A different way of staying outdoors and fit 

A different way of staying outdoors and fit 

So an injury to my foot meant that I would not be able to run for some time. Seeking a workable “cardio” alternative I turned to a friend who specialises in sports medicine and runs a private gym. In short, he laughingly told me to pack my bags! I was incredulous as I have had a love-hate relationship with running ever since the dreaded military 2,4 Km fitness test. Give me a ball and I would run or swim but I find solitary runs boring. Given that I still need to exercise.

He then reminded me that he had seen me on numerous occasions walking with a rucksack from the local shops during the lockdown. The weight carried had cardio benefits and the exercise type is known as “rucking”. Put simply it is a form of resistance exercise where weight is carried in a small rucksack. It’s not complicated. The real beauty is in simplicity.

With the extra weight, your body has to work harder to keep you moving. This benefits your legs, core, back and shoulders. It strengthens your whole body in the process. And you burn more calories.

It’s a relatively new activity in South Africa but is extremely popular overseas.

It’s not new, the Romans believed that a soldier should be able to carry at least 30 Kg and cover roughly 30 Km in 5 hours. This eventually led to the modern military standard of running 2,4 Km with a loaded pack and rifle. It has also been noted that early humans walked at least 15 Km per day in search of food and water which they had to carry home.

And it allows you to be outdoors and explore the beauty of nature. Or even just to explore your local suburbs, often finding little unknown gems. It is in our DNA to move and this is an exercise form that provides our muscles and bones with abundant physical exertion.

It’s also better for your muscles and joints and not harmful to your knees. Long-distance runners often suffer from knee and joint injuries. The worst that could happen while “rucking” could be a blister. And like any form of exercise, it’s good for your mental health. It’s not just about the calories. Nature walks can be extremely beneficial and healing. Any Neuro-Linguistic Practioner will tout the healing effects of nature and overseas they are now advocation group “ruck” as therapy.

And the beauty of group “rucking” is the therapy it offers from being with like-minded people and talking to each other.

So given that my only experience of “rucking” was lugging a heavy bag of groceries home I now need to go on a proper”ruck” and start to feel the benefits.

So now I wanted to go on a proper “ruck” and explore the benefits. I needed to plan a route and weights for the initial trip and explore the physical and mental benefits.

My friend agreed to join me and we met at an agreed-upon spot. I was hoping to gain some more insight but he pointed out the simplicity of the exercise.

My backpack was dusted off and loaded with an 8 Kg Kettlebell, a towel to ensure that it would not move around as well as a bottle of water and a small first aid kit ( blisters). We met and started a short 6 km circuit planned with some gradients. After the first two km, I could feel the weight. This was not a simple walk in the park as the brisk pace he set was not unlike power walking. My calves started burning and I worried about chafing my shoulders. My mood had lifted and I felt I was changing the so-called “new normal”.The chest strap made a big difference.

In retrospect, the weight sat a bit low and did affect my balance. The beauty of our first “ruck” was the fact that it still allowed us to talk. In the end, despite some aching muscles, I felt good. On a subsequent trip, I used two dumbbells strapped together and held vertically in the rucksack. That worked far better, but I am now exploring other options on the internet. Not sure if they will be locally available but if all else fails I can make a 10 kg sandbag.

I realise that as I progress I can increase the distance and my speed yet still enjoy nature.

So this is a form of exercise that can be done anywhere. You just need to go at a good pace with a weighted rucksack from A to B and enjoy what you experience along the route.

The bulk of the challenge is addressing your well-being and fitness. This is a cardio form that even allows you to stop and have a chat or even pat a dog! Equipment needed is minimal, a day pack, suitable weights water and a first aid kit. I see on the net that one can get cast iron ruck plates but will have to check if they are locally available. You can also use them afterwards for resistance training if so inclined.

It’s a great form of exercise, offers cardio and weight loss benefits and also gets you outdoors.

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