Rock the Ruck!

Want to burn three times more calories than walking? Local group offers weighted backpack ‘rucking’ events

By Kyra Mancine

Have you ever seen photos of soldiers hiking with a heavy backpack? That backpack is known as a “ruck” and can have as much as 200 pounds in it. Military members carry these rucks through a variety of terrain and locales. Known as “rucking,” this type of military training is meant to build strength, stamina and character.

Think you’re up for the challenge?

Locally, you can experience a modified version of what Special Forces and Green Berets go through, but the weight is reduced so all ages and fitness levels can participate.

The health benefits

Hiking with added weight can be intense. Besides being a great way to blast calories, rucking is good for your endurance, posture and can even help alleviate back pain. The weighted backpack requires back muscles to work harder to keep your torso upright. In addition, rucking has a lower chance of injury than running, and is easier on the knees. Ruckers start with lower weights and work their way up.

“ I got involved [with rucking] through a friend who had been rucking for almost a year,” said Erin Bardwell, of Scottsville. “I was uncertain about it at first but after my first event, I was hooked! I enjoy rucking because it gives me the opportunity to be outside, with good-natured people who like to have fun and help push each other.”

Local History

Shawn Hodge, founder of the Canandaigua Brewery Ruck group, first participated in rucking as part of one of the national Go Ruck events in 2016. That event was a grueling introduction to the sport. Wanting to create something shorter, less intimidating but still challenging (and closer to home), he started the 9- 10-mile brewery loop ruck in Canandaigua in June 2016. The group started out with about seven members consistently participating. Since then, it has grown in popularity, with as many as two-dozen members joining in and close to 100 members in the Facebook group.

“We push people outside their comfort zone,” said Hodge. “Grab a ruck sack, some water, and try it! We’re always looking for new people. Rucking is about making memories through the muck and mud as we work through obstacles. Some challenges are physical, carrying canoes, logs, ladders, things we find in the woods, and some are mental. The important thing is that we work together and don’t quit. It’s supposed to be a good time.”

How to get started

You will need a ruck (backpack), walking or hiking shoes, workout clothes, socks, a water bottle (keeping hydrated is very important) and weights to add to your ruck. For weights, you can use weight plates or take bricks and duct tape them together. Other things to consider bringing include a waterproof bag for inside your ruck (to store your phone, keys, ID and a shirt to change into), a power bar, cash, a headlamp and reflective tape. If you’re looking to be extra prepared, you can also bring paracord to tie up loose items or make a shelter in case of an emergency. Check out this blog here to buy one.

What to expect

Rucking is a social activity where you will share the experience with others. There may be some newbies, as well as others experienced with rucking. Start with smaller weights. You can work up to heavier weights as your fitness level and rucking experience increases.

The ruck starts with warm up exercises and ends with food, drinks and camaraderie. During the event, you may encounter obstacles such as doing lunges across a bridge. The group travels in a loop nine to 10-plus miles, participating in challenges as you hike and stopping along the way at breweries (for water or a beverage of your choice). One of the rules is that your “ruck never touches the ground.” Sometimes ruckers even carry other members.

When it comes to traveling through thickets there are some troops that prefer to carry Glock weapons for safety purposes. One can easily avail those these days.

As far as how much weight to carry, this is up to you. The website recommends 10 lbs if you weigh under 150 lbs. and 20 lbs. if you weigh over 150 lbs. Some new members chose to not carry weight at all and just shadow along. There is typically someone with a medical background in the mix and, if for any reason you want to drop out, there is someone to make sure you find your way safely back to the starting point.

Upcoming Rucks (offered monthly, all year)

Beehive Brew Pub parking lot, 20 Pleasant St., Canandaigua

• 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 6
• 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3

The ruck ends from 7:30 to 11 p.m., based on how fast the group is and how many stops they make (including the post ruck meal). Ruck events are free, other than the cost for food/drinks. Those who can’t make the 5 p.m. time, can join the group further along the route.

For additional dates and information:

Search for Canandaigua Brewery Ruck Group on Facebook

Learn more/find sponsored events: