Showing posts with label rucking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rucking. Show all posts

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Importance of Inspecting Bags

These days my Rucksack just stays packed. We do not go to the field every other week or something but I use it for road marching once a week and just like to keep it ready to go. At this stage in my career I have accumulated enough spare socks/ t shirts/ etc that the ones in my ruck can just stay there. For the latest round of field time I almost just grabbed my ruck and took off. Decided it would be a good idea to look in it and I am glad I did.

I was missing a couple key things:

For whatever reason I didn't have a sleeping bag or a woobie or anything like that. Granted this is Louisiana in the dog days of summer so the gore tex bivy could have worked and just sleeping in my clothes would have kept me alive but some sort of insulation makes for a comfortable sleep. I put in my HPG Mountain Serape.

Also for reasons that escape me I have one pair of socks in my bag and they were mid weight and made of wool. When I took out the rest of the winter module I must have missed them. While wool can be worn in any season all but the lightest garments are punishing in this heat. I kept that pair of socks and added 3 lighter pair.

There was a bottle of anti inflamatory pain killers in my ruck. The gel tablets had melted together into a big ball. So those need to be replaced with non gel tablets. 

Those additions made my ruck pass a quick initial inspection.

During the field problem I identified the lack of a medical kit in my ruck as an issue. Granted there is one in my level 2.5 get home bag but that was not with me. Need to add at least a basic boo boo kit. Those supplies can back fill stuff in my level 2.5 GHB when they are used together. Picked up the stuff for a boo boo kit today.

The point is not to assume. For systems you use semi regularly you really need to inspect them /at some interval, and before every major use.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review: 299 Days Volume 4

 Today I will be reviewing Book 4 of the 299 days Series by Glen Tate
Warning, I can't really review this book without some spoilers
This book continues where volume 3 left off. In the very first part Grant is going on and on about the 'Patriot Republic' he wants to set up. Next they end up coming into possession of a semi truck full of food. This leads to a potential conflict with the government in the nearby small town.

There is a debate over what to do with the food. The community ends up voting and using a meal card system similar to the one described in 'One Second After'.

The next significant event in the book comes when they trade some weapons to the town leadership for medical supplies.

Like the series tends to do the book ends in a cliff hanger that starts the next book.

The Good:
This book had action/ conflict but it was realistic. Too often in survivalist books folks get in these crazy gunfights where one dude with his magical prepper skills and wiz bang 7000 rifle kills 20 bikers with AK's or something else similarly stupid.

Building on this after every significant event the characters learned some things through their own failures. We should have had/ done X came up often.

The community had people with a realistic range of perspectives on most things. Viewpoints differed and there was natural, plausible conflict. Everyone is not going to agree and despite what some idiots think, the answer is not to shoot everyone who disagrees with you.

In terms of setting up this 'Patriot Republic' Grant hammered home the point that providing services and meeting people's needs matter a whole lot more than arguing ideology. In many ways an insurgency is more a race to administer to peoples basic needs with an armed component than the other way around. This is for a couple reasons. First most people are pretty ambivalent about politics and government in general. The side that meets/ helps them meet/ creates an environment where they can meet their basic needs is probably the one they will gravitate towards. Like American elections it is the soft supporters and mushy middle folks whose swing decides insurgencies. Hard core socialists or die hard Patriots waving Galdstead Flags are not going to be swung to the other side in any big numbers. They can be marginalized, isolated, killed or forcibly migrated but convincing them to go with the other teams program is unlikely. Second actions speak a lot louder than words. Having a great idea is going to be less important than being able to provide an area with security, a predictable method for resolving disputes and maybe help with different things is what matters.

The Bad:
I think the level of independent government these folks were trying to set up was awful premature in relation to being only a couple weeks after the collapse. It did not in my opinion match with the (otherwise realistic) scenario within the book. I think this reaction would be a lot more reasonable after a few months of 'collapse' especially a soft collapse.

Also fundamentally they made a big mistake in saying 'Patriot Republic' instead of 'community'. "Our Community needs a way to resolve disputes" just sounds a lot better than "Let's set up a court for our patriot republic".

While the characters in the book acknowledged failures in hind sight they failed to pay any costs for these oversights/ failures. While they didn't need to kill off a bunch of random characters to prove their point but my experience is that more often than not we pay for tactical mistakes.

Why did Grant not say in more medical supplies? In an early book he said "he didn't know how to use them" BUT HIS DARN WIFE IS AN ER DOCTOR. He should have gotten all sorts of tools, sutures, etc.

The concept of controlling peoples movements in the book was not in my opinion acceptable. They had security which is great. However the non elected (though one could argue there was at least a loose consensus) leaders of this area deciding who gets to go out the gate to town or whatever, or for what reasons they get to go is simply not acceptable. I would not tolerate that and I do not think many freedom minded people would.

Also the author specifically mentioned he didn't want people going on 'vice runs' for booze, drugs or whatever. That the community needed to trade their valuables for food. I get the sentiment but that is not the choice of a non elected leader and that attitude has no place in a supposedly free area.


They traded some guns, mags and ammo to the local town, which is their self described enemy. We could get into a long discussion about the concept of trading weapons in some sort of a collapse. One fairly extreme view is that you should not trade any guns or ammo because they are useful to you and could potentially be used against you. I do not necessarily take this viewpoint. Say in some sort of a collapse a neighbor wants to get a pistol for their wife or older teenage kid. They have something pretty valuable I want and I have a redundant pistol gathering dust in the safe. Seems like an easy decision to me. On the other hand trading military rifles to someone I consider an enemy and believe I will have to fight at some point seems rather foolhardy.

Also the group formed an immigration group who get to decide WHAT PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO LIVE ON THE PRIVATE PROPERTY OF OTHERS! This is especially ironic because the main character brought out a bunch of friends with guns who are living, without the knowledge or permission of the owner, in another persons cabin! That he brought a bunch of folks in then was part of a decision that the community should control who else comes in seems ridiculous to me. This is not freedom, it is some sort of totalitarian form of government.

I get the sentiment, especially since they were really talking about gang bangers (though it did show a generational thing with tattoos). However I do not believe it would be appropriate to A) tell a person who can stay with them on their private property or B) pre judge people based on appearance. As far as I can recall in the book this issue never came up but the way they planned to deal with it is not in my opinion acceptable. If the Jones family brings in a person who causes trouble then the community has a right to get involved and maybe somewhere in the continuum of agreed upon consequences is banishment. The difference between the community getting involved after a person does something vs before in some sort of thought crime way is significant and the difference between a valid community function and totalitarianism.

There is a fair bit of bad and ugly in this book. I think this is disproportionate because most of the general good stuff from the series has already been well covered in other reviews. That being said no way around me significantly disagreeing with some of the things our little 'Patriot Republic' does during this book.

Overall impression: An enjoyable read with enough excitement to keep things moving but still be realistic. The parts I disagreed with did not retract from enjoying the book.

Edited to include:
PT: Speedruck of 3.25 with 35-40 pounds. Time 44:07 or a 13:30ish/1 mile pace.

Dry Fire: Gear- Glock 19 with Safariland 6125
Drill- 1 shot from concealment.
Par time- 1.5 seconds.
Extreme low- 1.04
Extreme high- 1.6 seconds
Average 1.1-1.4.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rucking N Other Things

5 miles with 35 pounds in 70 minutes. 14 minute miles are not amazing but aren't too shabby either.

Next week I will be doing a speed ruck so it will be shorter but a faster per mile split will be the goal.

Also I picked up that stripped lower I have been wanting.

So now when things get silly, say this fall, I will have a viable option to build the budget(yet still serviceable) AR that is my next planned rifle acquisition. The concept of use will be a reasonably priced AR that can serve as a backup to my primary rifle, a 'truck gun' and such.

Tomorrow after running some math I will pick up more FAL mags. The planned purchase should put me into 'happy numbers' of mags. To round out that setup I will still need to buy a couple cases of good 7.62x51 surplus in due time. Ammo matters a lot but for a ban scenario ammo, which could feed Bubbas bolt action deer rifle, is a lot less likely to be targeted than say guns and military pattern rifles and the standard capacity mags that feed them.

The Max Velocity VERSA chest rig is almost ready for sale. I am excited and totally want one. My Costa Leg Rig it can rock FAL mags. That this setup can rock 5.56 and 7.62 in the same rig is a huge plus. I need to buy a chest rig for the big boy rifle and being able to swap out to AR stuff is a plus. I plan to purchase one of these to fill that role.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

From Around The Web and Trimming Pack Weight

Fer FAL's 12 Survival Lessons from the Ukraine is definitely worth reading

T Blog did a post on trimming pack weight.I have a few thoughts on this. In no particular order.

-When it comes to weight it is important to talk apples and apples.

          -I weigh my ruck dry as in without water. Of course total weight including water (wet) matters but since water is rapidly consumed then replaced I find 'dry' a more meaningful number. 

         - We also have to get on the same page as to concept of use. Since the BOB/ level 3 sustainment load is pretty ambiguous the question of how amounts of consumables, specifically food, matters. Of course a bag set up to feed a person for 5 days is going to weigh more than one designed for 2 days.

-40 pounds coming up as the number some D Boys settled on is interesting. My BOB/ level 3 sustainment load comes in a shade under 40 pounds (dry, 37 if I recall) and if I recall John Mosby's is in the same general weight range.

-The snugpack is a pretty cool little setup. I would like one for my level 2.5 bag and since they are a shade under $60 it is an easy decision.

-Cutting weight on individual items is a good plan so long as it does not compromise capabilities you want/ need.  For example swapping a 5" full tang knife for a smaller 3", lighter full tang knife would save weight with negligible capability loss. On the other hand going to a Mora would mean the fixed blade knife would have few capabilities beyond my EDC benchmade.

-Weight of food is notable. Also specifically for the little Tactical Tailor bag I bought bulk matters. I am looking at revisiting my food plan for this bag with some protein bars that are calorie dense and some freeze dried stuff for actual meals.

-My level 2.5 bag is sitting at 17 pound dry. I would like to get it into the 13-15 pound range. Will do some more shaving and then post a contents list.

-Oleg Volk did an interesting post on pistol caliber carbines. The 5.56 pistol is discussed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Assault Packs, Rucks and Sustainment Loads Revisited

I tend to break down these different loads into the fairly well recognized 3 tired system (level 1 survival, level 2 fighting and level 3 sustainment). The primary reason I do this is that due to a lack of common vocabulary different names such as get home bag, assault pack, bug out bag, etc all mean drastically different things to different people. The end result is that unless a common terminology is established we are talking apples, oranges and potatoes instead of apples and apples.

The day pack/ assault pack arena really muddles the waters. Personally I bend convention and call them level 2.5 because they do not cleanly fit in either category. Depending on the use they may be an extension of a fighting load to carry stuff that does not fit in a LBE/ Chest Rig/ whatever or special equipment. This might be machine gun ammo or a spotting scope or whatever. On the other hand this might be a light sustainment setup with a few snacks and a jacket, some extra water and a poncho/ poncho liner to roll up in. Often the load in these bags is some combination of the two or a
murky in the middle item. Anyway right or wrong I call this assault pack range level 2.5.

In recent discussions I have talked about overall tiered gear and specifically my level 2.5 bag a couple of notable comments came up. Specifically I recall comments by River Rider and Alexander Wolfe of TEOTWAWKI Blog.

The main point of their comments was that both ended up going with smaller lighter sustainment setups more akin to my level 2.5 'assault pack' than a larger more traditional rucksack. River Rider mentioned weight as an issue and that he was not as young as he used to be. Alexander Wolfe mentioned the speed of lighter systems and leveraging modern technology to get similar capabilities
(to larger/ heavier items) in smaller and lighter packages. Note I do not mean to disparage either of these fine individuals or their ideas even though we might not agree on everything. It is more that I want to talk about the pro's and con's of lighter vs heavier sustainment loads in no small part because the idea has been stuck in my head for two days.

Personally I went through this struggle myself about 2 years back. I was trying to come up with a 'be all end all' system that covered the capabilities I needed yet was still relatively light and easy to carry. I ended up with more or less the worst of both worlds in a pack that weighted close to 30 pounds but did not really fill all of my goals. To complicate matters I tried to do it in a frame less 'assault pack'. It just didn't work.

The end result is that I personally moved to two different sustainment systems in the form of the level 2.5 assault pack/ get home bag and a true level 3 Rucksack. Furthermore for my concept of use these bags need to be more independent than purely tiered. So instead of items existing in my BOB
and flexing to the assault pack as needed, the pure tiered approach, there is a decent amount of redundancy between the two systems. The reason for this is the lighter level 2.5 bag is compact enough that it often comes with me and is not a hassle to haul around. If I were to start using them together I would likely need to do a marriage style combining of stuff then leave behind/ trade off/ etc the left over redundant items. [I suppose another option would be to treat the level 2.5 bag as an offset of the ruck and get a simple little backpack to roll up and stick in my level 3 bag as it's companion assault pack. Not a bad idea really. Might just do that next time I see a cheap but decent earth tone day pack. Think Chris mentioned something like that] Basically in realizing a system could not meet the top end of capabilities and stay within a weight range that was conducive to moving as fast as I might want to in some situations.

This brings up an interesting point. Weight gives you (at least the ability to have) more capabilities but it also slows you down. If this push pull relationship is not handled carefully you can get to a feedback loop where you are slower so the trip will take longer and since the trip is longer you
need more stuff.

It can be said that you want to pack a certain system/ bag with a specific scenario in mind. In the survivalist speak you could say a bug out bag needs to be designed specifically for the scenario in terms of range, climate, etc it is to be used in. Obviously a long distance trucker driving across the
northern Midwest needs very different gear than a person who lives in Florida and works 4 blocks from home. An individual scenario needs to be taken into account. However I have some concerns that 'if it fits your scenario' can be taken in silly directions and becomes the system equivalent of 'shooters preference' run amok or the tactical equivalent of "everyone gets a trophy" no matter how uninformed or even stupid their setup is. Generally speaking right answers from different smart people look a whole lot alike which sort of goes against the "whatever fits your scenario" argument.

For a specific discrete event it would make sense to look at your kit to add or remove items as needed, obviously within reason. However I find that, especially for kits/bags/systems regularly carried for contingencies, this could rapidly become onerous. I am not going to dump my level 2 bag every day based on the days plans. "Well, I will need to add 2 granola bars for today because I am going an extra 5 miles from home, it is warm outside so I do not need a jacket, yadda, yadda, yadda." That is just not realistic. Honestly if I replace stuff that gets used, make sure nothing goes bad and do the seasonal gear shift I'm doing well. I find that coming up with a solid plan that fills my general perceived needs and just sticking with it is probably the best option for normal every day stuff.

To the discussion of your more assault type bags vs a full sized ruck/ hiking backpack:

In general it is important to prepare not only for the conditions you plan to face but those you could reasonably face. This means more food, clothing, tools and equipment than you know you will need.

Case in point: The winter before last I was hiking up in the Huachuca Mountains kind of a scenic work out as I was carrying my BOB. At the time I was alone in the house and it was a Saturday afternoon. It started to rain then snow. As I was jumping rock to rock across a tributary I casually wondered "what will happen if I break my ankle right now?" There was no way I could get out on one leg. The answer was that in two or three days I would have be found. They would have found me with a nice shelter set up laying in my sleeping bag by a fire, probably sipping a hot beverage and playing solitaire. With a 20 pound assault pack I would have been alive but cold, hungry and pretty unhappy.

Bigger heavier systems are going to have more capabilities than smaller ones assuming you make semi reasonable choices for stuff. It is true leveraging newer lighter items and dual use stuff helps.
However without ridiculously gaming the scenario those gains are not that enormous. The gaps I find most problematic in smaller systems in order are lack of cold weather clothing/ shelter, lack of provisions and lack of tools. Along this line you can get away with a lot lighter systems in warmer
areas. Valid points can be made about the need for some of this stuff. However there is danger of going down the 'capabilities' slippery slope where folks say 'well I have a cutting tool' and somehow convince their self a razor blade has the same capabilities as a full tang 8" survival knife and an ax or that a little tin foil emergency blanket 'shelter' the equivalent to a Swack Shack and a military sleep system.

The consideration of speed/ ease of movement certainly favors lighter systems. I agree with this if it makes sense for the scenario (vs a bigger system with more capabilities). To me in this context making sense would be that the lighter bag meets your perceived needs with a reasonable margin for

I guess my biggest reservations about the smaller sustainment load are a) it is not a replacement for a heavier sustainment load for a variety of realistic situations, especially in cold weather and b) that it could be chosen not because it is the right fit but because it is easier to carry around.

We should not discount the idea of using a larger bag and leaving it in camp, an ORP or caching it for the times we need to move faster. This might let you use a smaller bag in more of a traditional assault pack role filling it up with the items you will need for that day or maybe overnight scout.
Inevitably the 'but a ruck is heavy!" whine comes out. The answer is physical fitness in general and with a particular focus on moving over ground in general and carrying a load. Also while it is not nice to say if you lose 20 pounds of excess butt and or belly that 20 pounds of food/ clothes/ gear you could carry for the same amount of effort. Unfortunately less fit people do not somehow magically require less food/ clothes/ gear than fit people do. Bear this in mind when considering your body weight and physical fitness level.

Like I mentioned earlier I ended up with sustainment type systems in both of these loose categories. To which one I pick for a specific situation there is sort of a loose decision making/ risk assessment, most of the time I choose the smaller of the two. The bigger bag tends to come out when I am
going way out into the hinter boonies or in winter. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Large Bug Out Back/ Ruck Conversation

I am looking at purchasing a large backpack/ ruck for my level 2 (sustainment) load. I have a ton of packs but they are split between various modern commercial ones that for one reason or another (size, color, configuration, etc) do not really work to optimally suit my needs and a stack of ALICE's I picked up on a deal. Honestly while the ALICE has a lot of value and is hell for stout (though like anything they do break) they are quite unpleasant to carry and offer limited options for side pockets and such. The ones I have will probably all end up in caches eventually.

Note I know what ALICE packs are and probably have more miles under them than most folks so please don't bother suggesting to carry one. Aside from not being comfortable they do not offer the pocket setup I desire. Yes you can modify them but that turns into spending Ferrari money on a Fiat in a hurry.

Additionally I am disinclined to go with a MILSURP MOLLE ruck due to A) being in blatantly military colors and B) while better than the ALICE not being on par with quality civilian models for comfort and ability to easily carry weight.

Concept of use is a big heavy duty pack with a decent amount of pockets as well as some comparability (MOLLE/ PALS webbing would be a plus) with a modern suspension system IE decent hip belt, shoulder straps, overall fairly comfortable and in an earth tone but not blatantly military (ie ACU/ Multicam/ etc) pattern.

Cost is not a driving factor but the budget  of roughly $330 does not currently allow for uuber high end brands like Eberlestock, Mystery Ranch, Kirafu, etc. Also the idea of dropping $400+ on a pack then payout out the behind a la carte to get some basic side pouches bothers me a lot. I COULD save for another month or two and be in that price range but it would take a compelling argument to justify the additional cost.

The pack I am looking hard at is the Kelty 7850 formerly known as the 128. It is a big, actually huge, pack from a quality modern company that is not completely overtly militaristic. There is a legitimate argument that people should get their stuff together and then get a bag that fits it to avoid the inevitable good idea fairy bag filling. That being said I have been carrying and living out of rucks for a long time so I understand the weight math. Additionally my life situation (specifically kids) is such that I want the ability to flex to add some stuff above my baseline setup.

The new Marine FILBE pack in FDE AKA brown seems to be nice but I haven't  seen them available for sale complete with frame yet without the assault pack and hydration system (both of which are fine kit, that I do not need). Also if prices are close I would take Kelty over .Mil any day.

Am interested if any of you have experiences with these packs or similar alternatives.

Monday, June 2, 2014

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

Got some good PT in this week including 4 lifts, 1 long run, 1 ruck and a pair of minimalist runs.

Got 6 2x4's and a few sandbags for free. The 2x4's will probably be emergency repair type stuff.

Reenforced the chicken coop. So far the girls are averaging 2 eggs a day which is pretty good.

Was at the local Walgreens to get some stuff and ended up picking up some medical stuff: couple extra boxes of band aid's as well as what I call the Patriot Nurse 3 (gauze pads, mucinex and pepto bismol). IIRC she mentioned those in a video at some point or another as 3 very good things to have that cover a lot of bases.

Got 15 gallons of gas and some oil for the EU2000. Need to hook up the hour counting thingie and put some oil in it then begin testing.

Worked to organize some stuff.

Sharpened my EDC Al Mar knife as well as my big camp knife.

Rereading World Made By Hand.

This coming week I plan to get 10 more gallons of gas, lift and run, eat healthier and really run the numbers on what I need to get started with a bolt gun (to decide if I can do it now or need to wait a bit).

What did you do to prepare this week?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Max Velocity on Realistic Rucking

Max Velocity on Realistic Rucking: My point is this: don’t set unrealistic goals and don’t head for overuse injury. It is not so important to listen to what people said they did “back in the day,” but better to worry about what is right for you now. Don’t try and carry too much weight in your ruck, and don’t try too much running downhill to make up pace time. You mostly won’t be doing that when carrying a ruck SHTF anyway, because you will be in a tactical environment. So, get the cardio and muscular system ready to tolerate the load, without breaking yourself doing it.

I talked about it in Rucking 101 1, 2, and 3 and so has John Mosby

We have all talked about rucking looking at it from slightly different foxholes. However the fundamentals remain the same.

1) Establish a baseline for your CURRENT CAPABILITY. Maybe to keep it simple that baseline is putting on a ruck and walking 2 miles at a brisk pace.

2) Now you start to slowly over time push harder than that initial baseline performance. If your neighborhood 2 mile ruck walk was 35 minutes try to get 34: 50, next time try to beat that record, etc.

3) Over time increase the distance of your rucks along with the load.  I am inclined to say you want at least some of your rucks to be relatively brisk, otherwise rucking degenerates into a lethargic walk that has to be done for hours to get any actual physical fitness value. Working towards the goal of doing a given distance/ weight at say a 15 minute mile pace before progressing to longer/ heavier is probably a good idea. Then as your rucks get longer you can push harder in terms of time on the shorter ones. I'd say for a reasonably fit person doing a sub 13 minute split is very realistic.

Once you hit the distances you plan to peak at (there is only so much time in the day) then you can get a better workout without wasting the whole day by upping the weight and trying to go faster. Combining this with occasional (probably bi weekly) longer rucks would be a good solid program. Mix that in with your weight lifting and running and it might look like this:

Monday- 3 mile ruck with equivalent weight of your full fighting load and sustainment load
T- Speed work and other exercise (lift, crossfit, whatever)
W- Active recovery like a rower or bike or whatever.
Th- Terrain run and other exercise (lift, crossfit, whatever)
F- 10k ruck 1 week 15k the next
S- Other exercise (lift, crossfit, whatever)
Sun- Rest

4) As long as you stick to some basic principles (work under your maximum capacity, progress over time, exercise consistently but allow recovery time, etc) whatever rucking program you do should work fine.

5) As a final thought I am very strongly against jogging let alone running with a ruck on a regular reoccurring basis. If you can ruck and can run you can run with a ruck. This isn't something I think you need to train on. The physical toll it takes on your body is not worth the negligible gains in performance. If anything it is more likely to hurt you because after a few weeks you'll be broke and thus no longer training. (Yes I know cool guys do that stuff occasionally as part of their training and qualification stuff. They are in really good shape and still a whole lot of people get broke. Also the cool guys are only doing that stuff for a short period of time, not years and years..)

 Unless a tactical situation calls for running somewhere with a ruck or realistically with a fighting load and maybe an assault pack I wouldn't do it regularly. Sure once in a blue moon to change things up is probably OK but even that is sketchy. Your foot lands wrong in a hole or on a rock running with 45+ pounds in addition to your body weight it ain't good. Anyway I would submit that if you are on a good rucking and running program you will have the fitness necessary to run with a ruck or gear when it is needed.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that.

Personally I am not currently rucking. The holidays were a much needed break for me. After that some medical stuff happened so I'm not really going to be doing much good PT until O/A 1 FEB. When I start to get back into it I will let you all know what I do and how it works. Might be helpful for somebody.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rucking 101 Part 3: Packing Your Ruck

In Rucking 101: Part 1 we talked about feet, socks and boots. In Rucking 101: Part 2 we talked training plans. Now we are going to talk about packing your ruck. It did occur to me I should talk about specific types of rucksacks, civilian backpacks, etc. I may well do that in the future. However right now I am more concerned that you can use the stuff you have properly than that you know my thoughts on gear selection.

Some general guidelines for packing a ruck:
-Balanced from left to right. This will make it as comfortable to carry as possible.
-As much as possible the weight should be high up along the upper back as it carries better there without pulling down and as close to your back as possible so it doesn't pull out.
-Smaller outside pockets should be used to keep commonly accessed small items organized (flashlight, bino's, etc) and for stuff you use regularly. Usually I will put the food I plan to eat on a given day in a side pouch but keep the rest in the main bag. Some snacks will also go in a side pouch or my fighting load.

-Waterproof your bag on the outside with silicon based waterproofing (campdry, etc all) as an initial barrier but be sure the smaller inside bags are water resistant also.
-Keep the larger compartment(s) organized through the use of smaller waterproof containers. Military wet weather bags work, civilian type dry bags work, ziplock bags work in the short to mid term, heck good old plastic trash bags work OK.
-Pack items you will use regularly or access first higher and thus more accessible. Example the shell jacket you're going to put on and take off 5x due to off and on rain should be in a side pouch or just under the top flap of your ruck. On the other hand your spare underwear can be on the bottom.

With those basic ideas in mind let's break the pack down.
Zone 1 is where the lightest stuff that you access the least goes. This is the classic place for a sleeping bag and the majority of your spare clothes. 
Zone 2 is where heavy stuff goes. This would be extra ammo that is not in your fighting load, a bunch of large batteries, a cast iron frying pan or whatever. You want this to carry as close to you as possible. Be sure to pad hard surfaces with something soft to protect your back so wrap that old frying pan up in a spare pair of pants of something.
Zone 3 is where you put slightly heavier items like food and stuff you will regularly access such as a rain jacket, poncho, your lunch if it isn't in a side pocket, etc.

As a final thought be sure to test your rucksack fully loaded in conjunction with every other part of the system you plan to use all the way from your pants and belt to water bottles or camelback and whatever firearms you may plan to carry to make sure the whole thing works together.

Go forth and Ruck!!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reader Question: Rucking Weights, Fighting vs Approach March Loads, Afghanistan, etc

Rucking 101 Part 2 Training Plans got a comment that I thought was worth replying to on the main page:
I question the sense, even the rationality of trying to train up to the military 65 lb load. Training should have a purpose. What is the purpose of the 65 lb load? The military does it? So effing what. The military is losing in Afghanistan to poorly trained, poorly equipped light infantry in part because those heavy loads give the Taliban the choice of when to engage. And then when they do engage our troops carrying 65 pounds of gear cannot catch them when they disengage. The bulk and weight of the loads, to a great extent, limits our troops to roads and trails where they can be ambushed or hit with ieds. So why would you want to copy the military when what the military does doesn't work?

Ryan here: I am going to ignore the slightly condescending tone of the reply  so we will just stick to the issue at hand. First I have to say the plan I pretty blatantly stole is the brainchild of John Mosby. I am not going to try putting words into his mouth; all thoughts that follow are my own. In no particular order here we go:

-Let's talk about system levels first.

Level 1 is your survival load. I everyday carry mine.

Level 2 is a fighting load. A way you carry plenty of ammo, some water, a bit of food and medical stuff, etc. Level 2 can vary widely in weight depending on whether or not you choose to wear body armor. Even a stripped down set of plates with a plate carrier weights in the fifteen to seventeen pound range. Add side plates and it will be more. Choose a full on vest with class IIIA soft armor, side plates and front/ back plates and it's going to be more like 30 pounds.This is also called a fighting load.

Level 3 is a subsistence load. This will have food, shelter, water, spare clothes, ammo, etc all. This is a rucksack or something similar. It is also called an approach march load.

-Where you confuse things is by arbitrarily linking 65 pounds being the end weight of this program with what you perceive to be soldiers fighting loads in Afghanistan. These two things are entirely unrelated in my mind.

-As to taking lessons from our combat forces. Who else would you propose taking them from?

-To the single point issue of whether soldiers loads in our current operational environment, particularly high altitude mountainous Afghanistan are too heavy. One can make a legitimate argument, as I noted a couple years back in Thoughts on Insurgencies #1 that the current focus on wearing heavy protective equipment no matter what decreases mobility. Years and a trip to Afghanistan later I would argue in particular that it greatly limits our ability to do the long multi day presence/ movement to contact type patrols and SKT/ ambushes that would really deny the Taliban safe haven everywhere an MRAP/ Cougar can't drive. This means the Taliban have functional control of these areas only needing to worry about SOF types occasionally popping out of the sky to hit an HVT. Day to day that terrain and it's populace are theirs. You just can't haul enough stuff to survive for 3-4 days and wear full on body armor.

If I were El Supremo General Ryan I would delegate authority to forgo protective gear in order to increase mobility to the Company Commander, with review by the first 0-5 in the chain of command which is typically the Battalion Commander. Moving on.

-Beyond that to the larger question of whether our overall success, or very arguable lack thereof in Afghanistan can be attributed to our troops efforts (or even more arbitrarily the weight of their fighting loads).  One could argue that seperating military and political objectives is arbitrary. After all as Clausewitz said "War is a continuation of politics by other means".

The conditions determined to be success and by implication failure, as well as the limits of troops and force allowed being defined by civil leadership largely put success in a venture such as Afghanistan into the political spectrum. For example, our soldiers could stop the Taliban in a couple weeks simply by killing the known bad guys and their major supporters without waiting to catch them in the act with evidence that can convict them and subsequently gathering intel to go kill their buddies but it would not be pretty. In fact it would probably remind one of The Battle of Algiers.

Of course any legitimate effort to route the Taliban would need to include significant incursions if not outright occupation of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal areas. Taking it a step further our military would be quite capable of killing every human being in Afghanistan to end the problem that way. However we are not as a society willing to accept those costs; which is probably a good thing.

In closing on this point I'd argue our soldiers are doing a decent, though inherently less than perfect, job in pursuit of what could be argued to be an inadequately resourced, poorly defined and unrealistic, out right fantasy based often changing end state.

-You mentioned training having a purpose. So let us work backwards in terms of how much weight one might want to train up to carrying.

My fighting load including M4agery weights in around 20 pounds. Toss in body armor and it is closer to 35-40.

My sustainment load AKA BOB weights about 42 pounds (wet).

Carrying a light (sans armor) fighting load and my BOB puts me right around the 65 pound weight hack. I don't worry to much about a full on load out of fighting kit, armor and ruck. The reason is I can't see myself realistically carrying that for a prolonged period.  Where I can see myself sucking under a ruck is in some situation trying to get home. Often for long trips I toss my BOB and a rifle into our vehicle. Walking home a long distance would suck but it is my realistic walking worst case scenario.

The point I am trying to get at here is that 65 pounds is not out a crazy weight for a multi day sustainment load and some fighting gear. Instead of being an arguably bloated fighting load it is a lean fighting load and enough stuff to somewhat comfortably live for 3-4 days in realistic field conditions. Really add up the stuff and if your weights come across drastically different I'd recheck the packing list.

While not intentionally planned 65 pounds is just about right for me. Knowing John Mosby that probably isn't a happy coincidence. If you do the same math as I just did and come up with a drastically different weight then adjust accordingly.

That being said as one wise commenter noted "If you can carry 65 you can definitely carry 35" so maybe training hard even if you do not plan to haul a heavy pack has some wisdom after all.

Anyway that's my thinking on that. Hope it helps or entertains somebody.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rucking 101 Part 2: Training Plans

Well we figured out our feet, socks and boots in the first part. Now it is time to come up with a plan to train. It's worth touching on how rucking fits into an overall fitness plan.

Before going further we should touch on, if not fully define some rucking goals. A smart way to do this would be to work backwards from what we can see ourselves needing to do. I would submit in terms of cardiovascular efforts a soldier/ guerilla needs to be able to go fairly fast for rather short periods of time with a fighting load and also make slower longer movements with an approach march (fighting kit plus ruck) load when needed.

Without going too far down that rabbit hole I would say rucking is part of the cardiovascular/ endurance answer with the other part being running, particularly some sort of sprint/ interval type workout. One could make a legitimate argument for doing this sprinting type work wearing a fighting load but I do not think the wear and tear on the body of doing that stuff 2-3x a week is worth the negligible payoff over similar efforts  in general athletic wear. However to get back to the point of this article we will focus on rucking.

Just like any other form of fitness the way to improve at rucking is the old 'er as in faster, heavier and longer. If you aren't increasing at least one of those for practical purposes you aren't improving. Rucking is a bit more complicated than most because it has 3 variables instead of the usual 2 (fast/ long for endurance and heavier/ longer(reps or sets) for strength stuff).

The problem with the way most people "train" for rucking is they put on a ruck and go for a leisurely walk. Over time they might build distance so it becomes a really long boring slow walk. Really more than anything these folks aren't exactly getting more fit but are becoming accustomed to the moderate discomfort of walking slow with a ruck on.

Broadly speaking my general observation of rucking is that folks have the hardest time drastically increasing their speed. If they are used to walking a given pace it's awful hard to just walk a 2 minute faster mile tomorrow. That is followed by weight. More weight aggravates the physical discomfort of road marching and is pretty hard for smaller folks to bear. Lastly I don't usually see folks have too much issue adding distance given similar speed and weight as they are used to. Sure going from 4 miles to 30 is stupid and will break folks but, especially folks "training" at significantly slower pace can often walk a lot further than they think. Sort of like our bodies are made to do it. To me it is pretty logical to work in that order (of typical weaknesses) by keeping to some time standards (and pushing to go faster), then building weight and adding in distance over time. A guy who can do 6 miles in an hour and 20 minutes with 60 pounds can almost surely slow down to a 17 minute mile and do 9-10 miles but the opposite is not true. Something to think about anyway.

John laid out a pretty good plan in Livin’ The Infantry Dream: Or, How to NOT Cripple Yourself Before the Age of 25.

Take the 25-lb rucksack out and go walk two miles. Time yourself for the two miles. Repeat, once a week, in addition to your normal running or sprinting PT, until you can do the two miles in 30 minutes or less. Then, double the distance until you are doing four miles in 60 minutes.
At that point, add weight to the ruck, up to 35 pounds, and continue the four mile hikes, until you can do them in the 60 minute time limit. Then, step the weight up to 45-lbs, and repeat. Continue at the four mile distance, with the 60 minute goal, until you’re doing that with 65 lbs.
Once you can do four miles, in 60 minutes, with 65 lbs on your back, add a mile, and continue pushing for the 60 minute time limit. That’s “Checkpoint #1.” If you can do a 12-minute mile for five miles, with 65 lbs on your back, you’re light years ahead of most people. Once you’ve accomplished that, keep trying to exceed the standards though. Push on to doing eight miles in two hours. Then, push to doing eight miles in 1:30.
I believe your goal should ultimately be:
12 miles in 2.5 hours, with 65+ pounds. I’d like to see people pushing the two hour time limit, with 75 lbs or more, but I’d offer that the 12 miles, 2.5 hours, 65+ pounds will put you light years beyond what most people in the military, let alone in the preparedness world, will ever achieve, or even bother trying to achieve.

I think this is an excellent starting point for adding rucking to your overall PT plan, to the point I am doing it myself.

As to adaptation of this program?  It starts with the huge advantage that folks of a variety of fitness levels can be challenged and still progress at their own pace. For a person, maybe who is older or really out of shape that can't make the initial 15 minute split's it might make sense to adjust the 2 and 4 mile times up to say 17:30.  Only rucking 2 miles for weeks or months doesn't make much sense to me. I'd rather see them build up some endurance to help boost their speed while getting the fitness/ weight loss/ endurance building benefits of going further.

Folks in better shape will progress faster. Personally I started this program a couple weeks back. Did the first 2 mile with a fairly light (probably closer to 35 but didn't weigh it) ruck in the time hack. This week I did the first 4 mile in 59:07 so I'm going to up the weight for next week. 

How often should you ruck? I think John mentioned this plan as something to do once a week as part of whatever program you are doing now.

Right now I am rucking once a week. Why do you ask? Honestly rucking isn't a huge concern for me these days. As my military career progresses I shift further away from the really pointy part of the spear so the amount of time I'm going to realistically spend humping a ruck overseas is very limited. I ruck now to maintain some capability should it be needed at work or in my personal life and as another way of hitting cardiovascular endurance. Also I just think a soldier should always be able to ruck march reasonable distance/ time/ weight.

If I was more concerned about rucking I would ruck twice (in addition to 3 runs) a week. One ruck would follow wherever I am in the progress on the program above. The other would be 2-3 miles purely for speed with whatever weight I was currently carrying. Why you might ask? Well first to keep pushing my speed to get faster. Second to intelligently manage the amount of strain put on my body.

Max talks about how the Brits do it here.  Different standards but the same basic idea of using logical progression.

There are probably a lot of other plans out there that may or may not suit your needs. Just remember the basics of progression in terms of speed/ distance/ weight as well as training appropriately to your current (not what you did in the glory days) fitness level and to get appropriate rest/ recovery and you should do fine.


Monday, September 30, 2013

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

Now that we are starting to get settled this reoccurring feature is coming back. So what have we been up to?

-Filled up all the water cans.

-Filled up all the gas cans.

-Organizing stuff and figuring out where the food storage is going to live.

-Went to a local surplus store. Purchased a 2 quart USGI canteen with OD cover and carry strap. On the way out saw a MOLLE II chest rig at a very nice price. Snapped that up, they are a pretty cool piece of kit I will be talking about at some point.

-Moved guns from their temporary home to our new place.

-Put some effort into getting a local cache set up. Mentally taking notes for what to add on my next trip there.

-Hitting PT hard and trying to eat fairly well during the week and not totally loose my mind on the weekends.

That is all I can think of right now. Anyway it's been a pretty productive week here. Getting back to a decent baseline of preparedness which makes me feel a lot more comfortable and able to weather out whatever may come.

What did you do to prepare this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rucking 101 Part #1 Feet, Socks and Boots

John Mosby did a great post so I feel compelled to steal his idea. In no particular order here we go:
-It is important to think of your foot and everything that goes around it as a system. If any piece is messed up you are in a bad spot.

-Feet. Keep toenails reasonably trimmed and if you have any crazy stuff going on get it fixed. It is vitally important to condition your feet to the unique strain of wearing boots and walking with a heavy pack slowly over time. We will touch on this in more detail with boots.

-Socks. Generally I favor thin socks as they do not ball/ wad up on your so much and it's easier to wear 2 pair of thin socks than a half pair of thick socks. I have had good luck with thin wool socks and really everything that isn't a cotton tube sock. Also the big puffy Wally World boot socks are pretty bad. Currently I wear Thorlos X-Static socks but am looking to transition back to wool. Carry lots of socks in ziplock bags. I do not think 3-4 pair in a 2 day bag is unreasonable. Lack of dry socks can lead to feet always being wet which is a nasty downhill spiral. To dry socks in the field I hang them out from a ruck/ tree or tent if the weather is good. If the weather is bad I wring out as much moisture as possible then stuff them at the bottom of my sleeping bag at night. In the morning they will be dry. If I haven't mentioned carrying lots of socks it is a good idea.

I have tried the thin liner type socks under normal socks in the past and ambivalent about them. They didn't seem to help me (though I was doing fine anyway) and were just another thing to deal with. Use them if you like em.

-Boots John did an excellent review of a lot of great boots. While I like cheap stuff as much as the next guy boots ARE NOT A PLACE TO SKIMP. To put it into perspective on an absolutely tight budget I would skimp a little bit in a lot of important places to free up money for good boots. If you are genuinely flat broke haunt used stuff stores and garage sales till you find a pair of barely used USGI boots in your size then wear them. However a less fancy knife or missing luxury elsewhere to fund good boots is darn well worth it. They should be from a quality brand and fit you. Sizing should be big enough to put on a second (thin) pair of socks when it is cold with room for your toes to move around.

I wore Altima Exospeeds for awhile. Currently wearing a pair of Rockies which seem pretty darn durable and are pretty comfortable.Whatever your choice in boots it is important to break them in. In a non time constrained environment I like to start wearing them a bit and then over a week or so progress to wearing them during the day for normal tasks instead of whatever other shoe you would wear. Nothing crazy, just going out for groceries, etc all.  If time is a factor draw a hot bath and submerse your boots in the water then let it soak in for a couple minutes. Put them on tied fairly tight and wear them for the rest of the day. Obviously don't do this in the winter in Alaska or something. While not a deep fried speed approach it helps.Start wearing your boots on short walks. Doing multiple walks of 2-3 miles then increasing a mile or two at a time to whatever your desired distance is works well. This also pulls double duty for getting your feet used to rucking.

-Foot care. Some folks are lucky here and other's ain't. I'm not a big foot care guy. Honestly I've never been accused of over achieving in personal hygiene for feet or anywhere else. I do not use foot powder though some do. It is a personal preference thing I guess. The biggest single thing I can say in terms of foot maintenance is to keep your feet dry as much as possible. I'm not saying to be a ninny, if circumstances dictate walking up a creek for an hour I will, however if I can avoid doing that all the better. At night or whenever you stop for awhile take off your boots and socks. Obviously with tactical consideration try to let your feet air out for awhile daily. Hang socks if at all possible to let air circulate drying them.

-Blister and tear management. If you are smart and do a gradual progression NOW BEFORE YOU NEED TO GO FOR REAL the risk of significant blisters and such should be largely mitigated. However if you have blisters or tears in skin and cannot wear flip flops and chill for a week to let them heal here are my thoughts on how to best manage the situation.

First try to address the problem before anything significant happens. Unless someone is shooting at you take 2 minutes and fix the rolled up sock on your ankle, put some moleskin on a hot spot or whatever. Fixing these tiny problems early can prevent your feet from turning into a bloody infected mess. If that does not work. You do not want to pop blisters but in my utterly non medical experience it is better to pop them in a controlled way and care for the small wound that occurs then to let it burst, shred and tear like crazy.

I recommend a pretty belt and suspenders approach. Put new skin or liquid bandage over the fresh tender exposed skin. This provides a protective barrier and helps cover up the sharp nerves. Put moleskin over the wound and the tender area immediately surrounding it. Put wide athletic tape or duct tape or a comparable type of tape over the moleskin to help keep it in place. This isn't perfect; if you are going hard for long periods it will not be perfect bit it is the best option to stay functional while waiting to heal I have found.

Tomorrow is ruck day which should be fun. May write more about conditioning your legs and back or packing rucks when the mood strikes me.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Challenge Week Done

It turned out something I planned to do this evening had to shift to tomorrow. That made getting a long ruck in tomorrow unlikely. Pleasantly the weather was cooperative as it was cool (like 75) and cloudy at 4 when I got off work. Decided to slap on the ruck and get it done. Had measured out the splits for 6, 8 or 9 miles to give myself some wiggle room to decide on the move. Ended up doing 8. It was pretty good except the hills got to me a bit. It was gently sloping hills but the way it played out was a really long (like 1.5-2 mile) uphill on the way out and another on the way back. Not excessively steep but walking up hill for 35 minutes strait is kind of a mind screw.

I was doing fine to the halfway point but around the 5 mile mark was fading fast. Stopped for a couple minutes to drink some water and grab a snickers bar to eat on the go. A bit of sugar was just the energy boost I needed. Overall the way back was good. Glad I didn't decide to go further, my feet can probably use some conditioning for longer marches.

This week I lost a bit under a pound. Not amazing but I also had an unplanned cheat day Wednesday which didn't help matters. Well I shook things up a little bit this week which was good.

Next week I am going to eat a bit less, shooting for the 1700-1900 range. Also I plan to alternate running and rucking with the runs focusing more on intervals and pushing speed a bit more on the rucks. Basically strait out of the John Mosby handbook of how to not be weak and slow. Ended up doing upper body at the gym with some guys and pushed myself a bit harder. I have been under performing at the gym so that needs to be improved.

Anyway that's what happened with that.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Long Day, Garden and Rucking

Today really feels like it should be Friday, not Thursday which sucks. The news that our government was pretty much spying on every Verizon Wireless customer certainly did not help matters. It's not much of a leap to guess the same has been going on at AT&T, Sprint, etc all. Cannot say I am exactly surprised but it certainly is not good news. May talk more about that later.

Produce is coming out of the garden which is nice. The birds pretty much got the tomatoes but the cherry tomatoes are getting ripe and I'm working through the lettuce and spinach. It is nice to be able to make a salad out of stuff from the garden. Next year hopefully the garden will be significantly larger and staggered so we have produce for a good part of the summer.

This afternoon once I got home from work I was going to either write something very angry, get drunk or exercise. I try not to write while angry anymore plus getting hammered is not the best idea (especially during the week) so that left exercise. Had to wait till the heat broke a bit so at 6 I went for a ruck. Did a nice 20 minute up, 20ish back walk. The timing worked out great, it was cooling down but I got back well before dark. Carried my get home bag. It is a good idea to try carrying any system you plan to potentially use. While this bag is fairly light (maybe 20 pounds) it's good to make sure it carries right. All was well.

That being said I do need to work out my hot weather gear a bit. A long sleeved cotton t shirt would be the way to go I think. Either a light tan or white. Also I did not have a boonie hat in the bag but there was one in the Rubbermaid that lives in the back of our vehicle. It is a cheapo one that worked but is less than ideal. Have one in my closet full of Army junk that is better. Need to find it and swap them.

Those minor issues aside I am pretty happy with my setup. It has what I want and is not too bulky or heavy. Will give it a look over then probably talk about it in coming days. 

On the plus side Person of Interest is on which is always fun. Even better tomorrow is Friday. Hope you all have a good night.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rucking Fun

Did another 4 today. Not really fast but under 15 minute miles. That puts me at 24.5 miles for the month. As it is the 20th making 50 is not looking good. Oh well.

At this point I am not writing this for anybody else exactly; though it might be a good checkup for you guys. I do it just because it is just an easy way for me to keep track.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Quick Shout Out To Old Grouchs Surplus

Today I went through a bunch of boxes that have been sitting in the warehouse. The stuff that is pretty standard (a PMAG or case of ammo is pretty strait forward) was as it should be. The only real wild card was an order I made from Old Grouchs Surplus. I say it was a wild card because that is what used military surplus stuff is. Sometimes it is real nice and sometimes it is in rough shape which is problematic for online/ mail order type purchases. Anyway the prices were good enough that I took a chance....

The Alice Pack's and LBE's Old Grouchs Surplus sent me seem to be really nice. Almost half the stuff looked brand new and the rest was in solidly good condition. One item (a medium ALICE pack sold for $10) was a bit on the rough side but it was very clearly labeled as such and had a price that reflected its condition.

These guys seem to be a first class outfit. [Our only affiliation is that I bought some stuff from them] I would not hesitate to make other purchases from them in the future.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thoughts and Mosby on Physical Fitness

John Mosby wrote about physical fitness awhile back. He starts with a great quote "It's gotta be a man thing. Every guy I know thinks he's in shape. It doesn't matter if he weighs 245, with 27% bodyfat, and the only "athletic" activity in his life is performing 12oz curls while watching NASCAR, motherfucker is convinced he's an Olympic-caliber athlete." 

Please read his post in it's entirety before continuing.

Two sayings guide my thoughts on physical fitness: "There is no such thing as being too strong, only too slow" and "I don't want  to be the biggest guy, the strongest guy or the fastest guy, but I want to be big and strong and fast." 

Now onto some fundamental thoughts:

On General Physical Preparation vs Sport (or whatever) specific training. If you want to be in shape you will lift heavy things, move your body and do vigorous cardiovascular activity with some core and flexibility stuff to protect you and eat well.  This is the same for a guy who just wants to be healthy, a kid trying to perform better at a sport, a soldier who wants to be fit, whatever.

Aside from the same basic playbook everybody who wants to be healthy and athletic should use there are of course considerations for your specific goals. A runner needs to train towards their goals. A football player probably wants to get big/ strong and capable of short bursts of speed. A wrestler or MMA guy wants to be strong, but not necessarily bigger with a ridiculous cardio base. For each of these goals slightly different training is required. However it is a lot less different than you would think. The football player and wrestler should both lift heavy but football boy should be eating more (to grow) and doing lots of sprints while the wrestler will eat less (to not grow too much) and do more longer duration cardio.

Think of it like a bread recipe. To make any basic bread you will need yeast, flour, salt and some other stuff. One recipe might use all wheat flour and another some white, you may or may not add honey, cinnamon or raisins depending on if it is a breakfast bread or whatever. My point (and I know it is an over simplification of baking) is that things do not really change all that much. A little tweak will get the results you need without messing up the whole thing. Adding a dozen eggs or omitting a key ingredient like flour will just result in a big nasty mess.

Also it is worth briefly revisiting the concept of a point of diminished returns. This is a point in time/ place where you will either get less progress out of something, or the progress is less meaningful.

This is significant because we only have so much time. If we choose to free up 10 hours a week to exercise it is important to use them intelligently. Putting lots of time into improving a capability that is already past the threshold of practical utility does not make sense. For example, it is highly unlikely that the difference between a 45 minute 10k and a 40 minute 10k or the difference between a 500 pound dead lift and a 600 pound dead lift will really matter. The skinny runner guy probably needs to put some energy into other things and so does the gym rat.  

To some specific thoughts on John Mosby's post.

When it comes to finding time to work out it is just like anything else, you make choices. To get off work and spend a couple hours at the bar, have dinner and watch TV until it is time to go to sleep is a choice. Spending 4 hours a day on the internet is a choice. You get the drift. Also it helps to come at the problem from a positive standpoint "I am going to work out 4x a week, when does it best fit into my life?" than a negative one "I am too busy to work out."

I do not disagree that absolute strength (the sheer ability to move a given amount of weight) is important but do think relative strength (strength to weight) is important. I think it is important for a couple of reasons.

Strength to weight is what lets you move yourself and your body. If you can chin 200 pounds but weigh 250 you are sucking. If you can chin 200 but weight 150 that means you have a decent shot at getting your body, armor, kit and weapon over obstacles.

It also has value as a way to assess ourselves (and develop group standards). Relative strength lets you more accurately measure strength and develop meaningful standards than absolute strength. A guy who weighs 150 pounds that presses 275 and squats 375 is pretty much jacked while a 200 pound dude who does the same is kind of average (for a guy who lifts) and a 250 pounder who does the same is behind the power curve. Conversely if you use absolute strength to develop standards it just doesn't work. Our 150 pound dude could be a serious competitive power lifter and not meet the sort of standards that average lifters in any gym 40-60+ pounds heavier can do with ease.

Personally I see 3 reasons to do isolated single joint type exercises. The first is body building. As a brief sidebar body builders lift weights, typically doing lots of isolated single joint exercises to develop their physiques to have bigger more shapely muscles. Olympic and power lifters lift weights to get stronger on a given set of lifts. Body building is all about show and power lifting (or oly) is all about the go. Body building is not particularly useful in terms of performance (Though a body builder is going to be much stronger than most folks simply because he actually lifts weights regularly, even if it is in pursuit of a given look instead of performance.) and I see no reason to discuss it further.

The second is rehab/ prehab. If doing a circuit of shoulder exercises lets you stay in the gym then doing them is a no brainer. Ditto for other body parts (typically knees). Also one could make a good case for training areas like the neck which are prone to injury. Sometimes, especially if you are lifting heavy and have old injuries, it is smart to get ahead of these things and do them before you have a serious injury AKA prehab. The last  reason to do isolated single joint exercises is to support or aid in the big exercises. Maybe you hit a wall on bench press so you start doing tricep extensions or shrugs to help with the lock out on dead lift or whatever.

It is still important to keep the small exercises in their place. Jim Wendler who is well, really big and strong, has a saying "majoring in the minors" about folks who give too much attention to the far less important little lifts. You do not get big and strong by doing reverse cable tricep extensions and calf raises; you get big and strong by pressing and squatting.

 As to farm work for fitness John pretty much nails it. If you do a serious physical job (I'm talking stone mason, blacksmith, laborer who lifts heavy things all day, etc) then maybe less effort needs to be devoted to strength but it is still not an end point in fitness.

Some closing thoughts:

Start slow and easy then build up progressively in terms of speed/load/distance. You didn't get fat and out of shape in a day so don't expect to fix it in a day either. Exercise should be challenging but there is a fine line between hard and stupid. Trying to run or ruck 50 miles this month when you haven't covered that distance in the last 6 months would be stupid. Going from 0 to running/ rucking 20 miles this month, 30 the next, 40 the one after that and 50 the month after that would be hard but probably doable.

For folks with lingering injuries or who are just plain old or whatever I think it is important to really be honest with yourself and consult doctors or physical therapists as needed. My first question is often about body weight. Your body is meant to haul itself around at or around a healthy body weight. If you are 60 pounds over weight and have a back, knee, ankle or foot problem getting to a healthy weight will go a long way towards fixing it. Also there may be something in terms of physical therapy/ rehabilitation to get things back to the point where you can really exercise again.

If getting to a healthy weight and rehab will not fix a problem then learn to deal with it. Work right up to the level of what you cannot do. If shoulder injuries make bench press not an option work out with dumbbells. If you cannot ruck with 60 pounds then do it with 55 pounds. If you cannot run then find a huge hill to hike up. The point is not to say "well I can't work out" and turn into Jabba the Hut.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that.

Oh yeah and I am 15.5 miles into this month's due. A bit behind glide path but not unfixable. This week I have ran 7.5 and rucked 3 so far. In the rest of the week I will probably ruck 6 more and run 3-4 more. A rough week but it will get me back to where I need to be. Also as my capacity has increased this becomes a lot more doable. I am kind of fiddling with a routine of alternating long and short ruck and run. So a week might look like long run, short ruck, break or lift, long ruck, short run. Will let you know how it works in a couple weeks if I stick with it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August Challenge

Challenge #1: Run/Ruck 50 miles

Challenge #2: Lose 5 pounds

Anybody with me?

No need to do both. Choose whichever challenge(s) fit your situation and goals. Look, I am not a doctor or in any way qualified to give medical or fitness advice. I am just a guy doing what he as learned in the way that works for him. It should go without saying that if you ran 0 miles last month do start running but don't be an idiot and try to do 50 miles as you will probably break something. Do couch to 5k instead.

No real logic behind either of these challenges. I had planned to run 40 but 50 seems like a nice round number. Also I want to lose a few more pounds, maybe as much as 10 but 5 is good for a month. As of earlier this week I weighed 188 pounds so that will be the start point with 183 as the goal. This morning I ran 2 miles so just 48 to go.
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