and 30-pound weighted plate ($120), I understand the appeal of rucking. It’s less annoying than running and less boring than just walking. It sucks just enough to feel like exercise but doesn’t leave my knees feeling beaten down like pounding the pavement on the street sometimes does.

After a corporate teambuilding exercise at an indoor skydiving facility, I did not become closer with my coworkers. Instead, I strained my relationship with my labrum—an injury that would require intensive reconstruction surgery later on. Shoulder injuries are a common concern when rucking, but I did not experience any discomfort, aches or pains during the hours I spent with a weighted sack on my back.

During my rucking trial—which covered various terrains, including the streets of Brooklyn, a hilly hike in Queens, and some trails across the New England region—I thought about re-upping my WHOOP membership so I could see what the activity did to my heart rate and other vital signs in the moments during and post-ruck. But adding sophisticated technology to this beautifully low-tech endeavor felt antithetical. I also did not want to pay for it.

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