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... ruggedathlete@gmail.com

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.  

go ruck.jpg

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.

selfie before start.jpg

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. 

Teddy Roosevelt Island Nat'l Monument.jpg

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.

Sandbag Get Ups

A great full-body exercise that trains both physical and mental toughness. An extremely transferable exercise requiring an athlete to go from a lying horizontal position to a standing vertical position while under load.  It also builds real world strength for the abs, legs and back and requiring coordination and agility to perform efficiently.

Anyone can benefit from doing this exercise, but can be especially beneficial to law enforcement and fire and rescue professionals, as well as wrestlers/MMA fighters due to all the ground work they perform.  You can vary the focus by going with a lighter bag and exploding up quickly each rep or go heavier and focus on simply getting up

I first learned of this exercise from Jordan at Atomic Athlete several years ago.  One of the challenges they were having their athletes attempt to complete was 100x reps in 10 minutes or less.  Now at first, this may not seem too difficult, that's an average of only 10x reps every minute.  However, the sandbag weight is where things get a little daunting.  The bag weight must be 80#. 

So not only do you get the benefit of stamina, you also get the benefit of strength-endurance.  After learning about why their athletes were doing it and the benefits of the exercise I had to try it for myself.  I was only able to get 67 reps using an 80# sandbag my first attempt, and the highest I have gotten so far is 88 reps.  I believe one of their athletes got up to 120 reps (which is insane). 

Sloane SB 9.jpg

It was one of the hardest fitness tests I have done that I can remember.  At the 5 minute mark I remember telling myself I wanted to quit. But I kept going, and for the next 5 minutes I've never felt so uncomfortable.

The weight of the bag really starts to add up, and I eventually learned that there is a trick to the placement of the bag.  The more weight of the bag you can position in front of your body the better and easier it will allow you to get off the ground to 1/2 kneeling and then to a standing position.  

Sloane SB 10.jpg

I like to put my athletes through this 10-minute Sandbag Get Up Assessment fairly early. This allows us to establish a baseline of their strength endurance. I will typically use 60# for men and 40# for women for most athletes, and 80/60# for my stronger/fitter athletes.  

We will vary the focus in training by sometimes using a lighter bag and exploding up quickly each rep or go heavier and focus on pure strength by simply getting up.

The lesson I learned from this single exercise was that getting up off the ground with heavy weight is not fun. And over the years of training and coaching, I know that some of the most beneficial exercises are the ones that are not "fun".

If you are up for the challenge, try to get 100x reps in 10 minutes using a 80# sandbag.  Send me a video if you do and I'll send you a FREE Rugged Athlete gift.

Small adjustments lead to greater gains

As a coach, we must look for the little things during training sessions to help our athletes improve.  The more cueing/instructing we can give our athletes; whether it's visual, audio, or both, the better they can begin to understand the proper mechanics of movements.

While teaching a class last night, I noticed two of my athletes were not getting the most out of their sandbag front squats.  Putting the load in front of the body forces the torso into flexion, so it's critical to have the supporting posterior muscles to maintain proper postural alignment. 

Both athletes have desk jobs and we know that they have tight hip flexors.  Both were having difficulty getting into a proper full squat position without their trunks collapsing forward.  By making a small adjustment to their ankle position we were able to get them both into full squats under load with "vertical" torsos (could still improve here a little with Greg - red shirt); hence maximizing the effectiveness of the movement. The goal is to see the torso and shins align parallel with each other.

Travis Front Squat.jpg
Greg Front Squat.jpg

I took a photo of each athletes' squat in the down position on (without the carpet) and each noticed immediately that they were not getting as low as we would like to see.  In the photos above, you'll notice that I pulled out some pieces of carpet and placed several layers under their feet to elevate the heels a bit.  

Not only did this allow them a greater range of motion, but they both said it felt more comfortable in the lower position.  Once the athlete/s begins to feel confident and comfortable in a certain movement, then it's easier to progress.

Taking time to notice the small things can lead to greater improvements and injury-free athletes.  One thing I have learned over my years of coaching is that I try to get each athlete to master a movement before adding weight. 

6-Week Sandbag Strength and Honor

Starting February 1, 2018, I will be coaching a 6-week sandbag strength and conditioning class at Conquest Obstacle Gym in Chattanooga.  

Sloane SB 10.jpg

The focus of the program will be strength, short sprints, core work, and some agility work; two strength days and one aerobic capacity day each week. 

Utilizing sandbags as the primary resistance, expect to engage many stabilizing muscles that normally do not get activated when lying on a bench, or even using a barbell.  Don't expect to get BIG, expect to get strong and powerful.  The strength gained during the 6 weeks will transfer over to sport/profession/daily activities.

After each class, anyone who will be competing in an OCR event in 2018 (or those who just want to have some fun) will be encouraged to spend some time working on the obstacles in the gym (such as climbing ropes, Mt Olympus, walls, Twister, monkey bars/rigs, balance beams, etc). 

Cost of Class:  $120

Class days/times:  3x a week

    Tuesday/Thursday:  6pm

Saturday:  10am 

February 1 - March 10