If you are looking to improve your rucking or want to train for a GORUCK event, there are a number of training programs available to help you meet your goals. There is one program in particular, The Team SPEARHEAD PATHFINDER Training Program, that I think is particularly unique and I’m lucky enough to have found it just in time to use it to train for my first GORUCK HCL.
The PATHFINDER Program is a 12-week ruck/PT training program that was designed to get you ready for GORUCK and similar type events. Like other training programs, you will do a lot of rucking and a lot of PT but here’s why PATHFINDER is unique:
1) Rather than holding you to a rigid schedule (i.e., ruck x miles Monday, do y workout on Tuesday, rest Wednesday, ruck X miles on Thursday, etc.), the PATHFINDER Program requires you to complete a given amount of work within 12 weeks. You can start light and increase the difficulty as you go along, work your training around the date of a specific event, fit it into a rigid MTWTF schedule, or just fit it in whenever you can. Being a working parent, a flexible program that I can fit into my busy schedule is way more doable than trying to bend my life around a rigid program. Life just gets in the way too much for that!
2) You have the support of program leaders and fellow participants. The program starts and ends on a specific date and during that period you are put into a Facebook Group along with everyone else doing the program. This provides an outlet for support, encouragement, questions and allows people training in the same geographic location to find each other and coordinate training events. Even if you end up rucking alone, you have a group of people with whom to share your experience.
3) Well thought out challenges with a purpose. In order to complete the PATHFINDER Program, you must complete a number of challenges. Examples of these challenges include a marathon ruck, a 10-mile partner ruck with 80 pounds of coupons and a 12-mile ruck in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. The challenges are difficult and designed to test you in different ways – to provide you with the experience of a long ruck where you may have to deal with issues such as foot care and mental stress, to get you used to rucking under a heavy burden or to test your ability to maintain a fast past over time, etc. By testing various elements through the challenges, you gain experience and knowledge and remove unknown elements from your upcoming events. You don’t worry about how you will handle rucking the distance of your upcoming Challenge because you already know. Confidence replaces uncertainty.
When I found the PATHFINDER Program, I was already preparing myself for the Normandy HCL and I had 13 weeks left. The timing couldn’t have been better with PATHFINDER Class 005 ending on May 31st and my HCL beginning on June 4th. I knew this would be a more fun and motivating way to finish off my training but I didn’t realize how valuable this program would be to me. PATHFINDER definitely helped me step up my game and deal with some remaining issues that I wanted to have under control for the HCL. This is what I go out the PATHFINDER Program:
1) I was able to toughen my feet, test my blister prevention strategy really well and remove my biggest concern about the HCL.
2) I got better at rucking. Way better! I remember those days when the 12-mile ruck, which is normally part of the Heavy PT test, was a giant suckfest. Now it’s insignificant. It’s physically no big deal, I can do it faster and it’s not a mental burden like it once was. Now it’s just a 12-mile ruck.
3) I got better at the PT that I’m worst at. I made myself pick the PT that is either the hardest for me physically or that I hate the most for the ruck workouts. If the PATHFINDER program didn’t require that I do 20 ruck workouts to complete the program, I’m sure I would have done less this way and continued on with just my normal CrossFit workouts instead.
4) I became mentally better prepared for the HCL. As my physical condition improved and I tested myself through the PATHFINDER challenges, I felt more ready for the HCL. I was more confident that I was going to thrive during the event and really enjoy my HCL experience rather than struggle to survive it.
5) I communed with nature. I did a lot of rucking, just me and my dog in the woods. Being on the trail gave me a chance to think about my life, things that I want to achieve, who I am, what I can improve on as a mother and as a person, etc. I feel that my path is clearer and that I know myself better from all that time out there rucking about and thinking.
6) I discovered how beautiful Maryland is. When I started rucking, I mostly stuck to the streets. It was getting boring, however, and I started seeking out trails to ruck. I ended up in places that I never knew existed that are right in my backyard, places that are unbelievably beautiful. The sheer volume of rucking that I did to hit the 200 rucking miles challenge encouraged me to find new routes and in doing so, opened my eyes to the beauty that I did not know surrounded me. I am very thankful for this!
One of the great things about this program is that it is customizable. Like I stated earlier, you can fit it into whatever format your schedule allows but in addition, you can mold the program to fit your goals. If you are training for a Heavy or an HCL, don’t mess around with a bunch of 3-mile rucks. You have to do longer rucks to get your feet ready to handle the distance. Do challenges back-to-back. Do the marathon ruck and then get up the next day and do another 10 miles to see how it feels to ruck on tired feet. If you hate bear crawls and burpees, put a lot of them into your ruck workouts. You’ll get better at mentally dealing with the stuff that makes you uncomfortable or unhappy. Think about your event, think about your weaknesses and your goals and use the program to set you up for success. Your course leaders and advisors are an invaluable resource and can help you figure this out, if needed.
Signing up for PATHFINDER is a lot like signing up for an HCL. You have to commit to completing it at the time you decide to sign up. You don’t sign up saying you are going to attempt it. You sign up saying that you are going to do it. You don’t let there be any other option. Your attitude and conviction when you take your first step will determine whether your last step will be the one where you cross the finish line.
The PATHFINDER Program is hard. The challenges are difficult and there is a lot of work to do in 12 weeks in order to complete it. It’s worth it. The PATHFINDER Program will prepare you for your event and in the end, you’ll probably find that you got quite a bit more out of it than you expected.
- Roster 5-046
About the Author
I have completed 38 GORUCK events including 3-GORUCK HCL's, and have done a variety of other endurance events including Ironman Maryland 140.6 two times. I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and health coach, scientist, minimalist, nature lover and single mom but on a more basic level, I'm just a woman in her 40's that likes to push her limits and write stuff sometimes. This blog is a way of sharing some of my experiences and insights.