8 tips and tricks to get better at ruck marching

The one exercise that will never leave the military is also the one exercise that requires the most thought. Push-ups? Just find a good form and knock them out. Runs? Just get a good pair of shoes and be fast.

But ruck marching, especially if you’re going over 12 miles, takes more brains than brawn.

If you’re still in or looking forward to Bataan Memorial Death March, this helpful guide will help get you through a ruck march.

Preparation:

8. Carry heavier weights higher in the pack.

The problem most people have with ruck marching is the weight of their pack dragging them down after the first mile. The lower the weight hangs, the more effort it requires. It also causes more knee and back pain, which means more visits to the doc and, eventually, the VA if done incorrectly.

Army Ruck March

Bring the weight up to your shoulders, not your hips (Photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

7. Always use your best boots, but not the fancy boots.

The best boots are the ones that will give your feet and ankles the best support. The standard-issue boots are actually very good in this respect. Funnily enough, the “high-speed tacticool” boots that everyone seems to buy are actually far worse for your feet on longer ruck marches.

dirty boots

And don’t be that fool who wears the nice boots they regularly wear in uniform. They’ll get dirty fast. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Molly Hampton)

6. Anti-chafing powder and good underwear.

Common sense says that your feet will chafe, but what some people don’t get is that there are also other parts of the body that will rub against itself.

ruck march medic

I mean, unless you’re comfortable with that rash and awkward conversations with medics… (Photo by Capt. Michael Merrill)

5. Wear a good pair of socks and keep more on standby.

When it comes to socks, you’ll want to spend a little extra money to get some good pairs. Make sure you bring plenty durable, moisture-wicking socks, because you’ll need to change them constantly.

changing socks

Every stop. No exceptions. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)

During the Ruck:

4. Don’t run.

If you do find yourself slowing down or getting left behind, take longer strides instead of running.

Also Read: 11 Things new soldiers complain about during basic training

If you run, you’ll smack the weight of your pack against your spine and exhaust way too much energy to get somewhere slightly faster. Practice that “range walk” that your drill sergeant/instructor got on your ass to learn.

good ruck pace

Just find a good pace and stick with the unit. (Photo by Spc. Jonathan Wallace)

3. Daydream.

Pretend you’re somewhere else. Think about literally anything other than the weight on your back or your feet hitting the ground. The hardest part of a ruck march should only be the first quarter mile — everything after that just flies by.

Ruck march dog

Or go “sightseeing” and take mental notes of everything you find on the way. (Photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)

2. Plenty of water, protein, and fruits.

There is nothing more important on a ruck march than water. Keep drinking, even if you’re not thirsty. Drink plenty of water before the march, plenty of water during, and plenty of water after the march.

You’ll also lose tons of electrolytes along the way, so stock up on POG-gie bait (junk food) to help keep that water in your system.

water bottles ruck march

All that “take a knee, change your socks, and drink water” isn’t a joke from the medics anymore! (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

After the Ruck:

1. Take care of your blisters.

Even if you follow all of this advice, you may still end up with blisters by the march’s end. Use some moleskin to help take care of them, crack open a cold one, and relax. You earned it.

Finish ruck marching

We decided not to end this on a picture of blisters, so, you’re welcome, everyone-who-isn’t-a-medic-or-grunt. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)

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