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How I'm Training for a 50-Mile Ruck

Five ways to crush any distance and get fit. Very fit.

How I'm Training for a 50-Mile Ruck

Summary of Today’s 2% Newsletter:

  • I explain my training for an 80k ruck in Normandy in June. You’ll learn:

    • Five big-picture training strategies.

    • How I’m implementing those strategies.

    • What a week of my training plan looks like.

  • You may not be rucking 50 miles, but the information in this 2% post can help you ruck any distance better so you can improve your fitness.

  • Being able to ruck farther also shifts your mindset. Long rucks redefine what you consider “long,” expanding your comfort zone in all physical endeavors.

Quick Housekeeping

  • Like all Monday 2% posts, this post is free for everyone. Enjoy!
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Podcast Version of this 2% Post

The Post: Training for a 50-Mile Ruck

I’m doing GORUCK’s 80k ruck event in Normandy, France in June to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord. A great group of friends is joining me.

We’ll all have 20-pound plates in our rucks, plus water, food, and gear. Each ruck will weigh about 30 to 35 pounds.

You can’t bumble into a ruck of that distance. It takes some preparation and dedicated training to finish. Or, at least, finish in a way that doesn’t leave you staggering to the end.

Below you’ll find:

  • Five picture training strategies I’m thinking about as I prepare for the event.
  • A sample week of my training.

Five Big Picture Training Strategies

Summary of this section

Completing a long ruck requires that you:

  • Spend more time on your feet and with your ruck on.
  • Toughen your feet and joints.
  • Sneak in rucking.
The details:

1. Spend More Time On Your Feet

The event has a 20-hour time cap. If all goes well, we should finish in 15 to 18 hours.

That’s a lot of time on your feet—about 100,000 steps. In the modern world, we have something of a mismatch between what our bodies can do and what they actually do.

In the past, humans took about 20,000 steps a day. Migrations could take days, weeks, or months of walking. Our bodies can endure that much time on our feet.

But the average American is now sedentary for about 9.5 hours (that’s a pre-COVID stat, too) and takes roughly 5,000 steps daily. Even most highly-active people don’t consistently crack 20,000 steps a day.

Because we’re more sedentary and walk less, our bodies aren’t necessarily ready for 18 hours of walking.

We need to ramp up.

What I’m doing:
  • Using my standing desk far more often.
  • Shifting my training to include more exercises where I cover ground on foot (think rucking and running instead of cycling).
  • Sneaking in as much walking and rucking as possible. The little stuff adds up! For example, when I get the mail, I take the “long way,” which is a 15-minute walk.

2. Spend More Time With Your Ruck On

Fifteen to eighteen hours is also a lot of time to have 35 pounds dangling off your shoulders and back.

If the longest you’ve ever rucked is only a couple of hours, you can expect your shoulders to start screaming at you by hour 10.

Like spending more time on your feet, incrementally spending more time with your ruck on can help you adjust so you’re not miserable.

For example, one of the guys in our group recently wore his ruck around an all-day convention he attended.

What I’m doing
  • Wearing my ruck at home in everyday life.

    • I wear it while working at my standing desk.

    • I wear it while doing chores.

    • I wear it while traveling.

    • I wear it anytime I walk my dogs.

3. Toughen Your Feet

Fun fact: Blisters are the most common rucking injury and a top reason people quit long rucks.

You can push through blisters. But it makes for a wretched experience—and this 80k is supposed to be fun, not a death march.

There are plenty of tips and tricks you can do to avoid blisters: use moleskin, alter your socks, get a bigger pair of shoes, etc, etc, etc.

But those are all playing the short game. They’re the things you do right before and during a ruck to reduce the likelihood of getting a blister on that specific ruck.

The long play is to toughen your feet.

Beat the hell out of them so you build some callouses, which are a natural protection against blisters. Doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital explain:

A callus is thickened skin on your hands or the soles of your feet. The thickening of the skin is a protective reaction. For example, farmers and rowers get calluses on their hands that prevent blisters from forming.

Callouses don’t form overnight. And they take some strategy.

Bring your feet to the point before blisters form, then let off. Your body will then do its thing and form some protective callouses.

Callouses are, in fact, a metaphor for living: Do tough stuff at the edge of your limits, and you’ll get tougher.

Rinse and repeat.

What I’m doing
  • Walking around barefoot frequently.
  • Wearing thin socks on my training rucks to get more rubbing.
  • Rucking in the shoes I plan to wear on the ruck. (Never use new gear at an event).

Read this piece for a deep dive on blister prevention.

4. Bulletproof Your Joints

Rucking puts far less wear and tear on your joints and, therefore, has a much lower injury rate than running.

One analysis found that “27% to 70% of recreational and competitive distance runners sustain an overuse running injury during any one-year period.”

Rucking is more comparable to walking—and its injury rate is roughly one percent. The figure climbs as a person loads a pack.

But the risk is comparatively negligible at loads below 50 pounds, according to studies from the British and US militaries.

Even so, 50 miles is 50 miles—injuries generally stem from doing too much too soon of anything.

I don’t have the time to slowly build up to covering 50 miles. So strengthening and mobilizing the muscles around my joints—the site of most injuries—will help reduce the likelihood of injury.

What I’m doing

5. Ruck Often

We all have jobs and lives. I’m not trying to “win” this event, and don’t have the time to train like rucking is my career.

Yet I also need to ruck enough that I’m ready. So I’ve taken to killing two birds with one stone by sneaking rucking into regular life.

What I’m doing
  • Wearing my ruck when I walk my dogs.
  • Wearing my ruck when my wife and I go for walks.
  • Taking work calls while rucking. I call these “ruck meetings.”

A Sample Training Week

Here’s a rough sample week of how I’m preparing for the event.

Many thanks to Doug Kechijian, who you might remember from The Comfort Crisis. He’s who I bounce all my training off of. My plan came from the two of us putting our heads together. (Check out his practice, Resilient Performance, if you live in the NY, CT, NJ area).

Note: The 3-mile morning rucks are when I walk my dogs (sneak it in!).


AM: 3-Mile Ruck

PM: Rest
Monday is my rest day because Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are heavily-active days.


AM: 3-Mile Ruck

PM: Strength Training
I focus on:

  • Warmup: The 2% Warm Up and drills that bolster my joints.
  • One big, total-body exercise like trap bar deadlifts.
  • Safe and effective exercises that work my upper body, like pullups and landmine presses. (I don’t want to injure a shoulder and then have to hang weight off of it for 50 miles).
  • Drills that build durable legs that can go forever. For example, isometric split squats and this exercise.
  • Core exercises like hanging leg raises and side plank variations.

The workout takes about one hour in total.


AM: 3-Mile Ruck

PM: 60 to 90 minutes of slow cardio (aka “zone 2”)
I usually run, but sometimes I’ll drag a sled. Doug pointed out that sled dragging is a great non-running option. It carries over to rucking well. It’s more muscularly fatiguing than running and doesn’t pound your body.


AM: 3-Mile Ruck

PM: Strength Training

  • Similar to Tuesday but with different exercises.


AM: Long ruck.

  • I ruck a little more each Friday until I hit my longest training ruck, which will be about 25 to 30 miles.

PM: Short walk, maybe some mobility.


AM: 3-Mile ruck

PM: Low-intensity restorative strength work followed by treadmill rucking.
Strength work: I do a few exercises I think I need.

Rucking: I load 50 to 60 pounds in the ruck and set the incline at 15% (the highest it goes).

The point is to go slow and steady and accumulate elevation. I hit at least 1,500 vertical feet and build that up over time.

I call this “the pack mule workout” because it makes you feel like a pack mule.


AM: Mountain trail run
Up to 13 miles. Lots of vertical change. I try to stay at a pace where I can breathe through my nose throughout.

PM: Walk
Shake off Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Have fun, don’t die, be a pack mule.


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Sponsored by GORUCK

When I decided to accept sponsorships for this newsletter, GORUCK was a natural fit. Not only is the company's story included in The Comfort Crisis, but I've been using GORUCK's gear since the brand was founded. Seriously. They've been around ~12 years and I still regularly use a pack of theirs that is 11 years old. Their gear is made in the USA by former Special Forces soldiers. They make my favorite rucking setup: A Rucker 4.0 and Ruck Plate.

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