Beware the Old Man

Beware the Old Man


I’m still recovering from the events of New Orleans. I came home sick, injured, and out of whack from a weekend of indulgence, excitement, and poor life decisions. I fucked up as much as I found success. Only now can I sleep through the night without waking up to the pain. I know that sounds whiny, but facts are facts. This hurts.

Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young.

Old warriors did not get old by accident; they got old by being wise, having the right knowledge, and being tough. Never underestimate an old man who has grown up in a rough profession or a rough environment.

These men have been around. They have done things, and experienced things, that you probably have never even thought about. They are tough, their minds are tough, and they have the knowledge, the skill, and the will to finish you off, if you force them to do so. A boy will fight you, but a older man will hurt you.

Bohdi Sanders, Modern Bushido: Living a Life of Excellence

10:00PM. New Orleans. The GORUCK GRT Reunion Welcome Party was just getting underway when I came to the Casualty Carry lane. We paired up with folks of similar size & weight. First round, no rucks. No problem. Next round, with rucks. This added 70-80 pounds to the move. I got myself set, lifted him onto my shoulders, and my core just gave way. I dumped my teammate and crumpled to the ground under his 270+ pounds. Not accepting defeat, I setup to try it again. Nope. Same result – crumpled to the ground under my teammate again. Frustrated, hurting, and angry, I caught my breath and pushed through the section with another teammate and forged ahead through the next 10 hours.

Such is the way of testing the mettle of an old warrior. Turns out I strained my internal & external obliques, lats, and lumbar muscles pretty damn good. It’s been 10 days since the event and I’m nowhere near doing full sit-ups or get-ups without pain. Hell, sneezing is a significant emotional event. But I have been at this long enough to know injuries are just part of the game, and the smart Marine knows when to slow down, recover, nurse that injury back to health, and not to give up.

Healing and recovery are difficult concepts to execute well, especially when drive and A-type personalities get in the way. We get scared we will lose fitness, get fat, or not perform well if we’re not pushing hard every day. But Scott Howard, Krav Maga instructor and coffee collector, said it best…

When we work out, we make ourselves weaker. When we rest and recover, that’s where we make ourselves stronger.

Or as Bobby Maximus, Director of Training for Gym Jones, puts it in his essay There is No Such Thing As Overtraining

There is no such thing as overtraining, there is only under-recovery. Most people don’t put in enough time, effort, or train with enough intensity to put themselves in a state of overtraining. Most people simply don’t recover well enough.


Recovery takes discipline. It takes carving out as much time as we do for training, and often it’s the first part of our programming to fall prey to Monkey Brain, deadlines, and shuttling kids to soccer school/practice/parties. It’s the first part of the discipline we work so hard to build for training to get sacrificed on the altar of Life. As we get older, I think this just gets more and more difficult. Life gets bigger, responsibilities get heavier, and time gets more limited. That’s why so many people rest on the laurels they gained in High School, College, or pre-parenthood. Marathons, Triathlons, Wrestling, Baseball, Football, whatever. All things of the past once Life – and a comfy couch – get in the way. “I can’t” becomes the infection.

Which is why we need to beware of the old man in the young man’s profession. They haven’t let Life get in the way, settled on their laurels, or discarded the power of the lifestyle required to stay in the arena.

Maybe we need to BE that old man?

I will never be a black belt. I will never successfully compete against similarly ranked opponents half my age, I will never be great at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There is an urgency to my training because I’m sure as shit not getting any younger, or more flexible. I’m certainly not getting any faster. And as I head down the highway on my Jiu Jitsu journey, the likelihood of the wheels coming off the car grows stronger every day.

A while back, one of my favorite writers – and yes, TV personality – built a whole episode around his addiction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Anthony Bourdain directed his whole team to San Francisco just so he can train with Kurt Osiander at San Francisco’s Ralph Gracie Academy. In his Medium blog post, “Sweep the leg, Johnny!” Bourdain talks a lot about running out of time, the love of the challenge, and his “why.”

I do it because it’s hard. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And because it never ends. Every day presents me with a series of problems that I spend the rest of the day thinking about how I might solve — or at least chip away at. Next day same. And the day after that.

There is no way to continue to be in the ring, on the road, or under the bar, without solid recovery. Sanders, Maximus, and Bourdain all allude to it, if they don’t say it directly. While Bourdain doesn’t talk about his recovery plan much, it does seem to include artisanal cocktails, incredible food, connecting with people, and a creative outlet that feeds the rest of his soul.


Recovery suffers from the stigma of not doing anything, especially when injured. Too often we feel pain and use it as an excuse to put our feet up, avoid more pain, and take “rest” as watching TV with beer and Cheetos. But there is so much we can do to recover from our training, as well as the knocks Life throws at us. Maximus spells it out completely – workouts, ice baths, yoga, stretching, foam rolling, etc. While most of us can’t afford the TV show style of recovery, we can build those concepts into our lives – live and eat well, connect with people, and be creative. We can always do SOMETHING. Even in the face of a strain, break, or falling off the wagon.

This is the only way we can remain in the arena to compete, build a team, get uncomfortable, get stronger, faster, smarter; and learn how to be the best we can be. This is the only way we can be that proverbial old man the rest of the world need to be aware of. As I recover from the GRT Reunion Tough, I’m learning that all of these lifestyle factors come into play and are critical to coming back stronger. But it takes considerable effort to overcome the mental obstacles and stigma to properly heal from this injury and not lose what I’ve built so far. We’ll see what I got to make it happen.

Do you have the discipline in you?

The ice bath is calling.


If you like this blog post, please click on the buttons to LIKE and SHARE.

COMMENTS in the Comments.
Twitter: @getblacktoenail
Instagram: @getblacktoenail


The Day I Felt Like Wolverine

The Day I Felt Like Wolverine


Science says I can have the body of Hugh Jackman in 6 months – safely and without gimmicks. As a recovering fat kid, I’m ready to cut that ad from the back of the comic book and mail in my $9.95 with self-addressed stamped envelope. Or, just buy the eBook. Anything to help with this ongoing, lifelong battle with my body. Anything.

I decided to cut through the bullshit when it came to my arch enemy – body fat. How? Hydro-static testing. Reasonably priced, fast, and accurate. We found a guy who has a truck that roams Northern California like a fitness minstrel luring athletes in with a website, appointment book, and the promise of answers. So we booked the appointment and drove to his location to see what we could see.

Once inside the truck, I filled out the necessary Death Waiver, stripped down to my shorts, and got into the shallow tank. Lying face down, I was instructed to put a dainty weight belt on my lower back to keep me from floating up. Then, after a deep breath in, I blew all the air out of my lungs and put my face into the water. Once all of the bubbles were forced out of my body, I waited – for the longest ten seconds ever – to hear three bangs on the side of the tank telling me I was done. That was round one. Two more to go Deep breath, exhale, force out bubbles, nearly drown – deep breath, exhale, force out bubbles, nearly drown – and the test was complete. While I wasn’t getting shot up with Adamantium in a Top Secret Stan Lee experiment, flashes of Wolverine Origins came to mind.


Then we got to see how fat I really was. This part is most difficult, embarrassing… and avoided by most people. It’s so much easier to stay on the couch eating Cheetos while watching the Giants beat the Dodgers. But I have been in this fight for so long, seen the needle move on these numbers move so little, that I wanted to know more about myself than watch Buster Posey up his average, yet again, covered in cheese dust. I needed this information to cut through the guessing, know for certain what my body was composed of, and hopefully gain some insights as to why I’m not losing weight.

Here is where fat Wolverine is currently.
Height: 72″
Weight: 248
Body Fat: 65.2 lbs.; 26.3%
Lean Muscle Mass: 182.6 lbs.; 73.7%

The reality is while I have been able to perform better because of the training schedule over the last three months, I was still at 26% body fat. Success in changing my body composition was pretty minor compared to my overall goals: cut fat and improve my performance at GORUCK Toughs.

This brought me to review my key strategies for the last few months. Perhaps this is where I was going wrong and needed to make some adjustments before going in for another dose of submersion theater. Over the past three months I had focused on three objectives:

  1. Training Schedule: Following the protocol from Military Athlete, I had worked through Humility, Big24, and Fortitude programs, training 4-6 days a week. While life got in the way a few times, my training stayed on course for the most part.
  2. Macro mix + MFP: Taking from Ben Greenfield’s discussions of a fat-adapted diet, I moved my macronutrient mix to 50% fat, 25% carb, and 25% protein. All intake was logged into MyFitnessPal app (MFP). Many days I was well under my RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate – the number of calories my engine needs to function properly while at rest). I maintained the thought that I was better off with less calories than more and that I didn’t want to break that ceiling, so remained under my RMR regularly.
  3. Cheat Days: I also took the advice from Military Athlete and others that one day out of the week you should “cheat like a mother.” The idea being this will resolve the cravings you have for what you’ve been missing all week as well as keep the body from adapting hormonally to the clean eating style you keep most days. The logic of it seemed sound, and my inner fat kid was happy to play along with that.

While I cut out a lot of trouble foods most days – anything with wheat flour or added sugar, and most grains, dairy, and legumes – I did not cut back much in alcohol. Study after study talk about the health benefits of 1-2 drinks on a daily basis, so I felt justified in my alcohol intake. Plus, Cheat Days are okay, right?


Back to the science. With my body fat test I got a realistic RMR. Now I needed to revise my goals, review my strategies, and plot my new course for diet and training.

My new body composition goals? 13% Body Fat at 215 pounds. How to get there? More math: at 1.5 lbs./week lost and 33 pounds of fat to be lost. At that pace, I’ll have my Hugh Jackman body in about six months!

Now I needed to figure out what changes I need to make and why.

First came the math to figure out my caloric sweet spot. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. That means eating 750 kcals less than I burn each day, while not eating below my RMR. My equation came out like this:

RMR + Workday burn – Weight Loss Deficit = Max Calories/per day
Or 2259 + 968 -750 = 2477 Max kcals/day

When balanced against my RMR, this sets my Caloric Range between 2259-2477 kcals per day. Plus, calories burned during exercise allow more calories for intake if needed. Bonus!

Next came the strategies needed to use this knowledge and meet these goals:

  1. Eat more calories: I wasn’t getting enough calories to tell my body I’m not in fear of starvation, so it was holding onto what I have just in case. Instead of operating like a Depression-era Grandmother, I need my body to spend calories like a Baby Boomer Grandfather, which it will only do when it’s safe. That means my body needs to know it’s safe from war and famine – which it will with enough calories taken onboard.
  2. No booze: It’s time to kick it – at least until I reach my goals later this year. Besides, there are so many downsides to alcohol I have a hard time justifying continuing its role in my life. Does that mean you won’t see me enjoying a cocktail in the future? No, but for now I need to put it down.
  3. Tweaking the Macronutrient mix: As good as I felt with the higher fat intake, I feel even better with a bit more carbohydrate in my diet to fuel recovery and performance. I’m moving it to a 40% fat, 30% protein, and 30% carb mix to see how that effects things. I’m still avoiding processed wheat flour, added sugars, and most grains, I think the slightly added carbohydrate will be better for me.
  4. No more Cheat Days: While there may be the occasional Cheat Meal, dedicating a whole day to it was too much. Recovery from it, both mentally and physically, only made it tougher through the week. I’d rather enjoy feeling better every day, with every bite, and not give in to the mental/emotional crutch of pastries or beer. Besides, Life presents enough opportunity where I’m so limited on options that I have to go nutritional off-roading.

In all the years I’ve been wrestling with these issues, I have learned that everyone has different genetic, hormonal, and body type makeups, never mind one’s health and performance goals. Some people want to go to Ranger School, while others want to run 10Ks. Or maybe they’re fighting cancer or coping with a death in the family. There are so many factors that one size – or diet – does not fit all. We simply must experiment in order to figure out what works best for us.

A lot of times we all joke about how stupid our hobby is. But it’s all with the target of being a better human being at the end of it. And thanks to math, science, and a mobile test lab, I can have a day where I feel like Wolverine and comeback from years of stress and chaos. Lookout Hugh Jackman. This recovering fat kid is a’coming!



If you like this blog post, please click on the buttons to LIKE and SHARE.
COMMENTS in the Comments.
Twitter: @getblacktoenail
Instagram: @getblacktoenail

Always Do Sober What You Said You’d Do Drunk

Always Do Sober What You Said You’d Do Drunk

It’s early. The 45-pound plates were rusting from living outside on the porch. We needed to move them 100 yards from the back of a car to the start point, so each of the four of us grabbed one making it in one trip. Rust stained our chest and sleeves, tainting our fleeces and t-shirts, but no matter. It was a minor sacrifice for the sufferfest we were about to witness. The morning beach air and chilly breeze balanced out the sunshine and warmth we shared. We were there to support a close friend as he embarked on a physical challenge not often seen.

It was titled the St. Baldrick’s $10K Challenge. In order to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, benefitting children with cancer, Stephen DeToma committed to doing an immense amount of masochistic exercise in exchange for the donations he had collected:
• One-mile Bodyweight Sled Drag, 200 pounds
• One-mile Bear Crawl
• One-mile Casualty Carry
• 1000 Burpees

All in one day.

I caught up with Stephen to ask a few questions about himself, the event, and St. Baldrick’s.
How did you come to your health & fitness lifestyle?

I played paintball when I was a kid. My Dad ran a paintball field. When I was like, 14 to 18 or 19, I was working the paintball field almost every weekend, playing on competition teams. But that was my only physical activity. Even for practice, I should have been running and lifting and doing things that would make me better at playing paintball; I just figured I could just show up, do shots of Jack Daniels, run fifty yards, and light people up and it would be fine. So, no physical activity.

When [Heather and I] got engaged, it was like – well, if this is a thing, this is serious, and we’re going to be together for ever, then I want forever to be long enough so I’m going to get motivated to start taking care of myself. We ended up trading – I wanted her to learn how to shoot. She said, “Great – you do that, and you start coming to yoga.” We did that for a while, going to the range and yoga a few nights a week.

Then a buddy of mine had been trying to get me to go to CrossFit with him, and the way he started to do that was he would show me the Hero WODs*. Murph** – are you fucking high? There’s no way I can do that. I just wrote it off, and he kept trying to get me to go and trying to get me to go. Long story short, he ended up taking his own life – kinda out of nowhere. That was rough. In dealing with that, I basically crawled into a bottle of Jameson for about a month.

He had been working at the company I’m at forever, and he was really well known around Santa Cruz. Local boy, punk rock bands, and huge extended family. A handful of weeks of really horrible shit. In my head – you know, you start doing the “Fuck, why did he [commit suicide]? What the fuck was the rationale for all of it?” And I was thinking maybe if I actually said “Hey, yeah, I’ll go to the gym and do a workout with you,” Who knows?

But in my head I’m like “Fuck it. I’m going to stop procrastinating and I’ll do something.” So that was the first thing that got me up and got me like “Let’s get going here.” At one point one, my buddy Josh and his wife came down to visit one weekend. He said he was going to start training to do a Tough Mudder. “You should come do one with me.”

Around the same time, good friends of ours had been training for a [GORUCK] Challenge in Boston, on St. Patrick’s Day.

On [the day of the Challenge], Heather and I were waiting around, waiting for text messages from her husband, wondering “What happened? What happened? Did she get a patch? Did she finish? Did she make it?” Finally, we get a message… She made it, she’s driving herself home. She got to the house and he said they had to carry her up the stairs and put her in an ice bath. And we’re like “Oh my God.”

The Tahoe Tough Mudder got cancelled. [Josh] sent me a message and said “Hey I went to go sign up and they’re not doing it.”

The next day, [my friend from Boston] asked “Are you doing Tough Mudder?” No, they canceled it. And I would always fly home to Boston on my birthday on July 4th.

“There’s a Challenge on July 3rd in Newport. You should come and do it for your birthday.”

That gave me like, four months. “Yeah. <sigh> yeah, I could probably do that. Yeah, fuck it.”

And then that was it.

I know St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a special charity for GoRuck. For you, what makes Baldrick’s special?

So, I missed the first Baldrick’s. It came up after I had done a couple Challenges, but I was still – hmmm, I’m not really gonna jump into that. I was still kind of a wallflower, even though I knew people. So I just kinda let that one roll by.

Baldrick’s comes up again, and I was like… I totally want to do this. I got the bug to not be a shitbag, basically. I got a pretty good life, you know? We don’t have a ton of money, but we wake up with a roof over our head every day, we’re healthy for the most part, there’s no reason I can’t be doing something to help somebody else. [Baldrick’s] was something that I can bite into and actually make a tangible difference. Not like I’m solving problems or anything, but the fact that at the end of the day I can say, “Holy shit, I raised $7500 with Heather and I combined for this charity.” I don’t have $7500. I can’t throw down at any point. But being able to draw that in, that gets exciting.

Really early on I decided if I’m going to do this, I’m going to jump in with both feet because that’s how I’d been living the last year. If I’m going to work out, I’m going to bust my ass. If I’m going to do this event, I’m going to step up. If I’m gonna be the guy, I’m gonna be the guy. Don’t talk about it, be about it.

At that point, everybody in the community knew me as “the Beard.” Everybody was like the Viking beard, the animal beard, the whatever – whatever you want to say. So, okay, I’m going to use that to my favor. And so that’s when I decided “Hey look, if you get me Five Grand the beard comes off.” And people I didn’t even know really started backing me and getting really excited about it, re-sharing [the page], and getting people to pitch in money.

As I was approaching Five Grand, Heather said “Hey, if you hit $7500 I’ll shave my head.” So that’s when people really got whole hog into this and really got fired up. We hit just north of $7500.

Actually going to the hospital was super huge. Heather and I both, getting there and walking around, seeing the kids coming out and hanging out. On the drive there, we had this understanding that it’s just hair and it’s for the kids, and it makes the kids feel better. But when we actually got there and you see the kids hanging around and waving over the railing and they’re looking at you, everybody is yelling and screaming and having a good time. We saw a little girl grinning and smiling, and that was it. Any hesitation – gone. Any nervousness about having my head shaved – gone. We go out and have a really good event, hanging out with all the people like we normally do. But that 2-3 hours that we were there at the hospital, that was concrete. This isn’t just a ticker on the internet that I’m raising money for.

The previous year you had shaved your beard, but this year was different. This year you didn’t have the beard and you took on something unusual. What brought you to that?

It legitimately was, okay – we raised $7500 dollars last year, and because Heather was one of two or three women at the event, that was the big ticket. I “lost” to Erin Benjamin – she beat me by a couple hundred bucks. I freely admit I have a competitive streak a mile wide. I’m usually pretty good at letting things go, but if I have an opportunity to come back stronger I’m going to do it. That’s what this year was about. I did $7550 last year. How do I make more money out of that?

[Last year] a lot of people said, “If you were doing pushups or doing burpees or something to kick your own ass, I’d give you a fucking hundred dollars.” Then they said “No, you’d like that. I’m not going to do that.” Whatever. You just didn’t want to spend the money.

But the second time around, that was the thing that kinda stuck in my head – okay, fucking Gladiator Games. It’s that Bread and Circus style shit. It’s rubbernecking at an accident. People want to look at a train wreck.

People enjoy watching suffering – even when it’s self-induced.

Yeah. Last year, I was actively banging on doors, fingers in faces, “Hey you, just give me ten dollars.” I called people out, I tagged people on Facebook, I would make lists on my page. I was an asshole about it and just rode people into the ground. This year, you know, I’m gonna go the other direction. I’m going to put up this menu of bullshit, and I’m not even really gonna talk about it that much. I’m just going to put it up on the page, and every once in a while I’m going to make a post. But I’m not going to do the finger pointing. I’m not going to do the banging on doors. I’m just going to let it go and see how it does.

And people… people fucking gave… just to watch.

So where did you end up? How much did you end up raising?

Total was $8,976.

From your $10K Challenge, what were your biggest lessons learned?

Oh, man… Have a plan. Like [General] Mattis says, have a plan.

With knife hands?

Yes, specifically with knife hands.

When the donation for the burpees came in, I had a couple days to seriously consider the fact the burpees were going to happen. And then when it did actually happen… <sigh>

[The morning] I drove to the start point for everything, and I stopped at a 7-11. And there was a chalkboard in the 7-11 that said “True happiness is doing something for someone that can never repay you.” I needed to see that. Not like I was upset having to do it, I needed to have my head in the right space to remember what I was doing and why I was doing it.

It’s really easy to say, “Hey I’m going to do all this stupid, horrible shit” and to have people throw money down because I’m going to do stupid, horrible shit. It’s another thing to actually follow through and show up on game day and do what you said you were gonna do.

The first round when I took the sled around, I took the 200-pound sled around the quarter-mile and came in, I was thinking “I have bitten off way more than I can chew. I’m going to do it, but oh man this is gonna suck!”

Doing my first lap on the Bear Crawls, and I look back and Shawn [Landreth] is dragging around the sled. I said “What the fuck are you doing?” And he’s like “I’m buying your debt! I’m going to buy a quarter-mile off you.” In the back of my head, I’m thinking how do I view this in my own mind – is this me slacking off and not pulling my own weight? Or is this my friends seeing me going through this amount of bullshit and stepping and saying “No”? And realistically, that’s what I kept coming back to. We always talk about “one team, one fight,” “nobody fights alone,” and that’s what it really came down to. From doing all these events together for so long, we all have this engrained in our heads that when I’m watching one of my friends suffer, I don’t want them to have to suffer alone. I still did the majority of the workout, which was brutal, but when people say they are going to show up, they show up. And then they do more than you expect them to do. That was a massive takeaway.

What’s the one thing you want to teach people?

Perseverance. Strength through adversity. Having someone who doesn’t think they can do anything and doesn’t think they are good enough, and then find a sense of self-worth.

I find that there’s a lot of shit in life that doesn’t matter – things people put an extensive amount of value on that doesn’t fucking matter at all. When it comes down to it, you have to be happy with yourself and be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you have done a good day’s work. That you have done everything that you can, and maybe a little bit more, than you did yesterday.

When we talked at the $10K Challenge, you referred to the Hemingway quote, “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” After all this, will you keep your mouth shut?

Ha. No. I always have dumb ideas.

*Hero WODs: Workout of the Day (WOD) named for a fallen hero, usually military, law enforcement, or firefighter.
**Murph: Hero WOD named for Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan.
For time:
1 mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile Run

If you like this blog post, please click on the buttons to LIKE and SHARE. COMMENTS in the Comments.
Twitter: @getblacktoenail
Instagram: @getblacktoenail

Article: Corrective Exercise and the Strength Coach

Are you dealing with injuries?

Given the number of injuries I’ve seen happening lately, I found this quote particularly interesting:

Pain changes movement. In fact, when pain is present our motor firing becomes inconsistent and unpredictable. This means that we can have someone with back pain perform hip hinging, it can look good to us, but each rep may be different due to what is going on the inside. Our nervous system is coordinating this movement differently every time.

Getting injured during training is just the law of the land – it’s going to happen. If we can get smart on what’s happening in that time, maybe we can train more effectively. Check out this article.

How do you deal with injuries? Comments in the Comments, please.

Corrective Exercise and the Strength Coach
Written by: Kevin Cann

002 Mount Motherf…

002 Mount Motherf…


When I was a young Marine Recruit, a portion of our training was conducted at Camp Pendleton, California. This was our Basic Combat Training segment. A keystone event during this phase involved a long, arduous “hump,” or hike, well known in Marine Corps circles.  We had been told just enough about that hill for it to get into our heads, create fear and doubt, and wonder if this was the thing to wash us out; to get us to quit and give up earning that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. We stepped off in the dark of early morning, packs loaded up with nearly all we owned at the time, and headed towards the famous climb of Mount Motherfucker.

My ALICE pack was conceived in 1973 – this was 1986. A well-worn sack of nylon with big pockets, broken snaps, and some string to close it up, all attached to a metal frame made of ironing board tubing and hope. It did the job, but not without showing its age after countless years of abuse by Marines, Drill Instructors (DI’s), and bad life decisions. On mile three of the hump, a weld on my pack frame broke – no doubt because it was still tired from service in Vietnam. If I didn’t hold that lower left corner together, the offset weight pushed me into a right-turning circle like a retarded goat and out of the column. This drew eyeballs from the DI’s. Not good. The trail was soft and sandy from so many recruits stammering up it. So steep you had to scramble with your hands at times.  It made for a long excursion filled with frustration, sweat, and dumb fortitude.

But sunrise from the top of Mount Motherfucker never looked so good. That Ham & Chicken Loaf MRE never tasted so good. And I knew I could handle anything else the Marine Corps could throw at me. I dug deep and conquered Mount Motherfucker. This was my introduction to Humping, something as a Marine Infantryman I’d be doing a lot in the coming years. Today we call it Rucking.


From Men’s Health and Men’s Journal to SELF Magazine and Pilates Bridge, rucking has been touted as “the fitness trend of 2015.” As defined in the SELF Magazine article:

Described as marching or walking while wearing a rucksack—your backpack—rucking is something military forces have used to stay in shape for quite some time. You can do it anywhere, need very little gear and will torch three times as many calories as plain old walking…

Since we’re pretty much all double-bagging it already with our crazy-heavy purses and gym bags, why not load up in a backpack that’s a bit more forgiving to our shoulders and give it a go?

GORUCK, well-known gear manufacturer, event coordinator and promoter of rucking as an activity, defines rucking in one of their own videos as:

The activity of moving with weight on your back in a rucksack (AKA backpack). Action, energy, and purpose required.

Given the substantial growth of outdoor-related endurance events – especially Obstacle Course Races like Tough Mudder, Spartan Races, and Battlefrog – it seems rucking has gained a solid place in both training and competition outside of the military world.  GORUCK has seen exponential growth in attendance at its events. Running events at three different levels – Light (6 hours), Tough (12 hours), and Heavy (24 hours) – athletes from all walks of life have taken on this different view of performance.

It seems 2015 was quite a year for rucking. But all of the publicity and articles and videos are still missing something, and it’s that intangible “something” that makes rucking special. It’s not as simple as putting weight on your back and walking.


Rucking has been around as long as warfare has been a part of humanity. We have always needed to get to the fight with all of our people and equipment. From ancient Assyrians to Napoleonic Europe to Operation Iraqi Freedom, war is fought on the ground and troops need to get from one place to the other. It has been called many things: Marching, Foot March, Road March, Patrolling, Recon, Recce, Oscar Mike, Humping, Rucking. But they all equate to the same activity – putting all your shit on your back and moving out by foot as a unit.

This past weekend we got some friends together to go for a ruck. We loaded up our backpacks with 35 to 45 pounds of weight, added water & snacks, and picked up our sledgehammers. Sledgehammers? Yes, sledgehammers. Why? Because they’re cooler than dumbbells – and add extra weight to carry in our hands. The goal was to power through the 7-mile route, over 1,734 feet of gain, as fast and hard as possible and see what kind of pace we can keep over terrain. Along the way we pushed each other to go harder, faster. We kept an eye on injuries, left directions for those behind us, and came together in ways unseen in most endurance sports. Why? Sweat. Goals. Training. Community. Teamwork.

Admittedly, my friends and I are fans of GORUCK events. Big fans. Not only because the events push us through our limits, but because we learn so much about ourselves. Unlike other endurance events that are about the individual, these events are about the team. Based on Special Forces Selection (and similar Special Operations training), they use weighted rucks, bodyweight exercises, and additional weights in the form of “coupons” (logs, sandbags, water cans, buckets of sand/rocks/water, etc.) in order to teach how to work together under stress. Each event group is called a Class, again taking from Special Operations training (because this training is usually experienced at an advanced school of some sort). Water and altitude being the great equalizers, most classes find hills to hump and water to get into. Getting “cold, wet, and sandy” is a particular honor… and torture.

At every event I hit a point where I ask myself “Why the Hell am I doing this?” It’s so easy to slip into the thoughts of “I’ve done my time,” “This is stupid,” and “Fuck I’m getting old.” Every. Event. But when I push through, see everyone else is feeling the same way, and focus on helping the team work through the next task, I realize again why I do this.

Like the climb up Mount Motherfucker, this is far and away from loading your double-bagged heavy purse into a backpack and walking around. While the benefit of torch[ing] three times as many calories as plain old walking is a great benefit, that’s not why we do it.  In one event – training or official – we can experience something far greater. Something that pushes us through adverse situations, builds community, teamwork, and a workout like no other.

Nothing brings people together faster than shared suffering. Rucking, like the military training that gave birth to the civilian version, can teach teamwork and leadership in a powerful way. It forces the needed human connection to make things happen under stresses found only in adverse conditions very few have to live with regularly – in the dark, wet, freezing cold, with weight on your back and sand in your crotch. But sunrises never looked so good.

It truly sucks like awesome.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What events do you enjoy pushing yourself to the max with? OCR? Marathons? Crossfit Games and Competitions? Leave a Reply in the Comments section below.


If you like this blog post, please click on the buttons to LIKE and SHARE. Then join our Social Media feeds – something different for everyone!
Twitter: @getblacktoenail
Instagram: @theblacktoenail


GORUCK: What is Rucking?

Rucking: What It Is and How to Do It – StrongFirst

I will take the reader from A-Z on all the essentials of rucking: how to prep your gear, how to walk, how to structure your workouts, and why.

Source: Rucking: What It Is and How to Do It – StrongFirst