Athlete spotlight

This past weekend a Rugged Athlete client tested her fitness at a 12-hour Tough Mudder race up in Minnesota. Lara Baker has been training with Rugged Athlete this year with the goal to complete in the World’s Toughest Mudder held in November near Atlanta, GA

Lara completed a total of 6 laps (almost 7) on the 5 mile course in MN for a total of 30 miles and nearly 100 obstacles. The 30 miles placed her first in her category. A great start to the season and some valuable data recorded. We will now focus her training more on running efficiency as well as grip strength as she prepares for another Tough Mudder event in late August.


Mountain Man Memorial March (MMMM)

The Mountain Man Memorial March is held each year in Gatlinburg, TN; a small town that is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. I had first heard of this event when searching ruck event on the internet. I found out that this event was founded in 2007 by the University of Tennessee Army ROTC program to honor one of their fellow classmates who had been killed in Iraq earlier that year.

The MMMM has grown every year since, attracting other ROTC cadets, along with active duty military, reservists, veterans of all services, and many civilians.

There are two options to choose from, the Heavy and Light. The Heavy requires you to carry 35# plus food and water and you can choose either the 13.1 mile course or 26.2 mile course. The Light doesn’t require you to carry any weight and you can choose either the 13.1 or 26.2 mile course. I chose to do the Heavy full 26.2 mile course.

You have the option when registering to sign up as a Team of 5 or as an individual. I tried to recruit some friends here in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas who I knew were strong ruckers (2 of which will also be doing GORUCK Selection this year) and a few former military guys. I just couldn’t get them to commit so I ended up registering as an individual.

This was a priority event for me because I wanted to log lots of rucking miles early in the year to build a strong aerobic base specific to the demands of GORUCK Selection. Plus I was excited about exploring the Gatlinburg, TN area as it looked like the route would weave through town and nearby foothills of the Great Smoky Mtns.

Looking at previous results, and knowing the pace I was training at, I was figuring to finish around 5 hrs 30 min. This would place me in the Top 5 for sure.

The race started at 9am and the temps were pretty moderate, but the forecast was to see temps get up into the 80’s. I chose to wear the attire I plan to wear in Selection (pants, t-shirt and boots) and was a little worried I would struggle with the heat in the later miles.


Right from the gun Teams and individuals began to ruck/run. I stuck to my plan and would ruck/run for 2 min and fast march for 1-2 min. The whole time I also wanted to keep my HR below my Lactate Threshold if I could (the exception being the steep hill at mile 12). Looking at the profile that was given out during check-in, there didn’t appear to be many “hills” along the full 26.2 mile course, but I remember talking to several people who had done this in the past and they all said it was hilly.


Well the course profile was definitely inaccurate because the course was MUCH hillier than what it showed. It was relatively flat to rolling the first 11.5 miles. The from mile 12 - 18 there were many steep hills that prevented any sort of ruck/running.


By mile 12 I was near the front of both the Teams and individuals. I had just passed the leading military Team of 5 and one of them said that there were 2 individuals ahead of me. With all the hills I knew I could gain ground on them because I know my strength on hills. I caught one other individual around mile 16 and he said that there were still two ahead of us.


I continued with my pace of 2 min ruck/run (8:30/min pace) and 2 min fast march (13:15/min pace) and felt good as far as energy. I was wearing the GORUCK MACV-1 boots and feet felt great. It was around mile 22 that I could see the two leading individuals ahead of me. There was a slight uphill for 1.5 miles and then slightly downhill the rest of the race to the finish.

I feet started to get a hot spot on the ball of my feet as I crested the top of the light uphill. I gained time on the two leaders but I knew I had to stop and make a slight adjustment in one of boots. I quickly adjusted my sock and it seemed to help a little but the “burning” feeling came back. I could no longer maintain a 2 min ruck/run and was now reduced to only 30 sec of ruck/running. It felt as if someone was lighting a match under my feet.

I was only 1.5 miles from the finish and I was doing everything I could to block out the pain I was feeling. I finally caught one of the two leaders and it looked like he was hurting just as bad as I was because I cruised past him. I caught the leader with only 1/2 mile to go. I found out that he was the military division individual leader and I was the civilian individual leader. We chatted for a few seconds and with only a 1/4 mile to go we both did everything we could to ruck/run to the finish. He crossed the line with a time of 5:12:07 and I was shortly behind at 5:12:38.


It was an honor to compete with all these amazing men and women and especially to have the chance to talk with many military individuals and Teams along the way. I even heard some pretty damn funny military songs being sung by a few military Teams.

I would highly recommend this event to anyone who likes a challenge and wants to be a part of something special.

Sponsors for the HURT

I am very excited to announce the sponsors that have taken an interest in the Hilly Urban Ruck Race Tennessee (aka: HURT) for 2019 to help make this a unique experience for everyone involved. This event is going to be one for the records and truly an epic race.

Not only will racers be rewarded with an unforgettable course (14 mile, ~2,000 ft of elevation gain), but everyone will be going home with some cool swag and possibly even some very sweet gear.

Here is the list of sponsors who will be supporting the HURT:

  1. CW Armor - They have supplied us with a Tactical Carrier Vest and Plate (15lbs) and are level 4 armor rated to stop 7.62x39, a fee Condor hats and a few long-sleeve tactical shirts.

  2. GORUCK - The company that brought rucking to the masses and made patches a lucrative item. They have stepped up and have donated a Rucker, a rucksack suitable for carrying 20 and 30lb weight plates.

  3. Mad Hatter Massage and Wellness - What’s better than pushing your body to physical limits in a race? getting a massage afterwards to help speed recovery. Well Mattie (owner) has reached out to offer here expertise and has offered to not only give min-massages to those who would like immediately after the event, but FREE massages as well. That’s right, 60-min and 30-min massages will be won in this event.

  4. Heaven and Ale Brewing Co. - One of the premier breweries in Chattanooga has offered to refuel participants afterwards with one of their many craft beer selections. There will be a “post-event social” from 3-5pm so that all racers can share in the glory of their accomplishment and enjoy a toast together.

  5. Red Bull - The king of all energy drinks! If you need that burst of energy before, or simply to wake yourself up after, Red Bull will have everyone taken care of. They have provided various flavors , including the original, sugar-free, the yellow edition, the coconut edition, pear edition and peach edition.

  6. Moon Pie - Chattanooga Bakery has been serving Chattanooga for over 100 years of this delicious treat. We are happy to provide all racers with a MoonPie, the perfect combination of marshmallow, graham and chocolate.

  7. Chattanooga Area Food Bank - This event is all about helping to feed the hungry in our area. We have partnered with the Food Bank to encourage all racers to bring as much non-perishable items as they can; barrels will be on hand to collect all food items.

Upcoming Ruck Events

We are excited to announce that we will be hosting several new Ruck events this year, in addition to the Chattanooga Brew Ruck Challenge that will happen once again this winter.

To kick off spring, the Hilly Urban Ruck Race of Tennessee (HURT) will test participants’ lower body strength and cardiovascular endurance. The course will cover 14 miles of hilly terrain, combining pavement and trails, around scenic north Chattanooga. Everyone is required to carry 25lbs.

Shortly after the HURT will be the Beer Ruck 5k in May. This is going to be an all-out fun fest. Combining 3 things all Chattanoogan’s and many others enjoy; Beer, Rucking, and Running. There will be 3 beers each participant will have to drink, all while wearing a weighted rucksack/backpack/weighted vest, and covering just over 3 miles in distance. Final details are still in the works.

During the late summer the Scenic City Night Ops will challenge teams to tactfully work together to complete the event. Starting after sunset, it will require the ability to find certain images, perform specific tasks, taking photos with local Law Enforcement, etc. All Teams (2-4 people) will be required to carry weight in the form of rucksack/backpack or weighted vest. Men will be required to carry 20lbs, and women 10lbs.

Then our final event of 2019 will be the Chattanooga Brew Ruck Challenge, either late November or early December. It was such as huge success last year (it’s first) that we are going to make this year even better. @BeerMoney is already talking trash about repeating as champions again. We’ll have a new start and finish location this year and a few new breweries added.

So mark your calendars and keep an eye out for event details as they become available. Look forward to seeing many familiar and new faces.

FREE - New Year's Ruck-olution Workout

Question: What is better than starting the New Year off attacking those resolutions (or in this case ruck-olutions) immediately?

Answer: Taking part in Rugged Athlete’s New Year’s Day Ruck-olution that’s what!

This will be our first ruck-oulution event and plan to put in on the calendar every New Year’s Day.


The workout will be held at Baylor School on the main football field. We’ll have lots of open space on the field for the strength exercises and will also use the grounds of Baylor for the rucking portions.

We’ll have a whiteboard with the workout posted so it’s visible to everyone and you’ll be able to do the workout at your own pace; you choose to do as little or all of the workout (hopefully the latter). There will be several pieces of equipment (sandbags, kettlebells, and TRX) with various weights so that everyone will be challenged regardless of fitness level.

After completing a warm up, there will be a total of 7 parts to the workout and three options for the rucking distance. You can expect the full workout (all 7 parts + max rucking distance) to take close to 3 hours.

Regardless of which options you choose the workout will commence at 1:30pm. We’ll then go grab a cold beer and celebrate a toast to the New Year at Heaven and Ale Brewing.

Recovery Ideas to Improve Performance


This may not be something you haven’t already heard, but I strongly believe that it needs to be addressed often…rest will improve your performance.

What this statement is referring to, is the fact that your body will have the ability to repair any damaged tissues from the actual training stress, and continue to get stronger, faster, etc. Too often we don’t allow our bodies enough time to “recover” and as a result plateau in our progression, or worse, end up getting sick/injured.

This article will shed some light as to how you can improve performance by adding in a few simple recovery ideas.

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  1. Sleep - this is the king of recovery. By getting efficient sleep our bodies and mind can function at its best. Taking a 20-30 min nap during the day, or adding an extra 30-60 min of sleep each night can make significant improvements to health and performance.

  2. Foam Roll/Massage - muscles that are continuously worked and stressed need attention. Using a foam roll everyday for 5-10 min can increase blood flow keeping muscles elastic and less knotted up. Work the quads, calves, mid back, and IT- Bands everyday.

  3. Stretch - Static stretching is most beneficial after a workout while the muscles are warm. Hold a stretch for 30-40 sec and repeat 2-3 times. Conversely, dynamic stretching is well suited prior to exercising; this will help increase body temperature, increase elasticity in muscles and increase the HR. This type of stretching involves moving through a movement (ie: lunge with a twist, downward dog/upward dog, or arm circles).

  4. Cross-train - If you are a runner, going out for an easy bike ride can be helpful to let certain muscles rest while still being active using other muscles. This can also help with one’s mental fitness as well. The key to cross training is to keep the intensity low so as to increase blood flow but not exert stress, remember this is to help “recover” not “train”.

When in doubt of training too much, always error on the lesser side and take a day off. Too often we thing we can't miss a day or our performance will dip. Quite the opposite it true, doing too much training will cause your performance to dip.

Focus on quality workouts and allow enough rest. The best advice I ever received from one of my cycling coaches was “train hard and rest harder”.

Test Your Mental Fitness

I want to share a workout that I think will test most athletes’ mental fitness as much as their physical fitness. These are the types of workouts I have been programming more and more of because I find that these not only help to improve fitness but ones work-ethic.

As a society we have gotten a little softer with how easily available everything is. Technology has improved how quickly we can get things done, but it’s also made us less tolerable.

In the fitness arena, I see athlete’s cut their workouts short all the time…skip a set here or there, do a few less reps than prescribed…not thinking about the consequences this can have in life. Fitness, in my opinion, is a way to truly gauge a person’s character.

By skipping those sets or extra reps, you are not only sabotaging your training, but you are telling yourself it’s ok to quit. I’ve been in races where guys I know would DNF (did not finish) if they didn’t have a chance to make the podium. To me that means they quit. And these are good guys but their character was questioned at the time they decided to quit the race and call it a day.

I respect someone who isn’t the fastest or strongest athlete, but doesn’t take anything for granted, doesn’t make excuses, just keeps grinding away. Some athletes know even before they start that they are going to quit, they are just looking for an excuse.

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Here’s a workout to test YOUR mental fitness. You’ll probably want to quit or skip a few reps/sets, the question is will you?

Warm up:

10 min Sandbag Get Ups 60/80#


1) 10 Sets

4x Sandbag Push Press 60/80#

4x Sandbag Front Squats 60/80#

8x KB Swings 35/53#

2) 8 Sets

10x Step Ups @18” e/s

10x Pushups

10x Russian Twists e/s 25#

5x Pullups

3) 1 Set

10 min Sandbag Get Ups 60/80#

In-Season Strength Training for Cyclists

Whether you are a competitive cyclist or just like to stay healthy and ride your bike, strength training should be a regular part of your summer exercise program.   Cycling is a repetitive sport; moving certain muscles in the same movement pattern over and over, sometimes for many hours.  What happens is that those specific muscles get stronger but everything else gets tight or weaker (including your bones).  


In order to stay healthy and strong for the duration of the season (April – October) you should incorporate one strength training day a week to maintain, or even improve, strength gained during the off-season.

Years ago, strength training during the off-season for cyclists was not thought of.   For many, the off-season is a time to ride your bike at a low intensity for many hours and build the aerobic engine.  Some are fortunate enough to do this in a warm climate, while others in the northern hemisphere aren’t as fortunate.  Recent research has shown, however, that there are benefits of strength training for cyclists; pushing a bigger gear, having less injuries during the season, and preventing burnout.  

Newer pieces of fitness equipment make it easier to train the aerobic system and build strength without fatiguing the body or reducing on-bike performance during the peak racing/riding season.  Equipment such as TRX and Kettlebells are great because they can be used as bilateral (both sides of body moving together, or unilateral (one side of the body at a time) during training

Strength workouts during the season should be secondary to on-bike training.  So especially on high intensity training rides, perform the strength workout after the ride.  This can be immediately or a few hours after.

If you keep a training log, (and you should) remember to count the strength workouts as training hours when factoring in your recovery days.

Here are 5 exercises to keep you strong for the duration of the summer cycling season.

1.       TRX Sprinter Start

Start with straps positioned under each armpit.  Keeping your chest up, lean forward and move one leg into a reverse lunge.  Begin by bringing the back leg forward and lifting the knee up in the air.  To build power for pedaling, add a little hop forward and backward before each time moving the  back leg into reverse lunge. 

*Repeat 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps per leg


2.       ½ Kneeling Straight-Arm Pulldowns with Ropes

For this exercises you will need two rope attachments for the cable machine.  Begin in a ½ kneeling

position (one knee up in front and the other on ground behind) and grab the ropes handles.  Keeping your torso tall, pull the ropes down using your lat muscles while the arms remain straight.  Keep your core muscles engaged during the movement at all times and control the weight.  This is great for teaching you to keep your upper body relaxed on the bike and not shrug.

*Repeat 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps on each side


3.       KB Double Lunge (L/R)

Begin with one Kettlebell racked at shoulder level.  Your wrist should remain flexed, do not allow the wrist to fall back while holding he weight.  Keeping the weight at shoulder height, step forward into a lunge, and then immediately step back into a reverse lunge with the same leg.  The goal is to not step the feet together before moving into the reverse lunge.  This will challenge your balance and coordination and will make you more secure on the bike when riding in a pack.

*Repeat 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps on each leg


4.       Pushup with Knee Tucks and Abduction using Sliders

For this exercise you will need two Sliders (or a piece of paper works as well).  This is a great upper body exercise that can simulate riding out of the saddle while cranking on the handlebars.  Begin in pushup position with each foot on a slider.  Lower down and as soon as you begin to push back up slide one foot forward bringing your knee towards your chest.  Extend the leg back and then lower down again and this time bring the other knee forward, then lower down and bend both knees forward together at the same time, and finally with legs straight spread them apart and back together.  This series counts as 1 rep.

*Repeat 2-3 sets of 4-8 reps


5.       TRX Single Leg Hip Press

Lie on your backside and place one heel in the lower loop of a TRX Strap.  Bend knees to about 90 degrees.  Push your foot in the strap down as you lift your hips at the same time.  Keep the foot that is not in the straps elevated as well.  This is great for working the hamstrings to “pull” on the pedals.


*Repeat 2-3 sets 8-12 reps on each leg

GORUCK "Tough" Training Prep #2- JULY 3rd

Rugged Athlete will be hosting another GORUCK training event on July 3rd to help prepare those who will be participating in the upcoming GORUCK Tough Challenge in Chattanooga on Aug 17th.

This workout is meant to challenge you physically and mentally.  

Loaded Carries5.jpg

This workout will begin at 6:00pm and will take place at Baylor School.  Your ruck will need to have the appropriate weight that will be required for the event (20 or 30lbs) and it's recommended that you pack what you plan to bring to the event.  

Come join us for a fun, challenging workout and show up to the event in August prepared for anything your cadre throws at you.

When:   6pm Friday July 3rd

Where:  Baylor School (enter at Raider Ln off Signal Mtn Blvd) - park on the right just past the gate by the soccer fields.

Cost:     FREE

Please contact us and let us know if you plan to attend...

Stay Rugged!

GORUCK "Tough" Training Prep

On July 21st, Rugged Athlete will be hosting a FREE 4-hour training camp to prepare those who will (as well as those who won't) be participating in the GORUCK Tough Chattanooga event on August 17th.  Those who plan to do the Light are also encouraged to come out as the workout will be slightly scaled back.  

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This event will take place at 7am beginning at Coolidge Park in the North Shore area.   The workout will involve rucking and strength-based exercises using your ruck and sandbags, and this will definitely challenge everyone.. 

This is not meant to be a beat down (there will not be a cadre yelling at you) but rather a way to uncover your weaknesses and expose areas that need to be improved.  It's also meant to be a perfect workout to try out the gear/clothing/nutrition, etc you will be using during the event.  If something doesn't work right, this is the time to find that our, not during the event.

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The 4-hour time frame allows just enough time to test your physical and mental capacity and determine if you maintained your nutrition throughout as needed.   Fueling during this workout (as well as in the GORUCK event) will be important.

Come join Rugged Athlete and others on July 21st at 7am and see if you have the strength, stamina, and grit to complete this workout.  


Brute Force Sandbag Mile

Hey everyone, we will be participating in Brute Force's Sandbag Mile this coming Saturday, July 7th at 9am.  


This workout is part of their #ROCKTHESOCKS FOR CHARITY SERIES, their annual giveback campaign. It's meant to be an event that any and all can participate in as a community, so we care asking all of you to come join us and have some fun .

We will be providing the sandbags, so all you have to do is show up ready to throw down.

The format for this workout is simple on paper; complete 1-mile as fast as you can with several "mini events" mixed in.  We all know that it won;t be simple to complete.  In short, expect short intervals of running with lots of sandbag exercise reps to be performed within the mile.  

We will be doing this at Baylor School (located off Signal Mountain Blvd).  Take the entrance just past the car wash next to the RaceWay gas station.  The road will curve and go back into the campus.  Continue straight, going over a few speed bumps, then veer to the left at the "Y" and continue back to the parking lot by the baseball field.  We will use the grass field next to the baseball field along the river.


AAR from GORUCK 50-mile Star Course

Here is a recap of this past weekends GORUCK Star Course 50-Miler event held in Washington, DC. 

I teamed up with Travis Kazmierzak to embark on something neither of us had done, ruck 50 miles.  I have an extensive background in ultra-endurance MTB events (100 mile, 12-hr, 24 hr, and multi-stage races), however, Travis has never competed in any endurance event.  He does have a military background serving in the Army so I knew this would seem appealing to him.  

We left Thursday afternoon and spent the night at my relatives house in Maryland (approx. 1 hr away from the start venue). We arrived in D.C on Friday afternoon after picking up Travis' wife Nicole at the airport and since Thursday is had been raining non-stop. 

Looking at the forecast there was no clearing in sight, so we knew (along with everyone else) that we would be soaking wet from start to finish.  People were posting not to wear running shoes, but we were going to stick to our plan and go with running shoes so that we could jog every 5 min.

The event started at 9pm on Friday night, and around 6:45pm everyone began showing up to check-in and pick up the American Flag wristband.  There was a team meeting at 8pm in which we would receive our briefing from B.D, a map, and the "Hit List" of checkpoints to navigate to.  

Nicole was going to volunteer at one of the First Aid Stations between 12-5am (at least that was the plan).  We got one last quick selfie and then we headed over to the underpass for the final few words from Jason.

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With the use of a megaphone, Jason began shouting "GO" and having all of us shout "RUCK".  This went on for a few minutes.  The mixing in the words "RUNNING" shouted by Jason and "SUCKS" by all of us.  Then it was back to "GO"  "RUCK", and then B.D gave the official start by blowing a horn three times.   

We started training for this event 10 week ago and it was finally here.  For the first 2 miles we kept it chill to let the adrenaline settle in and help loosen up some of the joints.  We didn't warm up too much with the exception of some dynamic stretches, lunges, pushups, karaoke and some ankle circles.   

There were a few teams that started running right from the start, and we would find out that one Team of 3 ran most of the 50 miles.  They went as minimal as they needed, not carrying much more than the required 20lbs of dry weight.  Apparently they were using this as a training event for their upcoming 200 mile race...badass! 

The route started off on a paved trail, similar to most Riverwalk paths.  After 2 miles my plan was to have us walk at a 14:30 min/mile pace and then jog every 5 min.  We practiced this during the last 4 weeks of our training and felt confident we could manage this for the majority of this event. 

We began to pass several teams around mile 3, some already have some feet issues, others taking some layers of clothing off.  We kept up this pattern and noticed another team doing something similar, walking for 15 min and jogging for 5 min.  We played yo-yo with them for a while.  We got into  good rhythm and things were going as planned. 

Around mile 7ish the trail came to an end and we noticed there were a few other teams looking confused about where the trail was.  A few minutes later I asked a man walking on the streets and he said we had to go around a few streets and we could pick the trail back up.  Cool, all of us (roughly 10 of us) started heading over to what we thought would be the trail.  Once we got there it was a different trail and not the one "we thought" we should be on...following me still? 

you can see from my Polar upload where we got off course.  This is only the first 20 ish miles and was the out and back portion of the 50"+"miles  

you can see from my Polar upload where we got off course.  This is only the first 20 ish miles and was the out and back portion of the 50"+"miles  

So Travis called Nicole and asked her to see where we were as she could pull it up on a computer from the house we were renting for the weekend.  She told him that we were in Bethesda, MD and way off the "trail" we should be on.  After a few minutes of navigating a route to get us back on route we were off, and now on a mission to make up ground we had lost.  We continued our 5 minute fast walk and 30 sec jog, while those who were with us decided to stay with us.  In retrospect, having several of us together helped make this less frustrating.

After several miles of rucking through urban neighborhoods and a few busy highways we were connected back to the trail we should have been on.  We had a few miles to go to reach the first of many checkpoints (in which we had to take a selfie of each member of the team to prove that we were there).

Now keep in mind, this entire time it has been raining, some times lightly and other times very hard, but honestly I don't even remember it raining during the time we got off trail until we got back on.  

We finally reached the first checkpoint, Lockhouse 11 (officially checkpoint #2 as the start location was considered #1).  It was pouring rain and trying to use a phone in the rain is not easy, especially when trying to take a selfie, at night, with your headlamp on.  Good Livin'!

     can you tell we are happy.

     can you tell we are happy.

Our next checkpoint would be the turnaround marking the 1/2 way point on this trail.  We were told it would be 16 miles out and 16 back.  We were already at close to 12 miles (over 3.5 miles more than we should have).  

We lost a few teams that were not able to keep the pace while another team of two kept with us. We began to pass several teams on the trail (ones who didn't miss the turn we did), and a few miles further the Team of 3 that was running was already heading on their way back.  They were setting a blistering pace as the next team behind them was several miles back.  

At about mile 19, Travis said he wouldn't be able to keep up the 30 sec jog every 5 min, so we nixed the jog but continued to keep a 14:30 min/mile pace.  We finally reached the turnaround point, Checkpoint #3, and refilled our hydration bladders and took our selfie of Swain's Lock.  It was still pouring rain at this time

still happy, but Travis' energy was starting to fade a little.

still happy, but Travis' energy was starting to fade a little.

I was using a product called Spiz, a powder that you mix with water and was designed to be a meal supplement for cancer patients.  I used this during my cycling career and helped me through many 100-mile, 12-hr, and 24-hr mountain bike events.  Travis was using only water along with some Lara Bars.

the fuel for ultra-endurance events!

the fuel for ultra-endurance events!

We began to head back and Travis had to pee every 5-10 minutes.  What I think he did was over hydrate with water (not getting enough electrolytes) and get the onset of hyponatremia.  This continued for several miles.  I figured there was no way he was going to make it at this pace, so we stopped at another First Aid Station so that I could give him some of the Spiz I had packed. 

Within 20 min he began to feel better and he wasn't having to pee as often anymore.  Our pace definitely slowed down significantly during that stretch, but the goal was to finish.  

He was going through some dark places and fighting with his inner demons. They make you say, "I'm tired", "I don't have the energy", etc.  I did my best to keep him focused on good things, like seeing Nicole soon, playing with his dogs, having a shot of whiskey (although that one didn't help).  

I was impressed by his effort.  He was experiencing some if the issues I had during my early ultra-endurance MTB races, so I knew how to help get him over that hurdle.  

After many more miles we began to slowly get closer to getting off this trail and the daylight was coming up.  We eventually realized where we had missed a turn; going down the stairs just before a bridge rather than going across the bridge.  We reached the Fletchers Cove Boathouse Aid Station and I had to change my shoes.  My feet had been really starting to hurt bad 5 miles back and I needed a change if anything. 

Rather than staying on the paved trail back to the start we took Nicole's advice and ventured out on the streets in pursuit of the Washington National Cathedral.  We hit some hills along the way (Travis' favorite) and saw several other teams heading to the same location.  Travis got a text from Nicole saying she had donuts and coffee waiting for us...for some reason our pace began to pick up again.

the daylight is hurting Dracula's eyes

the daylight is hurting Dracula's eyes

After a donut and a couple swigs of warm coffee (thank you Nicole) we were off to the Exorcist stairs.

have no fear, no exorcism here with Dracula near

have no fear, no exorcism here with Dracula near

Next we headed down to the river to hit the C&O Canal Mile Marker 0.  Wasn't quite sure what this was because it was hard to search for a mile marker, but the guys went easy on us as we were a little far from this one looking back at other teams photos. 

C&O Canal Mile Marker 0.jpg

Travis' energy level seemed to be getting a little better at this point and after taking some Ibuprofen my foot pain was temporarily gone.  

We had a bit of a distance between the next checkpoint, the Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial.  We had to cross the bridge over the Potomac River and the cross another bridge getting on/off the island. 

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With a little help from Nicole, we devised a plan to help save some time/distance on our next point on the Hit List, the Women in Military Service Monument.  Rather than following the paved path like most were doing, we hopped the small wall and crossed the freeway (thank Frogger) knocking off about 1/2 mile.

wrong turn 

wrong turn 

this wasn't planned and wasn't meant in any way to disrespect the women in the military.  I think our tongues were just dry.

this wasn't planned and wasn't meant in any way to disrespect the women in the military.  I think our tongues were just dry.

From here we hit the Lincoln, FDR, and Thomas Jefferson Memorials and I think we took some more Ibuprofen somewhere in between.







What comes next is what required some mental toughness.  We had about a 4 mile walk to this picnic area; long, flat, straight road just to see a damn picnic area.  This I'm sure was planned by GORUCK to add insult to injury. Now 4 miles may not seem like a long distance, but trust me it seemed like 14 miles at the time.  

if you even make it out to D.C, you have to see this, it's amazing, can't you tell

if you even make it out to D.C, you have to see this, it's amazing, can't you tell

You'll notice in Travis' expressions that we are wanting to get this over with.  The end is near, but every .5 mile or 2 mile stretch is taking between 18 - 40 minutes.  Because it is now Saturday afternoon, there are people and police everywhere, they must have looked at us like we were zombies (which we might as well have been considering what we just went through the last 15 hours).

Now making our way back the 2nd half of the out/back from the picnic area, Travis got a text from Nicole saying she wanted to join us for the final few checkpoints and add a bit of camaraderie, because at this point neither of us were in much of a talking mood.  

She met us at the WWII Monument, in my opinion one of the coolest attractions.  

              are we there yet?

              are we there yet?

Next we crossed the street and were at the Washington Monument, one of the most iconic sites in D.C.

     Are we there yet?

     Are we there yet?

Two stops left before heading to the finishing location.  First it was the Supreme Court building and then Trump's House.  More meandering through people, waiting at stop lights and street crossings.  It's insane the number of security and police around this city, but for good reason.



White House...we there yet?

White House...we there yet?

OK, that was the final of all the monuments/memorials checkpoints, now we just had to make it to the Balance Gym.  At this point we had just over 1 hour left to complete the 50 miles in under 20 miles.  

When we got to the gym, we had 6 flights of stairs left to climb to finish off what was truly a memorable 19 hours.  We weighed our ruck at the "official weigh-in, and B.D checked us in and told us we were only the 18th team to have finished at that point of the 180 teams that had started.  Mocha Mike greeted each of us with a handshake and a palm full of one GORUCK Star Course 50-mile patch.

the shirt says it all, Travis is now a Rugged Athlete. 

the shirt says it all, Travis is now a Rugged Athlete. 

The after-party was a chance to relish what had just happened, chat with some dudes/dudettes from other teams, and say thanks to Jason, Bomber, and the rest of the GORUCK team for putting on another great event.  

all that for a patch?  heck yeah!

all that for a patch?  heck yeah!

Team Rugged Athlete (Sloane, Nicole, Travis)

Team Rugged Athlete (Sloane, Nicole, Travis)

it's not abut the patch , it's about the process of getting the patch...but this patch is only earned.

it's not abut the patch , it's about the process of getting the patch...but this patch is only earned.

founder of GORUCK, Jason McCarthy,  embraced the suck along with the rest of us

founder of GORUCK, Jason McCarthy,  embraced the suck along with the rest of us

This Week's Challenge Of the Week (COW)

Legs! Legs! Legs!

If you want a straight forward, no bullshit, leg-burner, this one will answer your call.  It's a challenging sequence of five different exercises, all combined to make up one complex.

The goal of this challenge is to move from one exercise to the next without resting.  No need to rush, just keep a brisk effort throughout the entire complex.  Once all are completed then you'll take a 2 min recovery before repeating for a total of 5 sets.  This will test your leg strength, power, endurance, and coordination.

If you can manage all 5 sets, you will have completed a total of 500x reps for your leg muscles.

Here is COW Challenge #4:

Complete 5 total sets, one exercise after the other w/o rest.

20x Bodyweight Squats
20x Squat Jumps
20x Alternating Lunges (total)
20x Split Lunge Jumps (total)
20x Lateral Step Hop-Overs @16” Box/Step (total)                                ***2 min rest between sets***

This week's Challenge Of the Week (COW)

ABS-olutely Core!

The are many exercises that will make your muscles burn.  The question you have to ask yourself is, "will these exercises transfer over into real-world benefits.

The six movements listed below will target all components of the muscle groups that make up the "Core".  These will transfer into helping improve your athletic performance because they simulate certain requirements of most sports (stabilizing under load, rotation, and resistance).

This circuit does not have to be completed as fast as you can.  Just move through the exercises briskly and comfortably.  Try to limit rest between movements to 10-15 sec at most.  Once all are completed then allow 1 min to recover and stretch if needed.  

Can you make it through all without having to rest during each exercise, and during each set?  Don't worry, these are small muscles and fatigue pretty quickly.  Do your best and enjoy.

15x Barbell/AbWheel Rollouts
30x Med Ball Russian Twists (10/14lb)
30x Hanging Knee Raises
15x Back Extensions
30x Slow Mtn Climbers (total)
30x Sec. Plank 

Improve strength by avoiding these five mistakes

Here are 5 things to AVOID when strength training.  By avoiding these mistakes, you will be able to increase your strength, improve your performance in your sport/profession and take your fitness to new heights.

Mistake #1.  

Only training upper body

Don't get too focused on how you look in the mirror.  Having big arms and a broad chest may impress the girls and look good on the beach, but it won't do anything for your athletic performance.  Your largest muscles are in your legs (including the glutes and hamstrings), and the more you strengthen them the more hormones you release to help build strength and size in your entire body.  Your legs are what provides the foundation to any sport-specific movement.  

Mistake #2

Always working on your strengths

It's easy to work on things you are good at, but that won't make you a better athlete.  In order to improve you have to eliminate any weaknesses, and that means probably doing things you aren't familiar with or good at.  When was the last time you did Deadlifts?  This exercise is one of the best compound,movements (targeting several muscle groups) to help build strength.  

Mistake #3

Lifting weights too slowly in the gym 

If you always lift weights at the same speed you are missing a key component to improving your strength gains.  According to Mike Boyle, of Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning, "lifting weights with explosive speeds activates more fast-twitch muscle fibers, which have the greatest growth potential".  You don't always have to lift weights with an explosive speed but it should be incorporated in your periodization training.  

Mistake #4

Doing too much slow and steady running

Running too many slow miles is a repetitive movement and your body will adapt quickly and stop making progress.  I'm not a fan of running miles just to get the miles.  There needs to be a purpose to each run and for most athletes 3 days of running a week is sufficient.  Start incorporating some intervals (short bursts of intense activity) in place of your slow runs, or run steep hills instead of always running on flat terrain.  You can sequence your interval work many ways, for instance using a 1:1, 1:2, 1:4 or even a 2:1 ratio.  Using the 1:2 ratio, this means that you would run hard for a length of time (say 30 sec.) and follow that with twice the amount of recovery time (which in this case would be 1 min.).  According to a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, interval training leads to gains in aerobic and anaerobic performance that are significantly greater than with steady state cardio.

Mistake #5

Not incorporating rest into your weekly workouts

I haven't listed these in any particular order, but if I did this might be the number one mistake.  It’s easy to push ourselves hard in the gym, or spend hours conditioning to improve endurance, but the most under-rated area of improving strength and performance is NOT allowing for enough rest each week.   The training you do breaks the body down and makes micro-tears in muscle tissue; it’s when you rest that you build back up and with proper nutrition get stronger.  The goal of “rest” is to help the body regenerate and bounce back the next day.  

Rest doesn’t have to be lying on the couch and doing nothing (aka: passive rest), it can be something that still makes you feel as though you are still exercising but without the stress to the muscles or mind (aka: active rest).   Simple “active” rest ideas include yoga classes, foam rolling and stretching, going for a walk with your dog, or doing an activity different than the particular sport you are training for at a light intensity.

The best type of rest is sleep.  Aiming for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night will help speed recovery of sore muscles from hard training days and allow you to perform at your best day after day.  Taking a 20-30 min. nap during the day (if possible) is also a good option if you are not able to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night.  Aim for at least 1-2 rest days during your weekly training schedule.

So to sum things up, train full-body movements, spend some time on your weaknesses, vary the speed of your lifts throughout your training cycles, do more interval runs or hill repeats, and make sure to get enough rest.  Remember, if you are not incorporating rest days your not training.  And if you're not training, you are just working out.

Improve athletic performance by training "movements" rather than "muscles"

Everyday movements occur by using more than one muscle group at a time.  Think about the next time you open your car door and get in the car.  Muscles do not work in isolation, so why train that way.  The human body works to produce movement. 

Our bodies try to use as many muscles as possible to create action as effectively and efficiently as possible.  And for athletes, this translates to moving powerfully and quickly through several different planes of motion, so it’s critical to train movements rather than muscle groups.


Performing movement-based exercises enhances coordination and motor control (ie:  balance and stability).    Training muscle groups will lead to imbalances and deficiencies. 

There are three planes of motion: 

1) Sagittal (forward and backward movements) 

2) Frontal (side to side movements) 

3) Transverse (rotational movements) 

If an athlete neglects any of these then he/she will become deficient in that movement and it will lead to poorly developed firing patterns.  As a result, coordination will not be as good and the risk of injury can be much higher.

The only “sport” that will benefit from training muscle groups and see an improvement in performance is Bodybuilding.  Getting each muscle as pumped as possible to display on stage is the goal.  However, for a baseball/obstacle course/soccer/lacrosse player this concept will not make you a better athlete, nor will it make you more powerful.

When I build an exercise program for a client, rather than thinking about chest and back day, or legs and shoulder day, I think in terms of  ”Push” or “Pull” days, or a combination of both, and always include some rotational movements as well.  Emphasizing movements that utilize multiple joints (ie: squats) instead of single joint (ie: bicep curl) movements will lead to better athletic performance outside the gym.

Gordon Johansen running tires.jpg

Here are some movements, and examples of exercises, that should be incorporated into every strength workout if you want to improve your athletic performance.

 Upper Body Push

  • Alternating DB Bench Press
  • 1-Arm DB/KB Overhead Press

 Upper Body Pull

  • Chinups/Pullups
  • TRX Inverted Rows

 Lower Body Push

  • KB Goblet Squat
  • TRX Rear Foot Susended Lunge

 Lower Body Pull

  • Romanian Deadlift (aka: RDL) 
  • 1-Leg TRX Hamstring Curl


  • Med Ball Rotational Wall Slams
  • 1-Arm Cable Rotational Row

Training vs. Working Out

OK, so I guess I have your attention.  You are here because you want to find out how to get results in your fitness routine.  

So, what's the difference between "working out" and "training"? Working out means you probably don't have a plan or a goal, you just slapped together some exercises you found on the internet. Working out also means that you probably don't pay attention to your rest days and recovery between sets. Anytime I hear someone tell me they workout 7 days a week I know they are not "training". When you are "training" you carefully schedule rest days (both active - easy walk with your dog, and passive - complete rest days) and you go to the gym with a plan to reach a specific goal.


Training is about improving yourself everyday, focusing on specific exercises that will help you improve your performance and reach your goal.

Finding a good coach can also help you reach your goals and keep you accountable. If you are not doing the things you need to do to reach your goals, a coach can help keep you on path. I remember the biggest impact hiring a coach had with me. Everyday I would think what I needed to do but kept getting confused or frustrated thinking I wasn't doing enough. Then I would receive weekly training programs and I followed it to a T. All of a sudden I wasn't questioning what I was doing, I had the confidence in my coach to help me get to where I needed to be. I was no longer just working out, I was training with a purpose.

It's easy to get caught up in all of the latest and greatest workouts published in magazines or on YouTube. Take Men's Health for example. Every month they come out with a new workout that promises to get you ripped by summer. Sure they are good workouts (put together by good coaches), but are they helping YOU reach YOUR goal. Odds are that they are not. They don't know what your goal is.

One of the hardest things to do is stay consistent with the program. You can't change after a few weeks, or worse, quit. If you are working with a coach it should be simple, just follow the program written for you. yes it's that simple, just follow the program. If the training is geared towards your goal you WILL reach your goal.

Another important aspect of "training" is to keep a training log. This can be as simple as recording your sets, reps, and weights for each workout. A good progressive program will increase one of those every few weeks (if not every week). I also have some of my athletes track their sleep, bodyweight, mood, and willingness to train each day. Tracking your physical and mental progress will only help you further your career as an athlete. Tracking your progress is only useful, however, if you look back on it to make adjustments. Otherwise, you are just working out without knowing if what you are doing is working or not.

So now what? 

Stop working out, contact Rugged Athlete, and start training.  

Sample Upper/Lower Split Workout

Here at Rugged Athlete we like to offer "the most bang for buck" type of training.  What I mean is that time is limited for many and time is money for most.  We want to make sure when you train with us that you progress and improve physically and mentally.  We do not program random workouts, each workout will have a purpose.   

One such type of workout is an upper/lower split.  A combination of an upper body movement with a lower body movement.  This can be modified several ways but to keep it simple the one below is a upper push/lower pull split. 

What this means is that your upper body will be doing all "pushing" movements (ie: horizontal - pushups, or vertical - overhead press) and your lower body will be doing all "pulling" movements (ie: KB Swings, Deadlifts, RDL's, Hamstring Curls, etc)

Here is a sample workout:  

Farmer Carry.JPG

Warm Up:
2 Sets

4x KB Turkish Get Ups e/s 12kg

8x 2-Leg KB Deadlift 16kg

5x Pushups

10x BirdDogs

Instep Stretch



(1) 5 Sets

12x KB Swings 16/24kg

8x Pushups

**No rest between exercises, 30 sec between each set

(2) 3 Sets

6x 1-Arm KB Military Press e/s 12/16kg

6x 1-Leg KB RDL e/s 16/24kg

**No rest switching sides and no rest between exercises, then 60 sec rest between sets

(3) 3 Sets

12x KB Russian Twists e/s 16kg

45 sec 2-Arm KB Farmers Carry 24/32kg – (heavy as possible without having to rest during carry)

**No rest between exercises, 60-90 sec rest between sets


Sandbag GetUp Assessment Results

We recently completed our 6-week Sandbag Strength and Honor class that was held 3x a week (Tues, Thur, Sat).

get up assessment1.jpg

During week 1 and week 6 we had each athlete perform a 10-min Sandbag Getup Assessment following a warm up.  The weight of sandbags that we used were 40/60# (with the exception of one athlete who had no prior strength training in which she used only a 20# bag).  

During the Assessment the athletes could switch sides holding the bag at any point, and could rest if needed, however, the time continued to run.  

getup assessment2.jpg

Six athletes performed the Assessment during week 1 but only five were able to during week 6 as one athlete was not able to attend.

Here are the results:

Athlete                       Week 1             Week 6             Improvement

Julie     20#                   63x                  72x                   9x (14%)

Aaron   40#                   70x                 ------

Greg     40#                   67x                 74x                    7x (10%)

Jason    40#                   70x                  86x                   16x (23%)

Travis    60#                  51x                  57x                    6x (12%)

The average improvement was 9.5x more reps which equates to an average increase of 14.75%. 

All athletes reported that the test was NOT any easier in week 6 compared to week 1.