In February of 2017 I made the decision that I needed to get in shape. I was larger, and more out of shape than I had ever been in my life. And while it wasn’t a dire situation, I could tell that I was more physically winded by things which had previously never troubled me. And this fact was now troubling me, so I made a simple decision: get in shape.
For me I started by rucking, I wrote about why I chose rucking shortly after I had started:
Rucking is a military thing, but the civilian form is detailed well by GORUCK here. And while I’ve never done a challenge, nor do I have much interest in them, this seemed like a great way to work out. I can be outside, in nature getting fresh air, the walk to the area is short, and I get to wear awesome backpacks. Basically, this was tailored to me.
I’ve kept at it too. When I started rucking I wore a size 38 pant. We don’t have a scale at our house (by choice) and I abhor the idea of controlling my food in any way. But I knew that in college, when I could last say I was in great shape, I was a size 34. Today I am a size 35, bordering on 34, and I feel stronger than when I rowed in high school. There are a few things that I’ve found now almost a couple years into this process that I felt might be beneficial to share.
Right around mid-2016 I had hit another low point with my soda consumption. I have, for my entire life (there’s pictures of me at 5 drinking soda) consumed an unreasonable amount of soda. And as most people are now accepting, this is flat out terrible for you. So how much soda? I do know there were distinct times when I would drink 6 cans per day. Suffice to say, that it was my primary liquid.
I’ve never liked drinking still water, and for a long time hated coffee. But it was coffee that kicked the soda for me. Because if I drank two cups of coffee, and then a Pepsi, I WAS FUCKING WIRED. And felt awful, but soda no longer had the caffeine I craved. So I replaced the soda with sparkling water.
Yeah, I know, hipster. But I don’t give a shit. Because there is simply no way sparkling water and coffee are worse for me than 6 cans of Coke a day. It’s just not possible. Soda has a ton of calories, so I know that kicking this habit also lead to my weight loss, as well as my general better health — or so I assume.
I still eat tons of shit, because life should be lived.
One thing I read was that creating a routine is key to staying on task with working out. I certainly found this to be the case for the first couple months. You have to form a habit.
However, since then I’ve found that something far more fundamental needs to be done: you need to make it easy for yourself to work out. By this I mean:
- You should always have specific clothes you wear, have them ready, know where they are, and be fast at putting them on.
- you should know the route you need to take to get to your work out, or in my case, to do your workout
- know how long from start to finish and dressed again, a workout will take.
The last one was the key for me. When I started I was out of shape and never knew how long it might take, so once I started timing things I felt more confident. That confidence meant that I no longer used the excuse “hmm, I might not have enough time” and thus avoided the workout. Now I know: if I have an hour, I can do a workout, and I know what to do to cut that to 40 minutes if I need to.
The shitty part: this can really only be figured out by trial and error.
I still only ruck as my workout, but I love it. I know it’s not for everyone but it really is a fantastic work out, which is easy to do and requires very little gear. I started with a 20lb Ruck Plate in my backpack, and moved on to a 30lb. All in my bag weighs about 34-ish lbs, and I’ve kept it there. Instead of increasing the weight, I try to speed my pace, which seems to be harder than just carrying more weight at a slower pace.
A faster pace also pushes out any other thoughts in your head. To move fast with weight, you have to focus on moving fast. I’ve stuck with rucking, about 4 times per week, averaging about 3.2 miles per ruck. I target sub-15 minute mile pace, using Gaia GPS to track my workout.
These days I do 90% of my rucks on sidewalks, as the forest is great, but slow, treacherous when wet, and muddy as hell. Much easier and a better workout on concrete. I’ve done my workouts in rain, snow, heat and everything else, none of it bothers me as much as heat does.
You also don’t need a GORUCK bag and Ruck Plates to do a ruck. Grab any backpack and put any weight in it. To start, toss in 10lbs and go for a walk. You might be surprised how that can work up a sweat.
A lot of people say they get in shape to live long for their kids. For me, it was so that I could take my kids with me to do stupid things. Like a hike that is slightly too long for their little legs, or a bit too much time at a mall, Costco, theme park, or where ever. So that I had the confidence to know I could walk all that with them, pick them up when they are tired, and carry them back to the car without collapsing.
Stupid? Sure. But I can do it now, and I have, and this makes me happy. Ultimately, for me, that’s what getting in shape has been about: my own happiness and no one else’s.
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