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Thread: zen and the art of strength training

  1. #351
    Join Date
    Mar 2010


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    Marathon Results

    On April 14, I completed the ToughRuck Marathon in Concord MA, a fundraiser for fallen soldiers and first responders. This was my goal for the first half of 2024. I finished 346 out of 883 overall, and 82 out of 162 in the civilian heavy male category. I averaged 17:30 per mile, including stops. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my body held up. The pads on my feet hurt, but I only got one blister. I had some discomfort in my quads and lower back, but my joints/shoulders/hamstrings/ calves all felt ok. I was sore from head to toe the next day, but not as bad as I had feared, and two days later I feel less sore than I typically would 48 hours after a high volume leg day. All in all it was an awesome experience. It was a really well run event, there was great community support, and it was a lot more fun than Iíd anticipated.

    Game Day Review:

    Week Leading Up: On Friday 4/5 we took our kids to LegoLand in New York, and then on to see the eclipse in Burlington VT. By the time we rolled into my in-laws house on Tuesday, I felt terrible. Many, many hours in the car, lots of fast food, no exercise, poor sleep. Tuesday night I went to Planet Fitness just to move my body (there were actually a lot of really jacked guys working out there), walked a mile on the treadmill, and did some pulling machines. Wednesday I did an easy six mile ruck. Thursday I did some yoga. Friday and Saturday I didnít do anything but go for some easy walks. Overall, I felt like I showed up on race day having done enough the previous week to not feel stiff and detrained, but without any residual fatigue.

    Pack Weight: The minimal pack weight for the heavy division was 35 pounds. I had 20 and 10 pound plates, plus a 2.5 pound vest insert. I weighed in at 38 pounds at the start, having removed all my water and food. At the end of the race, I weighed in at just over 40 pounds. The main difference being I had a little bit of water in my camelback, some uneaten food, and had accumulated some trash. For almost all of my training I was carrying 2 x 20 pound plates, plus a full 2 liters of water. Iím guessing my training rucks were 50+pounds, when you figure in how much weight was actually on my back.

    Foot Care:
    As with all of my long rucks, I wore darn tough merino wool socks. Before starting, I lubed my feet up with vaseline. Iíve also been rucking in the same boots since 2022. This was the first time Iíve had a blister, and it was only a small blister on one of my toes that didnít really affect the hike.

    Hydration: For most of my training rucks, I carried 2 full liters of water. I only ran out of water once, on the 18 miler. For the race, I drank a lot of water the day before, and then tried to polish off most of a gatorade the morning of the hike. I carried one liter of water at the start of the ruck, which I finished around mile 7 or 8. After that, I mostly carried bottles of water, gatorade, or mineral water, stopping to add water to my camel back around mile 20 or 21. I drank a ton of fluid, though I didnít pee from about 9 am until we arrived home after the race (around 4 or 5).

    Food: The day before the race, I had an egg and ham sandwich for breakfast, a reuben sandwich for lunch, steak tips/chicken/potatoes for dinner, and lasagna for a late night snack. I woke up early on Sunday and ate more lasagna for breakfast. During the race I ate a few peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, and 4 or 5 pickles. Iíve read that pickles have salt which can help with cramping. I donít know if that is true, but I love pickles, and I didnít cramp, so no harm done. Along the route there were a lot of people offering food. I ate pretty much continuously from mile 10-18 - chips, bananas, oranges, various bars. I felt tired, but I never ďhit the wall.Ē

    Apparel: For all of the long hikes, I wore a long sleeve polyester shirt I got from REI, sweat pants, Under Armour biking underwear, a hat, and rubbed body glide generously all over my groin and butt. Never had any chafing problems.

    Training Review:

    These are some of the considerations that I accounted for when coming up with a rucking plan:

    Knowledge: Compared to running or biking, there are far fewer resources for how to ruck a marathon. There is simply no tried and true couch-to-marathon equivalent for rucking a marathon. Most rucking information is targeted at military members, not middle aged weekend warriors.

    Time: Rucking is obviously a lot slower than running, and therefore much more time consuming to get anywhere near the same volume as on a typical long distance running or cycling program.

    Specificity: Most marathon running programs focus on running, usually 3-4x per week. Rucking that much (especially if you were to keep the distances the same as in the running program) would be both prohibitively time consuming (due to the slower pace) and likely lead to injury.

    Strength: You need to have a strong back, shoulders, legs, to carry 35 pounds for 26 miles, which benefit from training other than just rucking.

    Recovery: Long rucks make it hard to recover from strength training, and itself requires a huge amount of recovery. Rucking long distances makes it harder to get stronger from lifting, yet getting stronger from lifting is important to being able to ruck long distances.

    I balanced these considerations by focusing in equal measure on rucking, sled work, and lifting.

    Rucking: For most of the last few months, I rucked every other week. In December I rucked with a 30 pound pack up to 10 miles. Starting in January I used 40 pounds (likely 50+ when accounting for water, etc..), going roughly every other week (weather dependent) and increasing mileage by 2 miles. I credit training heavier than the event as critical to why I felt good on race day.

    There are some articles on this site suggesting you can be proficient at rucking just by lifting (usually in the context of effective military training). Iím not sure I agree because 1) doing at least some ruck-specific training is necessary to toughen your feet and joints, and 2) as a practical matter, I found that each ruck I got tired at a later point, even though I wasnít appreciably stronger from one week to the next (and so there must have been some value to rucking that I didnít get from just lifting). That said, I donít see any reason to ruck long distances (10+ miles) more than 2-3x per month, especially given its recovery toll. And even that should probably be limited to the months leading up to the event.

    Sled Work: I found that the more I pushed a sled, the better I felt rucking. Pushing or dragging a sled mirrors the lower body stress of rucking, but you can load it heavier and thereby stress the same systems in a lot less time. It also is easier to recover from. The one thing I would have done differently was to add more sled dragging, at least once per week. If I do another marathon, Iíll probably do sled work of some kind at the end of every workout.

    Lifting: The last few months focused on back strength (deadlift, rows, lat pulldowns, shrugs). I did little lifting for leg strength, and essentially dropped squats in January. I couldnít recover from long rucks, sled work, deadlifts, and squats each week. I find squats harder to recover from than deadlifts, and generally my back recovers quicker than my legs. If I were to prepare for another spring rucking marathon (Bataan, or doing the Tough Ruck again), I would do a ton of squats and RDLs in the Fall, and then gradually reduce squats and other barbell leg work in favor of rucking and sleds over the winter and leading up to the race (this is more or less what I did, if not exactly deliberately).

    In the end, this was great to train for, and something Iíd like to do again in the future.

  2. #352
    Join Date
    Mar 2010

    Default Plan Through July

    Goals by mid-July:

    1) Prepare for backcountry hiking trip to Rockies in mid-July.
    1.a) Prior to trip, do three 10+ mile rucks
    1.b) Drag sled 185 pounds x 1 mile

    2) Improve strength
    2.a) Squat/Bench in PR territory (PRs from last Fall: Squat 4x4x280; Bench 3x5x215);
    2.b) Add 20-30 pounds to current deadlift/BB Row PRs (Current PRs: Deadlift 15x1x375; BB Row 3x5x195).


    4x/week, ABAB/ABAC

    A. Squat / Sled Drag or Push (optional: additional upper back work) (2x per week)
    B. Barbell Row / Bench Press / Barbell Shrug / Lat Pulldowns (optional: additional upper back or tricep work) (1-2x per week)
    C. Deadlift (Optional: sled / sandbag / ruck / box squat / B. exercises) (every other week)

    Rep Scheme:

    A. Squats, Rows, and Bench Press: start light with 3 sets of 8 reps, add 5 pounds each workout or every other workout, and gradually decrease reps as the weight gets heavier. I might add a fourth set at some point to keep overall working set volume > 15 reps. Once the weight gets heavy I may also periodically have lighter days.
    B. Deadlifts: continue to lift singles with limited rest periods (i.e., on the minute). Each workout should be either heavier weight, more reps, shorter rest periods, or better bar speed.
    C. Rucking: do easy rucks (30-40 pounds, <7 miles, 16-17 minute mile pace) either on off days, or after deadlifting, once or twice a month. Do a few longer rucks closer to the hiking trip.
    Last edited by kopp; 04-27-2024 at 11:06 AM.

  3. #353
    Join Date
    Mar 2010


    Monday April 15 - Thursday April 18

    OFF - Recovering from Marathon

    Friday April 19 (A)

    Squat 2 x 6 x 185
    Sled Drag 15 minutes x 160 pounds (outdoor turf)

    Sunday April 21 (B)

    BB Row 2 x 6 x 165
    BB Shrug 2 x 10 x 165
    Bench 2 x 6 x 165
    Lat Pulldown 2 x 10 x 120

    Monday April 22 (A)

    Sled Drag warmup
    Squat 1 x 6 x 185

    Extreme cramping in right hamstring.

    Thursday April 25 (B)

    BB Row 3 x 8 x 165
    BB Shrug 3 x 10 x 165
    Bench 3 x 6 x 165
    Lat Pulldown 3 x 10 x 140

    Friday April 26 (A)

    Squat 3 x 8 x 185
    Sled Drag 800m x 135 pounds (outdoor pavement)

    Sunday April 28 (C)

    Deadlift 15 x 1 x 345
    Bench 3 x 8 x 165

    Deadlifts were double overhand hook grip, took 9:05, which is 2 minutes faster than on March 27.

    The purpose of this week was to ease back into lifting, after a few weeks away. In particular, I'm being conservative with the squats and bench, which I haven't done consistently in months.

    The squats in particular felt extremely awkward and unnatural. I videotaped a few sets on Friday and the biggest issue is I am way overextending my upper and lower back and not bracing properly. This was an issue when I first started squatting, but I corrected it last year. I think I am just out of practice. It will be something to work on moving forward. I don't think the time away hurt my deadlifts at all.
    Last edited by kopp; 04-28-2024 at 03:33 PM. Reason: Add Sunday workout

  4. #354
    Join Date
    Mar 2010


    Wednesday May 1 (A)

    Squat 3 x 8 x 185
    Sled Push

    Squat form was much improved. Focused on properly bracing, not overextending back. On the sled pushes, I only did a set or two before I started feeling nauseous. Not sure what the problem was. It may have been that this was the first hot day of the year, and I wasn't accustomed to the heat. Got a headache later in the day. May be battling a bug, or maybe allergies.

    Thursday May 2 (B)

    Barbell Row 3 x 8 x 170; 1 x 10 x 135
    Bench 170 x 8,8,6
    Lat Pulldown 3 x 10 x 160
    Cable Rows

    Friday May 3

    Ruck: 4 miles, 30 pounds

    Easy active recovery day. Averaged around 18 minutes per mile. It was a really beautiful morning, good to get some fresh air.

    Saturday May 4 (A)

    Squat 3 x 8 x 190
    Sandbag to shoulder 7 x 2 x 150

    Pouring rain outside, so did sandbags instead of sled.

    Sunday May 5 (B)

    Barbell Row 3 x 8 x 175
    Bench 170 x 8,8,7/2
    Barbell Shrugs 3 x 10 x 185
    Lat Pulldowns 3 x 8 x 170
    Pushups 3 x 10 x BW

    The rows feel really good. I took a video of second and third sets and I think my form on these is solid. I do these bodybuilder style - floating the weight at the bottom, try to hold my back parallel to the ground, or slightly angled, minimum body english. On the bench, I barely got the 7th rep on my third set. After that I racked the weight, counted to ten slowly, and did two more reps. Will go up to 175 next week.

    Felt pretty good this week overall. In particular I'm feeling much better about the squats. I think I have my form issues ironed out, and I should get plenty of practice over the next few weeks before the weight starts to get heavy.
    Last edited by kopp; 05-05-2024 at 12:10 PM.

  5. #355
    Join Date
    Mar 2010


    Tuesday May 7 (A)

    Squat 3 x 8 x 195
    Sled Drag 1000m x 135

    The sled work was outside on the access road behind the gym. Did five laps from the gym's backdoor to a set of dumpsters, which was about 100m according to my phone.

    Thursday May 9 (C)

    Deadlift 15 x 1 x 375
    Lat Pulldown

    These were double overhand, hook grip, on the minute. Total time was just under 15 minutes. My entire posterior chain was sore from this workout. Also had a gnarly blister on my right thumb. After deadlifts, did 2-3 sets of lat pulldowns to failure, or near failure. Don't remember what the reps/weight were.

    Saturday May 11 (A)

    Squat 3 x 8 x 205
    Ruck 4 miles, 30 pounds

    These were the first squats I've done with a belt in a few months. Afterwards went out and rucked a big loop in the park near my house. The weather has been cold and rainy lately, and today was a really beautiful morning, so wanted to get outside.

    Not going to get in a fourth workout this week due to mother's day. All in all this was a good week. The deadlifts in particular standout as a real positive.
    Last edited by kopp; 05-11-2024 at 08:56 AM.

  6. #356
    Join Date
    Mar 2010


    starting strength coach development program
    Monday May 13 (B)

    Barbell Row 3 x 8 x 175
    Bench Press 2 x 8 x 175, 1 x 6 x 155
    Sled Drag 600m x 135

    This was a late night lift, and I was really tired. My arms felt dead after the second set of bench, so dropped weight. It has been raining a lot the past few weeks, and this was one of the few nice evenings, so decided to drag the sled so I get outside. This was a check-the-box workout, but glad I got something in.

    Wednesday May 15 (A)

    Squat 3 x 8 x 210
    Deadlift 15 x 1 x 325
    Lat Pulldown

    Very early in the morning - around 6 a.m. I don't recall the last time I worked out this early, but it was the only chance I had. The squats went well. I'd planned to do sandbags but the indoor turf area was filled with people, so decided to deadlift instead. The deadlifts were on the minute, focused on bar speed and form. My right thumb is still recovering from a nasty blister, so these were all double overhand but regular grip, not hook grip, which limited the weight I could use.

    Thursday May 16

    Ruck: 4 miles, 30 pounds

    Active Recovery. Beautiful morning so wanted to get outside.

    Friday May 17 (B)

    Bench Press 3 x 8 x 175
    Barbell Shrug 3 x 10 x 195
    Lat Pulldown 3 x 8 x 180
    Cable Row

    Decided not to do barbell rows because lower back is feeling a little off. Bench is much easier when it is the first lift of the day.

    Sunday May 19 (A)

    Sled Drag/Push Warmup
    Squat 3 x 8 x 215
    Sandbag to shoulder 10 x 2 x 150

    Early morning Sunday lift, the gym was pretty much empty. I've watched a few Matt Wenning/Mark Bell videos where they discuss doing light sled work as part of the warmup on lower body days, especially for people, like me, who have sedentary jobs. I did the sled work on the indoor turf, since it was raining outside. Squats feel good. During warmups I got up to 275 for a single no problem. On the sandbags, I felt pretty gassed around sets 3-4, but then really hit my stride around set 6 and felt good through the end. I tried to do a set every other minute, and finished all ten sets in just under 20 minutes.

    Pretty good week overall. I'm hoping that we get a few days without rain before it gets super hot. This has been the wettest spring I remember.
    Last edited by kopp; 05-19-2024 at 07:03 PM. Reason: Add Sunday Lift

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