How To Ruck – Part 2 – Taking The Next Step


I seem to do my best brainstorming while rucking solo.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that a long weekend walk clears my head of all the week’s stress and allows me to open my mind.  Or maybe it’s simply because it’s one of the rare times I am actually completely alone and (mostly) disconnected from technology.  For whatever reason, it works.

It was an unusually cool afternoon when my wife and her mother left for a few hours of shopping and whatever else women do when they go off together (#don’twannaknow).  It has been hot all week, but today it finally felt like fall.  Temperatures in the low 70s, overcast, and low humidity – this was the perfect day for a ruck.

The plan today was to go heavy: 30 pound ruck, 40 pound sandbag, 3L of water.  It’s the beginning of the third week of PATHFINDER Class 003, and the goal for the day was to practice for the 10 mile coupon ruck challenge.  I alternated sandbag carrying techniques between farmer’s carry, high chest carry, waist carry, and shoulder carry.

During the ruck, I was thinking about this article and how I was going to structure it.  As usual, the ruck brainstorm session worked and I was inspired.  In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the basics.  We talked about what rucking is, and how you can get started.  In this article, we will discuss the next steps for increasing your training and taking it to the next level.

Before I get too far into this, I want to re-iterate something I said in Part 1.  I am not military, I’m not a trained instructor.  I’m not certified, licensed, insured, or a “rucking professional” (does that exist? #dreamjob)  I’m just a guy with a ruck, some bricks, and the credentials to post on this web site.  Take my advice for what it’s worth – which is nothing.

Reviewing The Basics

In part 1 of this series, we discussed the basics of rucking.  The first step is to start walking with a ruck.  Monitor your pace and focus on improving it.

When you’re ready, start weighting your ruck slowly, while continuing to maintain and improve your pace.  Aim for 15 minutes per mile for your first goal, and then continue to push yourself faster from there.

Add weight as desired, preferably working your way up to “challenge weight” or beyond (Explained in Part 1).  Set pace and distance goals, and continue to increase both as you train.  Don’t RUN with a weighted ruck, focus on improving your walking speed.

That’s the basics in a nutshell, and if you read Part 1 this was a review.

What’s Next?

So you’ve got the basics down.  You’ve got weight in your ruck, and you are pacing at 15 minutes per mile minimum on your long walks.  You should be getting out under your ruck fairly regularly at this point, at least a few miles a week.

If you have enjoyed your exposure to the sport thus far, you’re probably wondering how to mix it up and take your training to the next level.  If you’re a civilian, all this rucking you’ve been doing must be good for something, right?

Set a Goal

One of the most motivating things for me is to have a goal to work towards.  My first training goal was to complete a GORUCK Challenge in June 2013.  I set that goal in February 2013, and my training throughout the spring was focused on it.

Maybe your goal is to complete a long backpacking trip on the AT, or to complete a GORUCK event.  Your goal could be based on a performance metric – hit a certain average ruck pace over a certain distance, or complete a single ruck greater than 20 miles with challenge weight.

This goal can be a number of things, and everyone’s goal is different.  What your goal is will determine how you train.  For example, at team SPEARHEAD, we focus our training on preparing for GORUCK style events, and our training style reflects that.

Get With The Program!

Now that you have a goal, you need to decide how you’re going to train to succeed.  How you train will depend on the dynamics of your specific goal.

If your goal is to complete a GORUCK Challenge, then your training will look different than someone who is training to backpack on the Appalachian Trail.  Both of these goals will require walking lots of miles with weight on your back, but the scenery and terrain will probably look a lot different.

Whatever your goal, pick or design a training program that will push you towards it.  There are many training programs available with a wide variety of training styles.  Pick one that works for you and your personal goals – or put a pencil to paper and design your own program.  In fact, that’s exactly what we did at team SPEARHEAD.

The PATHFINDER Training Program

PathfinderLogoWebWhen we decided that we wanted to take our training to the next step at team SPEARHEAD, we sat down at a table and discussed how we trained, what works, and what doesn’t work.  We focus on training for GORUCK events, so our training style reflects that.

We put together a twelve week program with goals that we would work towards together as a team.  We put the plan into place, and seven of us completed the program prior to a GORUCK event.  It was after that event that we all realized that completing this program was what allowed us to THRIVE.  This was the birth of PATHFINDER.

The Program Basics

The foundation of the PATHFINDER program is ruck mileage.  “Ruck More” is advice you often hear from the GORUCK cadre, so we took it to heart.  To complete the program, you must ruck a minimum of 100 miles in the twelve week period.

While rucking is the foundation, there is more to a GORUCK event than just rucking.  The next component of the program is completing ruck workouts.  All PATHFINDERs will complete a minimum of 20 ruck workouts in the twelve week period.  These workouts can consist of various exercises, and a more detailed explanation can be found at the PATHFINDER Training Program post on this web site.

A third component of a GORUCK event is leadership, and this is also addressed in the program.  Of your twenty ruck workouts, you must lead a team through three of them.  In a GORUCK event, you will likely be asked to lead the team in some capacity.  For some people, this may be their first time leading a group.  Be ready to lead in your event, and practice ahead of time with your team.


The basics of the program provide a good foundation onto which the final component is built.  The last piece of the puzzle will allow you to address your specific needs, and target your weaknesses.  Each PATHFINDER will complete a minimum of 5 PATHFINDER Challenges in the twelve week period.

We have provided 8 challenges to choose from, and each one addresses a different element, allowing you to customize the program to fit your needs.  The 8 challenges are listed below, and a more detailed description can be found at the PATHFINDER Training Program post on this site.

  1. Pass Selection Standard PT Test; OR, Attempt the standard test four times, showing improvement each time – The selection standard PT test is given at the start of every GORUCK Heavy and GORUCK Selection.  Choosing this challenge allows you to practice for that, as well as allows you to get credit for improving your push ups, sit ups, run speed, and ruck speed.
  2. Ruck a total of 36 miles before or after a ruck workout (minimum of 4 miles for one individual workout) – Every GORUCK event will include both PT and ruck mileage.  This challenge encourages you to extend your workouts to include both elements, and it will give you more practice wearing your ruck for longer periods.
  3. Mountain Ruck > 10 miles (at once) – This challenge will get you off the sidewalk and put you on some uneven terrain with elevation change.
  4. Overnight Ruck > 20 miles (at once) – Most GORUCK events happen at least partially in darkness.  Use this challenge to practice rucking in the dark, as well as rucking a long time and distance at once.
  5. Move 80 Pounds of Coupons For Every 2 Men In Group > 10 miles (at once) – Every GORUCK event will include some type of “coupons” (additional weight).  This challenge will get you accustomed to carrying added weight, and will allow you to practice coupon handling and carrying techniques with your team.
  6. Ruck a distance of 12 miles in 3.5 hours or less (17:30 pace) - This is equivalent to the ruck component of the PT test.  If you have been following our “How To Ruck” series, you should already be able to crush this pace.
  7. Marathon Ruck (Ruck >= 26.2 miles with full challenge weight) – This is perhaps one of my favorites to test yourself both physically and mentally.
  8. Ruck 100 miles on top of the basic requirement (total of 200 miles in 12 weeks) – If you are training for a GORUCK Heavy, this one is a no brainer.  This is also one of my favorites, because I prescribe to the philosophy of “ruck more”.

Am I Ready?

When a beginner reads the PATHFINDER Training Program, they often feel like they’re not ready to tackle it.  I want to encourage you to get past the initial shock of 100 miles, and outline a plan that works for you.  PATHFINDER can be tailored for any level with proper planning and motivation.  If you’re already rucking with weight, you’re ready for PATHFINDER.

Here’s an example outline that a beginner might follow that will take you from 4 miles per week up to marathon ruck.  Disclaimer – I’m not a trainer so this is just my opinion, follow my advice at your own risk.

Week Ruck Miles Workouts Challenges
Week 1 4 miles
Week 2 6 miles 1 workout
Week 3 8 miles 2 workouts
Week 4 10 Miles 2 workouts 1st PT Test Attempt
Week 5 10 miles 2 workouts Mountain Ruck
Week 6 12 miles 2 workouts 2nd PT Test Attempt
Week 7 12 miles 2 workouts 12 Mile Timed Ruck March
Week 8 12 miles 2 workouts 3rd PT Test Attempt
Week 9 10 miles 2 workouts 10 Mile Coupon Ruck Challenge
Week 10 10 miles 2 workouts 4th (Final) PT Test Attempt
Week 11 10 miles 2 workouts
Week 12 26.2 miles 2 workouts Marathon Ruck Challenge
Total 130.2 miles 21 workouts 5 Challenges

As you can see, this sample outline pushes you 30 miles and one workout beyond the baseline requirements – leaving you a little slack for unexpected missed miles or workouts.


Tip: If you complete PATHFINDER during an official class offered by team SPEARHEAD, you will earn the PATHFINDER Patch!


Let us know if you want to be a part of the next class, and we’ll let you know when it’s kicking off!

You’re Ready!

Now that you’ve learned how to get started rucking, you’re ready to take the next step.  Set a goal for yourself that will help keep you motivated.  Outline a training plan, or follow the PATHFINDER Training Program.  If you stay motivated, you will meet your goal and you will thrive.  Get your mind right, wrap up some bricks, and start rucking!

Written By: Rick Tanner – team SPEARHEAD – Charlotte, NC

In Part 3 of this series, we will shift focus specifically to the GORUCK Challenge.  We will explain what the event is, how to prepare, and how to pack your gear.  Stay tuned!

<< Previous Post:  “How To Ruck – Part 1 – A Beginner’s Guide”



    • I am trying to learn all I can about the tucking wotld. I also am not military but I’m an avid Crossfiter. I’m looking for something different and this seems like a very logical choice for me. Can you direct me to more resources that would help me kick this off?? Thank you!

  1. Once again, Rick…great info. The ‘Pathfinder’ program is definitely a great motivator and a well thought out plan for those looking to succeed with GORUCK events. Two thumbs up brother!

  2. Andrew Tucker on

    Great article. Just signed up for Class 008 and training for my first challenge in July 2016. My TRVLSQD buddies pointed me here. Any ETA on article #3?

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