NO, I did not misspell anything in the title (though Grammar is not always my strongest point.) I am talking about RUCK today and if you have not heard about it then let me be your guide.
I’ve been teaching Pilates for 8 years now and have worked with clients ranging from ex-Aerobics instructors to post-knee-surgery patients. Of course, their goals and fitness levels are different but most of them always ask me one of the two questions
“What can I do to lose weight while doing Pilates?”
“What is the best cardio workout that I can do to complement my Pilates practice?”
The answer to the first question (balanced diet and CARDIO) always leads to the second question, as you can see.
Pilates is not cardio. No matter how much I love it, the goal of a Pilates workout is to create a balance inside the body that will make us better movers in anything else that we do. (A quick clarification: yes, Jumpboard does provide cardio but it is a complement to a Pilates workout, not the main component of it.)
So, what is the best cardio workout that will complement a Pilates practice? Running, yes but a lot of my clients can not run because of joint issues. Elliptical machine – yes, but …. boring. Cycling – yes, but again there are certain limitations. Now I recommend RUCK.
You want me to put WHAT on my back?
A couple of months ago my husband told me about this new crazy simple movement. You load a backpack with 20-30 lbs of weight, put the backpack on your back and start walking. We got our dusty backpacks out, loaded them with weights and off we went.
Our familiar 3-mile hike has blossomed with new levels of difficulty that we didn’t expect. Carrying 26 extra pounds on my back was challenging but still enjoyable.
I felt my Pilates powerhouse kick in big time to counterbalance the extra pounds on the back.
My knee joints didn’t mind at all a steep hill that we had to climb (they usually get pretty vocal when I RUN the same hill.)
My husband and I were able to carry on a conversation and spend quality time together while sweating, huffing and puffing that hot humid summer evening.
That was Day 1 of RUCKing for us and we were hooked.
RUCK has been used in military training for decades but in the past couple of years it has made its way to the civilian population. Some people are so devoted to rucking that they do a Go Ruck Challenge, but I do not anticipate participating in one myself.
For me RUCK is a simple, effective and safe form of cardio, and a perfect soul mate of a Pilates practice.
Why Pilates and RUCK are perfect for each other
- Burn calories, protect your heart.
While you have heard the statement “opposites attract” I personally believe that in a relationship opposites complement each other as long as they still build upon the same values. That’s why Pilates and RUCK are soul mates. What one does not have the other one brings to the table to create a perfect exercise union. Let me be honest, Pilates will not build your cardio endurance or help you burn major calories.
But RUCK will. RUCK is a simple cardio workout that almost anyone can do. While walking is the easiest and most natural form of cardio exercise, we can enhance it slightly by putting some weight behind us. Rucking burns 3 times more calories than a regular walk of the same distance (according to the Compendium of Physical Activities) and it builds your cardio endurance. Heart health benefits of rucking are comparable to the ones from slow long-distance jogging but you eliminate high injury risks (20-79%!) associated with the latter.
- Ruck makes you use your core.
In Pilates you learn to activate and strengthen your powerhouse, while RUCKing you have to use your powerhouse to carry the weight. You give your core a real-life challenge.
If you have trouble connecting to your deep core muscles during a Pilates class then try throwing a weighted backpack on your back. Your body will naturally engage those muscles to counterbalance the weight behind you.
- Keeps your back healthy.
We’ve talked about spinal health and back pain (with Shari Berkowitz and Rebecca Leone) and came to the conclusion that spinal elongation and “core stiffening” are the best strategies to protect the spine (please, don’t suck your belly button in while doing Pilates, OK?) Dr. Stuart McGill (professor of spine biomechanics) came up in our conversations as we were discussing safety of spinal flexion and might have caused some controversial opinions in the Pilates community. But even he agrees that throwing a weighted backpack on and going for a walk is an effective way to strengthen your core muscles and prevent back pain.
When rucking or doing Pilates stand tall and activate your inner corset muscles. Make sure that you are not hinging forward in the hips as you are walking as this will compromise your posture (read about the proper weight to carry below.)
- Open up those shoulders. If you sit behind the computer all day then throwing a weighted backpack on will be a welcome alternative for your upper back. The straps will naturally help you bring your shoulders down and back helping you create a better posture. Now think about the weight of your ruck pack while you are doing Pilates and your teachers is asking you to release your shoulders. Yes, now you get it!
It’s easy and you can do it almost anywhere. A lot of people believe that Pilates is a privilege of those who can afford expensive private lessons. Yes, you will learn a lot from a private lesson but you do not need one to benefit from Pilates. Joseph Pilates created his matwork with the intention of making it available to every single person. You can do Pilates practically anywhere and any time. If you still don’t know where to begin check out our free Pilates videos.
Ruck is accessible and easy. Take a backpack, load it with weights or water bottles and go for a walk. You can do it while walking your dog, taking your kid to the playground, talking on the phone with your friend or (my favorite!) spending time with your spouse.
How to Ruck
- Find a backpack. I personally prefer a backpack with a chest and waist strap as it helps to secure the weight on my back. If possible, choose a smaller size backpack (up to 17” in height) to keep the weight as close and as high on your back as possible.
- Find your weight. Start with a weight that is around 10% of your bodyweight. If the weight feels too light at first still try going for a walk with it. Trust me, it gets heavier as you go. You can progress up to 35 lbs, but anything heavies that that can compromise your joint health. If the weight that you picked makes you lean forward in your hips then you need to lower it a little bit. Don’t compromise your form, EVER.
Things to put in your backpack:
- free weights (wrap them up in a towel to keep them from sliding or hitting you while walking);
- water bottles;
- plastic bottles filled with sand (sand is about 1.5 times heavier than water);
- bricks wrapped up in bubble wrap or towels;
- any other heavy and relatively small objects that you can find in your house.
- Position the weight. Try to position the weight as close and as high on your back as possible. If your weight is dangling near your lower back you will feel it hitting you in the back as you walk – not the most pleasant experience, trust me. Wrap your weight up, prop it up with some yoga blocks and make sure that you are comfortable.
- Go Ruck! If you find a particularly peaceful place during your walk – stop and do some Pilates. You will feel awesome!
Would you like to RUCK your Pilates practice?