This piece is meant to help prospective candidates prepare for SOF selection with their 12-mile rucksack march. And hopefully for those that followed it and conducted it, (it was a cold 40 degree, rainy morning here), followed our normal rucksack marching tips. Wearing the correct boots and socks, having the correct and comfortable clothes on with anti-chafing powder, packing your rucksack correctly and having the weight up high where it belongs. Now we’ll talk a bit about recovery.
Back in the day, when I was a young buck and going thru Special Forces training, recovery wasn’t something that we paid any attention to. At best, we’d drink water, eat and take a nap. As we got a little bit older, and our recovery time increased, we got a bit smarter about recovery, but the troops today have much better trainers and training staffs on hand and they’ll help the troops out in what is a very important part of fitness.
We preach here that there are “no days off” and we have to be ready to go back at it first thing in the morning. So now recovery is even more important… and then the nap will feel even better. As we mentioned above, it was cold and rainy here, and that cold and damp plays hell on arthritic joints, but it will put a damper on just about everyone as it tends to take a bit longer to get your speed and pace going. However, it does help with not overheating. Although wearing a lightweight rain jacket this morning, it was almost halfway unzipped allowing plenty of that cool air to stop overheating from occurring.
Rucking, in general, will put some strain on your joints, your knees, back, ankles. But rucking over a longer distance like a 12 or 20 miler increases that stress on your joints and these techniques will help speed your recovery time.
Feed the Beast:
While you should be drinking water throughout the ruck march, and with our Camelbak system we were doing just that, you need to eat soon after finishing. Everyone is different and your body may not react well to food or different things going into it so soon after exercise.
As soon as possible, preferably less than 30 minutes from completion of the ruck, down a protein shake. My trainer tells me that your body is depleted and hungry for nutrients to replace what was burned up during the three hours or less of the ruck march. By introducing a protein shake it stops your body from introducing cortisol into your system.
After that, eating a meal, if your body allows it is preferred. I’m always ravenous after a long ruck march. But everyone is different.
Ice Bath or Cold Tub:
While some recommend that you jump right into a cold tub as soon as the ruck march is over if you are like me, you have to shower first. I hate getting into a tub, hot or cold without having a shower. On Saturday, I bought three bags of ice from the liquor store and as soon as the shower was done, I filled the tub with cold water and dumped the bags of ice in there.
My bulldog has been conditioned to know that when the bathtub is getting filled it is HER bath time. So, with all the subtlety that bullies are known for, she burst into the bathroom using her head to push open the door and was contemplating diving in on top of me until she noticed the ice. Sticking her snout in for a second, with a quick shake of her head, she nixed that idea and promptly padded out…Bitch didn’t even close the door.
However, all it takes is about 10-20 minutes of the ice bath to reduce any inflammation in your muscles and helps ease those sore shoulders, hips, and knees from rucking. I did save two cubes for a medicinal glass of Single Barrel Jack …although that part isn’t what the docs would call smart. Ah well.
Foam Roller and Lacrosse Ball Time:
One of the best things my trainer ever introduced me to was the foam roller and a lacrosse ball. I was never a believer in either until I tried them and they help immensely. They help to get everything back in line after the strain of the rucksack compressing your lower back, hips, and shoulders.
I start with the lacrosse ball under my lower back and do some slow crunches and sit-ups. Eventually, I move the lacrosse ball up between my shoulder blades and during the sit-up motion, I extend my arms out, that will stretch out the shoulders.
The foam roller works wonders at getting your lower back, rib cage area and upper back/shoulders stretched back out and feeling like everything is back to where it needs to be. All of the compression of the ruck march is erased in just a few short minutes.
Stretching It All Out:
The last thing we do is a nice, slow stretch which really helps out after a long-range movement. Most people, myself included, feel shoulder fatigue, or sagging after a ruck. That is completely normal and once you get in Special Operations and begin carrying those ridiculous amounts of “light-weight” gear, you will too.
I begin with a shoulder shrug/stretch. Stand up straight pull your shoulders back and rotate them up and down. That will help loosen them up after being pulled down with the weight of the rucksack. And then open your arms wide, almost like a Predator pose and stretch your shoulders out wide. Keep your chest up and pull your shoulders back.
I then do some standing calf stretches and then finish it off with glute and hip stretches that always feel like they get everything back in line.
These are the things I wished I did back in the day, it may have helped many of the aches and pains I suffer from today. But they will definitely aid in speeding your recovery times. Remember that while in the Selection course, your recovery/downtime is liable to be much shorter if not almost non-existent.
But this will help you in your quest to get prepared for the rigors of the Selection course that will follow. And soon after the long ruck marches, you’ll be ready to go do it all over again. Now, I’ll finish this and head over to the easy chair and ice my aching knees. Whoever said, aging gracefully is a given? DOL, Happy Rucking.
Photo: US Army