Goruck Sandbag: Build a Home Gym with the BEST

I went and did it…

I mentioned that I would be writing about some GORUCK gear that I got for Christmas. Well instead a made a video. Put your questions in the comments and I’ll answer what I can!

Rucking: The Best Home Workout For You This Year

Fitness at its most functional…

About a month ago I mentioned my initial interest in rucking. Since then I ventured off in to the google-sphere to find out where the term “ruck” comes from.

The term “rucksack,” first used in the United Kingdom and later adopted by many other countries including the U.S., originated from the German word describing a location on the body —“the back” (der Rücken) — combined with the word for what was being carried — a sack.

As is my habit, I dove down this new rabbit hole headfirst, learning about the rucking community, the health benefits of rucking, and (if broken down) what rucking is.

In very basic terms, rucking is walking with weight on your back.

Digging deeper, the community (and the military) differentiates it from hiking by stating that rucking is more focused on fitness whereas hiking is more camping/journey/destination focused.

In these pandemic times with gyms shut down, social distancing, working from home and feeling like you are stuck indoors…what could be better than a workout that gets you outside, makes you stronger and functionally fit, builds cardio and burns fat, and requires almost no gear or costly gym membership!

Rucking…that’s what!

Speaking of the health benefits of rucking:

As opposed to jogging, swimming, biking, or rowing, rucking is easy on the joints, places you in a strong and correct posture, and doesn’t compel the user to “go glycolytic” (using primarily glucose metabolism by training too intensely), as you are already moving at the top speed of your walking gait. You could, of course, load too heavy, find an uphill route, etc., to increase the intensity but you won’t get that feeling of needing to move faster for more conditioning once underway, as the “high” of the exercise-induced endorphins washes over you.

I can’t overemphasize the postural benefits from rucking. If you constantly correct your posture as described, you might just remove some of your constant low-back pain, lack of hip flexibility, and thoracic spine issues. You will most certainly tighten your “X” and build resilience into your trunk. This resilience will reduce your potential for non-collision injury, and increase your performances in other activities.

Done properly of course:

Stand up tall, take short but frequent strides, and drive your arms hard. The description from top to bottom: keep your head up with your eyes looking out ten to fifteen feet in front of you, using your peripheral vision to navigate the ground directly below your feet. Do not walk with your head down. You may need to drop your head periodically to negotiate obstacles (don’t step on smaller items in your path – step around them), but always seek good cervical spine alignment.


A quick google search will show some big movers in the “online fitness world” have covered it at one point in time:

Here are a couple great podcasts on the health benefits of rucking if you prefer that medium:

What it comes down to for me, is that I like the idea of a simple activity that builds fitness. Similar to the story of Milo and the Bull, this is a fitness regiment that is functional and you can increase over time:

He decided to carry a newborn calf on his shoulders. Day by day, for more than four years, he carried an animal on his shoulders. While people were laughing at him, the small calf slowly grew into an adult ox and Milo got stronger and stronger along the way. What an awesome idea. Every day, when Milo woke up, he lifted the calf, put it on his shoulders and carried it around all day. After four years, Milo was lifting and carrying around an impressively big ox. By then, people stopped laughing a long time ago, when they saw Milo’s muscles and strength grow.

Now don’t get me wrong…rucking is for the more advanced athlete as well. I was a collegiate gymnast, turned rock climber extraordinaire, turned cross-fitter (with my CFL-1 training certificate), I’ve coached people in all of the above mentioned areas as well. Yet as I get closer to 40 I find myself continuing to look for areas of fitness to explore the will solidify my “functional fitness foundation”. Rucking is not just a “beginner” workout regime; it is for all levels of athletes and I truly believe that it can make your health foundation more solid than you realize.

Shoot me a comment if you are interested in this journey as I venture in to a new corner of fitness, community, and healthy living.

The aforementioned famous Greek wrestler and strength legend Milo of Croton got stronger by improving a little bit every day. Carrying the calf as it grew in to a bull. While the rucking experts don’t recommend going above 1/3 your body weight while rucking…the concept of small, continual improvements is the same.

To quote myself when I wrote about the 1% rule:

There is so much that goes in to this concept [the 1% rule], but the basics of it are…well…basic. 

Tomorrow, you probably won’t notice a difference. But what’s the result when 1% happens every day? Let’s ask James Altucher…

“Improve a little each day. It compounds. When 1% compounds every day, it doubles every 72 days, not every 100 days. Compounding tiny excellence is what creates big excellence.”

72 days later you might be twice the person you are today. Think you can’t manage that? Let’s do some math.

If you want to up your fitness regiment…or just want to change it up every now and then like me…then this may be for you.

Want a place to start learning about rucking? I highly recommend the below article as a good foundation on understanding why rucking might be for you.

Rucking: What It Is and How to Do It

A New Guy’s Take on Crossfit and Family

This is a peice I wrote a few years ago. I am reposting because I am missing my gym family…

Six months ago I had only heard of Crossfit in passing. I didn’t know what a wall-ball was, had never heard the term Olympic Lifting, and would have checked to make sure my kids weren’t around if someone had started talking to me about snatches or improving their clean and jerk.

I am a Crossfit New Guy.

A Lifetime of Fitness

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

I am not new to fitness. As a former collegiate gymnast turned rock climber, I spent much of my life in a gym and have been a part of some sort of fitness family for about 27 of my 33 years on this planet. Rock climbing has consumed the majority the last 10 years of my life, but due to a nagging injury that seems to only surface whenever I climb, I begrudgingly have been keeping myself out of my home away from home.

My wife and I have some friends who are part of a local crossfit gym and we have seen the transformation it has had on them. Thus, with some prodding from my better half, I decided to go check it out. I had always been skeptical about crossfit gyms as I thought they had a certain reputation that I wasn’t a fan of, but judging things by their reputations is something I try not to do. So on a sunny Saturday morning I drove myself to our friends’ gym.

Boy was I shocked by what I discovered.

Crossfit is so much fun! The reputation of aggressive weightlifters that talk about eating nothing but meat and more crossfit was completely unfounded. In fact the coaches don’t even use terms like “box” or “paleo”. The first coach I met was super mellow and quite receptive to my newness to the crossfit world and quickly tailored my first basics class to my strengths and weaknesses. Being that I have an extensive gymnastics background and came from 10+ years of climbing we mostly focused on how to do the barbell movements and olympic lifts.

The Importance of Family First

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

What shocked me the most on that first day, was the family feel that the gym had that was so similar to my current climbing gym and gymnastics gyms of the past. In fact there seems to be almost more of a family centric feel since the crossfit gym doesn’t have college night, birthday parties, boy scout troops earning badges, or boyfriends trying to get their girlfriends to “just grab that hold!”. Fewer transients coming through the gym means you mostly see regular members…something that only strengthens that family aura.

Now crossfit isn’t for everyone. I LOVE to work out and leading a life of fitness is a big part of who I am. For me crossfit is perfect for what I want in a workout regiment and once I figured out that all that crossfit is, is a bunch of people who really like to workout and be healthy, I was all in. Perhaps I’ve been lucky with some great coaches, but I think that I have found a sport/workout routine that I’ll stick with for a while.

How Does Crossfit Help with Climbing?

Photo by Tristan Pineda on Unsplash

Good question.

I don’t actually know yet. Due to that climbing injury I mentioned, I’ve forced myself to stay out of my climbing gym which can be really tough to do. I’m sure that my climbing specific endurance is not good but I know for a fact that if I went out and climbed a moderate 1,000 foot climb I’d have a lot more overall stamina. If you ever get to jump on a big wall like Half Dome in Yosemite, you’ll find out that 75% of your energy isn’t spent climbing but doing everything from hauling, ascending ropes, and more. You have to be in shape if you want to last on a big wall and I know that crossfit has whipped me back into shape fast.

Is crossfit for you? I don’t know but I encourage you to at least give it a shot. Even for just a workout or two.

As for me, I have some big Yosemite plans this spring and I know I’ll be ready…thanks to my Crossfit family.

This was first posted over on Medium. If you like these longer form posts, you can get early access to them by becoming a Patron for $1 a month.

Crossfit Should Reward Virtuosity

As a former gymnast, watching new athletes in Crossfit can be terrfying at times…

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

When I first started Crossfit I did what I normally do with any new interest…started researching and reading about it. A few of the first few things I came across were straight from the Crossfit HQ website. The founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman, wrote about what is known as “virtuosity” in the sport of gymnastics and how those participating in Crossfit should strive towards this…especially those new to the sport.

Glassman’s definition of virtuosity as it applies to Crossfit

Virtuosity, though, is a different beast altogether. Virtuosity is defined in gymnastics as “performing the common uncommonly well.” Unlike risk and originality, virtuosity is elusive, supremely elusive. It is, however, readily recognized by audience as well as coach and athlete. But more importantly, more to my point, virtuosity is more than the requirement for that last tenth of a point; it is always the mark of true mastery (and of genius and beauty).

Fundamentals, Virtuosity, and Mastery

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

As Glassman says in his article, just completing a routine does not award 10 out of 10 possible points – only 9.7. The last 3 tenths of a point come from performing the routine and included skills with exceptional mastery. In gymnastics, every competitor will finish, but the real question is who can finish and demonstrate the technical prowess and perfection that will warrant those last 0.3 points.

Crossfit on the other hand isn’t geared towards rewarding technical excellence at all. At least Crossfit the sport isn’t and Crossfit the workout program only emphasizes virtuosity if a coach is of that mindset. The sport of Crossfit is primarily about whose time is fastest, who can lift the most, and reps versus no reps.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash
Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

An Example

Many may think of a possible example with the Josh Bridges incident during the 16.4 Open workout. Being the elite athlete that he is, he had to submit a video of his workout and after being named the winner of that week’s workout the internet exploded with accusations of no reps on his deadlifts…which was in part supported by Crossfit HQ. Was this a case of Crossfit HQ docking him for a lack of virtuosity?….Nope. It was merely the enforcement of a rep versus no rep for the actual movement based on preset standards.

So what might be an example of rewarding virtuosity in Crossfit? Let’s look at any Open workout that includes the bar muscle up.

While it was super exciting to see a thousand videos of people kicking and flailing their way to their #firstbarmuscleup – I would not say their execution of the skill demonstrated mastery…obviously. Not to bring anyone down, but we’re looking for as close to perfection of the movement as possible. For the bar muscle up that might include, straight legs that don’t separate, pointed toes (if shoeless), almost no bend in the arms when coming over the bar, smooth kipping motions, and hey…why not stick the landing when you come off before running to those light power snatches? (ok, that last one my be a bit much)

Perhaps an elite athlete who submitted a video of their beautifully performed Open workout would get a 5% – 10% virtuosity bump in their score. That might be worth it enough for people to actually strive towards this technical mastery. (Bridges got a 15% reduction in reps as a major penalty so this would be in line with that scoring system)

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Should Crossfit Reward Virtuosity?

At this point you’re probably thinking “Seriously?…Stick the landing? Ok new guy, go back to your Box and I’ll show you where you can stick your landing. That is just going to slow me down”.

Well that is part of what virtuosity is. Should your snatch also be judged on form and if you take a couple wobbly steps as you stand up? Should your deadlift reps be reduced if you are one of those people who tend to round their back a little as the reps go on? If you do 30 beautiful muscle-ups should you be rewarded with 5 extra if performed with perfect form and finesse? Perhaps your Diane time would be reduced if you do strict handstand push-ups with good form vice kipping?

Personally I think it would be cool to incorporate a bonus for virtuosity at a Crossfit Qualifying Competition or even at the Games but I don’t think it would work in the Open. Also I don’t believe there should be a penalty for less than virtuous form as Crossfit the sport is still primarily geared towards rep completion and “for time” workouts.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Ultimately Glassman spelled it out correctly, athletes new to the sport should strive for virtuosity but typically don’t….which is often their downfall and leads to easier injury. Striving towards this technical mastery actually creates efficiency of movement and will, in the long run, make you faster and able to complete more reps with less energy.

However, I would venture to guess that this is not emphasized enough in Crossfit affiliate boxes even though proper movement is what they teach in the Level 1 certification course. We are a monkey see monkey do society at times, and if all we see are the highest level athletes going 100 miles an hour in every workout, with no emphasis on “virtuosity” in the scoring system, then most other lower level athletes will believe that completion of a movement is paramount; not form, efficiency, and safety.

Crossfit HQ has made a lot of changes recently. This one might be worth it too.

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