One woman’s beginner intro to rucking

28 May 2024

Whew! Pals, I did not mean there to be such a big gap between today’s post and my last one – but such is life at the end of the school year, I suppose! :) Thanks for being here. Onwards to today’s topic…!

If you had told me a few years ago that I would get into rucking, I probably would have looked at you in confusion – and asked the number one question submitted to the question box when I asked what you wanted to know about rucking on Instagram a few weeks ago: um, what is rucking?!

Well, friends, John and I are a few months into this rucking adventure, and I’d love to share what we’ve experienced so far – the good, the hard, and my advice if you’d like to try it, too. Let’s go!

What is rucking?

Rucking is simply walking with weight on your back – simple as that. Unlike hiking, it doesn’t need to take place in the woods (though it can!). Rucking is an important part of training for many branches of the military, and so the idea of rucking as exercise kind of moved in popularity from military communities out into the wider world in the last decade or so.

Why were we interested in getting into rucking?

Funny story :) In the last year or two, an interview with Michael Easter popped up on one of John’s regular podcasts, as part of a publicity round after publishing his first book. We did a double take – Michael was a fellow graduate of our college class, and in fact was an English major alongside me! It is not common to see a classmate pop up in the news – we went to a tiny school! – and so this was an unexpected delight. In the book and in the podcast interview, Michael extolled the benefits of rucking, which was the first time I remember it piquing our interest. His enthusiasm was later echoed by Peter Attia and others, until it felt like we were hearing about rucking everywhere we turned.

What appealed to us about rucking:

It would not require adding anything additional to our schedule. It might seem silly, but this was the biggest one for me. Since we were already in the practice of taking a walk several times each week, we could simply add weight and get more out of what we were already doing. Balancing the need to exercise with all the other things I want to do is a constant struggle for me, so this was huge, and easily what got me on board so quickly.

The health benefits. From my understanding, rucking builds muscle and strength while improving cardio and endurance. (You can burn up to three times more calories than walking alone.) The pressure the weight puts on your muscles and joints also helps to build bone density, which is particularly important for women.

It’s simple. You just need a pack, some weight, good sneakers, and a place to walk. There are no fancy moves to learn and no subscription to buy.

It’s outside, and can be done with others. We’ve been able to incorporate our kids (more about that below!), and though we haven’t yet participated in any group rucks, we enjoy being able to ruck side by side.

This article lists more benefits of rucking, and I agree with many of them!

How we got started with rucking:

Last fall, John bought us each one of these ruck plates – 20 pounds for me, and 35 pounds for him. (Experts suggest starting with 10-25 pounds and gradually scaling up until you’re carrying no more than 1/3 of your body weight.) We put the weights into normal backpacks we already owned and set off on our first ruck.

It was awful. We were both terribly uncomfortable – the plates sat low on our backs and bounced as we walked – and ended up cutting our first outing to less than ten minutes. I freely shared my very negative impressions with John, ha.

We returned the plates (that was a heavy box to ship off at UPS, yikes) and decided to go all-in with official GoRuck gear – backpacks and plates. We got another 20-pound plate for me, and this time a 30-pound plate for John. This was a leap of faith – our initial attempt was not a positive experience, and the GoRuck gear is not inexpensive – but it seemed like our best option if we wanted to make a real go of it.

While the GoRuck gear was noticeably more comfortable, the weight quickly fatigued my shoulders and back and caused pain between my shoulder blades for the first few weeks. I would complain bitterly to John on even our short 10- or 15-minute loops – somehow it made me feel better, ha – and constantly adjust my straps to try and relieve the pressure.

But we kept going! John gamely encouraged me to “embrace the suck” (which is apparently something that rucking people say), and slowly, over several weeks, the pain started to lessen and we were able to increase our distance. Now, half a year later, we regularly ruck for 30-40 minutes several times a week with no pain or fatigue, at a sub-20-minute/mile pace.

Our thoughts on rucking so far:

Rucking has been a great workout for us. When I have my pack on, I can feel my whole body working — particularly my calves, glutes, rear, and core. I’m grateful for that.

That being said, the greatest delight I take from rucking is twofold: first, as I alluded to at the top, I feel like I’m gaming the system by getting more benefit for my body without adding anything to my schedule. It feels like some sort of cheat code and I am HERE FOR IT. I suppose I’m working both harder and smarter? :)

My second source of delight is knowing that I’m doing something that will make future-me grateful. My bones don’t feel any different right now – I can’t notice any changes and haven’t looked at any scans – but just knowing that what I’m doing today (even when it feels hard), is making it more possible for me to enjoy my favorite people, activities, and places for a long time to come is thrilling for my future-oriented, big-picture-loving brain and heart.

I’m not particularly motivated by pushing myself to complete challenging physical tasks (that’s all John), but increasing the likelihood I’ll be strong, mobile, and independent in the future? That will get me off the couch.

Rucking with kids

A last aspect I wanted to circle back to: though my rucks have mostly consisted of 30-40 minute rucks around our neighborhood thus far, John has set off on longer routes – and he’s taken our two older kids (5 and 8) with him. (They don’t carry packs!) On many Sunday afternoons this spring they’ve set off on treks around our town, a little platoon of adventurers, five miles or so at a time. They’ll stop along the way to play at a playground or get ice cream downtown and return after a few hours, tired but happy. June and John even rucked to our friends’ house one memorable afternoon – 10 miles!! (To be fair, I picked June up toward the end – she completed 9 of the miles :))

I like to think this might be just the beginning of our family’s rucking adventures together. From keeping us connected to keeping us fit, I’m hoping it will be a part of our family’s culture for many years to come.

What questions can I answer for you about rucking? Has anyone else tried it? I’d love to hear!

May 2024 goals

7 May 2024

This past month was the month that made me seriously consider using a project management platform for personal projects.

On the one hand, this feels… ridiculous. Our life is not a business! Our days are not that complicated! Do I really want to log in and see overdue tasks glaring at me at home, too?!

On the other hand, it’s hard to argue with the practicality. I’m grateful to be bound deeply to several roles and communities, and most of them come with responsibilities. From organizing the kindergarten breakfast in our neighborhood, to hosting gatherings for friends, to pulling together an event at church, I’m increasingly seeing the appeal of organizing my to-dos by both date and project. If it helps get the right things done at the right time, why wouldn’t I?

Still, a part of me resists the bureaucratization of such tender, somewhat homely undertakings.

What do you think, friends? I’d love to hear your thoughts (especially if you already do use a project management platform at home!) in the comments.

But first, the month ahead…

On my calendar:
— Teacher Appreciation Week! We’re going with favorite (fun, in our cute downtown) restaurant gift cards for our kids’ three primary teachers, local ice cream shop gift cards for secondary teachers, and small Target gift cards for specials teachers. And hand-painted cards for all (above!), inspired by this cute print!
— Mother’s Day! I’m organizing a flower bar for the ladies at our church, and celebrating my own wonderful mom and mother-in-law. (Details at the end of the post–moms, don’t peek!)
— Two family camping trips – one with Shep’s BFF and one with lots of friends from church – and a June-and-Daddy overnight, 16-mile (!!) hike at Pilot Mountain! John just realized he’s going to be sleeping in a tent for three weekends in a row this month and he was not pleased, ha.

What I’m loving right now:
— We have not historically been breakfast-for-dinner people, but these breakfast burritos have made their way into our regular rotation. I usually add cut fruit on the side and sometimes a pack of the TJ’s microwaveable Spanish rice.
— After three active summers, my pool shoes have bit the dust. Reordering in the olive green!
— John gifted me the Harborview Herringbone blanket in cornflower for Christmas, and it is truly a couch delight. Soft, cozy, but lightweight. Would make a great Mother’s Day present to go in on with siblings! (In fact, my sisters and I did this a few years ago for our mom with this one!)

As a reminder, you can find allll the things I’ve loved over the last few years neatly organized right here!

What you’re loving right now:

This is where I highlight a few items here that have been popular in the last month with fellow readers, based on my analytics. Here’s hoping this will help you find something you’ll love!

— The colorful pullover I’m obsessed with from a new-to-me British brand (as seen here).
— The best best sunscreen, mentioned in my beauty post.
— The cutie mini bowls we use for everything around our house.
— The conditioner we use for June’s long, thick hair.
— And the $6 5×7 photo album that made my Christmas memory keeping a lot simpler.

Last month on The Connected Family:
The Low-Screen Road Trip, Part 1: Why?
The Low-Screen Road Trip, Part 2: What to Do
— The Low-Screen Road Trip, Part 3: Where to Stop
— The Low-Screen Road Trip, Part 4: A Play-by-Play

What I read in April:
The Anxious Generation | Full review here. Needless to say, I loved it. Highly recommend for parents, grandparents, educators, and everyone who cares about future generations.
The Vanderbeekers On the Road | As delightful as always :) June and I have just one more to go in the series!
Flying Solo | I very much enjoyed this author’s debut a few years ago, but this follow-up was just so-so for me. I didn’t relate to the main character’s motivations and the whole thing felt a bit flattened by internet homogeneity. I did like that it was set in and included characters and elements from the same small Midcoast Maine town as the first novel.
The Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County | A great summer pick with more depth than your typical beach read! The characters are memorable and the setting (a small Midwestern lake town) really takes a starring role. This book was written by my friend Claire (will never stop being cool to have author friends!!) and because I’m so used to reading her essays, the person I know her to be crowded to the front of the reading experience – but I’m sure I would have enjoyed it even if I didn’t already like her! :)

My reading list for 2024, if you’d like to follow along!

Revisiting my April goals:
Film Annie in April (Done!)
Write the second lesson of the TCF course (I changed tactics a bit and decided to focus on completing one-hour blocks of work versus completing certain lessons. I took things down to the studs and worked on the outline this month!)
Complete at least 50 hours of deep work (21)
Read chapters 7, 8, and 9 of Outlive (Done!)
Take the Birds & Bees course with John (Yes!! Finally! Loved it.)

May goals:
— Complete at least 40 hours of deep work (My work rhythms have changed a bit this month and I have way more meetings than usual… trying to set a realistic goal so I can hopefully reach it!)
— Thoughtfully prep for Teacher Appreciation Week and Mother’s Day
— Make a loose plan for summer days at home
— Edit Annie in April
— Complete a sweep of the loft
— Finish the 2015-2019 photo album! (Just 2019 to go!!)
— Read chapters 10-11 of Outlive

I also have weekly goals of connecting with my parents and completing one hour of work on the TCF course, and am tracking how many times I do a crossword puzzle at lunch, strength train, and ruck.

As a reminder, many of these are drawn from my 2024 goals!

Along with your thoughts on using project management platforms at home, I would love to hear how you’re celebrating Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week, if they’re applicable to your stage of life! This year, I opted to get my mom a membership to her favorite botanical garden in Maine, and my mother-in-law tickets to an outdoor NC symphony concert for an upcoming visit! They’re both the type to not prefer physical gifts and/or buy themselves the things they want, so I was pleased when I landed on these ideas :) (This would have been perfect for my MIL, but was sold out!)

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