Hands down, the best way to build incredible mental toughness is by getting under an uncomfortably heavy load, going for a walk, and spending some time alone with your thoughts…
“My shoulders hurt”
“Where is this turn around point!?”
“Why am I doing this to myself…”
And on and on the little gremlins start to gnaw at the back of your mind, coaxing you to stop, telling you to take a quick little break, demanding you to drop the pack for just a minute.
Fortunately for you, you’re better than that.
So you bitch slap those all those annoying gremlins and send them back to the hole (Closet? Under your bed?) they crawled out of and keep on moving.
This is the power of the ruck.
Growing up in the Marine Corps we did quite a bit of rucking including a required 15 miler at TBS. Now, this is no extraordinary distance but I was always fascinated by the number of people who dropped with only a few miles left.
During our 15-mile company ruck we followed the same out-and-back course we had followed for each of the rucks before, we just went a little further each time.
However, when we came back, just 100m from where we stopped all those times before, we made an unexpected turn.
The morale drop was palpable…
We followed a road around the barracks and kept walking, I started to hear grumblings, people wondering where we were going, trying to figure out when we were gonna stop… The end seemed so near.
Then we made another unexpected turn up a trail and headed for a hill that each an every one of us was woefully familiar with called Cardiac Hill.
This is when something crazy happened…
People started dropping left and right.
Thinking back on it I’d guess we lost about 20 people at that point, seemingly, all due to the looming prospect of walking up that hill.
However, we didn’t walk up that hill.
As soon as we got to the base of the hill the entire company turned around and we headed home.
This was an interesting phenomenon to me considering these unexpected turns added on a total of a 1/2 mile. Yep, an addition 800m is what broke 20+ people… The worst part for them?
Completing a 15 miles ruck is REQUIRED. So they had to do it again the following weekend.
This was almost 10 years ago now and it has really stuck with me. Whenever someone asked me about building mental toughness I always answered with “go for a long ruck”.
Physically the human body, even weakly conditioned can take a beating. Throw in a couple of workouts each week and the average person can walk for a long time while carrying a modest load without a problem.
The human mind, however, is pretty weak… And the only way to improve this is to get out of your comfort zone and push you limits. There are a number of ways you can go about this and, as you can probably tell from what I’ve been talking about, I think rucking is one of the best ways to do it.
For those of you in the military you may already do this. If not, you’ve got all the required equipment you’ll need to load up your pack and get after it.
For everyone else, you don’t need a whole lot to get started.
Find your self a sturdy ruck (here is the ruck I use: Kelty Map 3500 Assault Pack) and fill it up with weight. I’d recommend 25-30 pounds to start and you can use a sandbag, steel plate, or go buy 4-6 bricks and duct tape them together. Easy, yet effective.
If you’re feeling exceptionally motivated I suggest you find a GORUCK event and join a team of people who pay good money to be pushed to their limits. To date, I’ve completed 7 of these events (1 Heavy, 3 Challenges, & 3 Lights) and I’ll likely have a few more under my belt before the end of the year.
Do these events compare to some of the rougher days I experienced in the military? Nope, not at all. However, they are definitely the hardest thing I’ve done since I re-joined the civilian world. I do, however, use these events to test out the programming I’m putting out in the membership area of this site.
Most people believe that the only way you can train for one of these long endurance events (12+ hours) is to spend hour upon hour and mile upon mile out on the road in training… This is just not true if your training program is designed properly (Longest I rucked in training for the GORUCK Heavy (26+ hours) was 1, 90-minute ruck)!
That is a topic for another blog post…
For now, go get under a heavy load, and just Ruck It.