I am regularly asked my advice for training for an event like the Goruck Challenge.
Before answering that question, its important to know a little of what you will encounter during a challenge. This cannot be categorically answered as each cadre, city and challenge are remarkably different. At the time of writing I have done 25 GRCs and no two were the same. Some cadre prefer fast long distance movements, some prefer lots of PT and others movement of big heavy things. BUT you will always encounter a certain ratio of all three. It follows therefore that you need to be physically prepared for those three things: general cardio-vascular fitness level, strength and stamina. Calisthenics you are used to become much harder with a 30lb/45lb/75lb ruck on your back. Bear Crawls? Yup, they suck. Running with weight? Also sucks.
The other thing to know is that one job of the cadre is to push everyone past their perceived limit such that the power of the team kicks in. And they are good at their job. Really good.
Therefore it is also important to have the mental capacity to go beyond your pain because you know it will come and you will regularly encounter physical stresses that would often cause an individual to stop or get irritated with his team.
So how do you use your training to prepare? Well as part of the challenge is running with a weighted ruck, you should probably do that right? Wrong!
By all means get used to wearing the weight of your ruck, but if you regularly run with it you will almost certainly develop injuries. Walk 10 miles? Sure. Run a few hundred yards here or there? Sure. Run 5 miles regularly with weight? I advise strongly against it.
The most uncomfortable part of the challenge is lifting heavy things or doing PT and is often the biggest surprise to a new challenge taker so in my opinion that is where effort should be focused. In the gym, do flutter kicks non-stop between sets. Or bear crawls. Or crab walks. Get used to doing pushups with weight. After doing bench press I will often throw a 45lb plate on my back for pushups (more if I can find a friend to add additional plates). Better yet, if your gym allows it take your loaded ruck with you and work out with it on.
Following are some of the pool of exercises I use regularly to remain ready
- Barbell squats. Heavy and deep.
- Deadlifts. Heavy.
- Lunges. Carry a barbell, your ruck and/or dumbbells
- Farmers walks. Carry heavy dumbbells for those times you have lost strap privileges or are carrying team weight. Great for grip strength.
- Bench Press/Pushups. Get that chest strong for all those pushups and inchworms.
- Flutter kicks. Planks. Crunches. As much as you can do to engage your core.
- Shoulder presses. Build that shoulder strength for when you have to raise your ruck above your head for a period of time or for all of those bear crawls
- More yoga
- Running without weight
If I were to pick only 3 exercises to get me ready for anything, including a challenge or life in general, I would pick the squat, deadlift and yoga. These 3 together will provide the endurance, strength and core flexibility needed to keep you protected from injury as well as strong as fuck. The heavy stuff will tax your central nervous system enough that the body will increase HGH production and /every/ muscle group will become stronger. In other words, do your squats!
When training, be cognizant of the two main reasons people quit a challenge. Number 1 usually happens early in the challenge with someone who is not at all mentally prepared for the welcome party. It is designed to be hard, to push you and to start making you think more about those around you. Don’t quit when it gets hard. Almost anything worthwhile in life is usually attached to some form of challenge or difficulty. There isn’t much you can do to train your mind for that other than pushing yourself harder and harder each time. Don’t do the same workout every week. Add exercises you hate, and do them until you stop hating them. When you do reps to failure, do another rep anyway (be safe though – spotters can help here). Stuff like that will build your resolve and help in life whenever things get hard.
The 2nd reason people quit is injury. Therefore your training should protect you against injury. For me that means doing old school lifting with a priority on form, doing things like