GO RUCK training

GORUCK Training and Tough Mudder Training

GORUCK Training and Tough Mudder Training

The two most common online clients that Jon Pope and I coach are men going into special operations selection training and those getting ready for adventure races like GORUCK, Tough Mudder or the Death Race.

Most of my adult life has been dedicated to the special operations world. The training philosophies and methods I use now all tie back into that somehow. The convenient thing is that this focus on SOF training carries over easily into the realm of adventure races. Although the programming is different, there are underlying similarities in terms of work capacity, movement quality and endurance.

Over the past few years we’ve had a large number of people, either training through online programs or at our gyms, compete in adventure races and they tend perform near the top of the pack.

What so few people understand about preparing for these events is that doing it well is much, much more than just running a whole bunch every week and doing some random workouts in the gym. It’s about a logical progression of energy system development built on a foundation of movement quality.


Our adventure race training is based on a block periodization model. This means that each phase of training focuses on a particular aspect of the body’s energy systems in order to maximally develop each one in turn and do so in an order that allows them to complement, rather than compete with one another.

Movement quality

Movement quality is the foundation of all of our training programs. In a six-month training cycle you’ll do thousands of reps and hours upon hours of training. Those reps will accumulate and engrain movement patterns that can either take you incrementally closer to injury and more inefficient movement or they can sharpen the edge of your performance day after day.

Building work capacity on top of poor quality movement is a maddeningly common and woefully short-sighted practice throughout much of the fitness industry. What’s the point of seeing consistent improvements in your times and body composition for a few months if you end up with an injury afterward that will haunt you for years?

The art of coaching lies largely in correcting movement issues while getting the desired training effect at the same time.

Progression (skip this if you don’t care about the how of training)

The basic progression that we follow with adventure athletes is an aerobic base phase of anywhere from 4-10 weeks depending on your needs. This phase will include concurrent focus on maximal strength develop and alactic (non lactic acid producing) work capacity development. In other words, you get really strong and powerful while correcting imbalances and building the necessary aerobic base to make it through your race easily.

This work will be done with an eye towards movement quality and since it’s in the early phase of the program the athlete may not have the initial ability to put in running miles without exacerbating movement issues and working towards an injury. In this case we find a way to build the systemic aerobic development affect we’re after while improving or at least not worsening the athlete’s movement issues. So, rather than running, we may find that they can do well by swimming or putting in time on the rower, road bike or on implements like airdynes and ski ergs.

Further into the program, once movement quality has been improved sufficiently, the athlete will be returned to running base miles for specific local muscular adaptations in that pattern.

As we move through the aerobic base phase we begin moving further to the right in intensity and begin developing capacity and power just below the lactate threshold.

Finally we move into the lactic phase of the program, which is typically about half the length of the aerobic/alactic phase. These are the shorter, intense, lactic acid riddled workouts that most people focus on almost exclusively because they assume that whatever hurts the most is the best for you.

Here, the athlete’s large aerobic base and local muscular endurance will increase the ceiling of potential development of the lactate system. The well-developed aerobic system will drive efficient recovery of the lactate system and the athlete will be able to do more work at a lower heart rate than before and recover faster between intense glycolytic (lactate producing) intervals. In order to maintain aerobic adaptations, this phase will typically include a small number of occasional low-threshold aerobic sessions.

The final phase is the realization or peaking phase. This is where everything comes together, new records are set and competitions are undertaken.

What the hell did all that mean? (resume reading if you skipped the section above)

The simple version of that whole section above is that we have a systematic approach to getting our clients strong, healthy, and fitter than they have ever been before.  Every program is built around the client’s individual needs and schedule.  Only have 5 hours a week? We’ll build you the best program possible for the time you have.

Think this sounds too advanced for you? It’s not.  The fact is that you could probably just go goof off in the gym and run on the weekends and make it through a Tough Mudder or GORUCK, but you won’t crush it.  You’ll be another person in the herd, struggling to make it through and wondering why your knees and back hurt. If you want to step it up this year and train with a purpose we are the place for you.

The Results

We frequently get emails like this:

I did another GORUCK Challenge Friday night from 8pm – 8am, and I killed it. So thank you. It’s really great to see all the little (and big) things you’ve been having me do pay off.

My hips feel great and my knees didn’t/don’t hurt at all. I’m a little beat up in the shoulders from the heavy ruck, just under 50 pounds for 12 hours, about 18 miles, but I feel really good. I was a beast doing buddy carries, hundreds of yards of walking lunges, and even carrying 2 – 3 rucks at once along with a couch, sandbags, cinder blocks, and a log that we found along the way. I am way less sore than I was last time too.

I can’t wait for the next one where I will be even stronger for it. Thank you for everything up to this point, and also for what is to come in the next few months I have training with you. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time.

…and this:

Team Death Race this weekend. I finished it in 25 hours.

We started at 4am Sat morning at the bottom of Killington Resort to get a 4 hour head start.

We had to carry two 75lb sandbag tubes, a level, shovel, axe plus food/water. About 80/85lbs total throughout the course. It. Was. Fucking. Hell. Going uphill was a bitch. My team (3 people) would rotate the non-sandbag pack around so at least one person would get a break from the sandbag pack. Legs were good. We finished it in 16 hours. Had to slow down on the last mile down since it was off trail and really muddy and slippery. It started raining like hell.

After a brief clean up/fuel up, we went back to Pittsfield sans sandbags to do some log work – chopping, moving logs around. We did Lego Memory challenge. Then we hiked up to Joe’s cabin on a mountain. Joe is one of the founders for the Death Race. We had to haul two rocks up there when we got to the top. This is where we were told that we were done with the Team Death Race at 5:15am.

Here’s my skull.

Here is another email that a client of ours sent to a colleague of his who was interested in training with us that he sent our way afterward:

During my time with training with Jon and Craig I have prepared for various events such as running a marathon, doing a Tough Mudder, and attending a Gym Jones Seminar and my performances always exceeded my expectations. Along the way I also hit several personal goals like a 440# deadlift and learned how to stay healthy while training with very focused intensity. I’m not sure what your goals are, but it doesn’t matter if you want to hit a PR on an overhead squat, complete your first half marathon or correct imbalances in your body these guys can help. 

If you’re getting ready for an adventure race and want to excel instead of just finishing, come into one of our gyms in Watertown, Spearfish or Denver or email [email protected]


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