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Reflections from a GORUCK Heavy by Paul S

While most of you were finalizing your July 4th plans last year, I was on my way to DC to undertake the daunting physical challenge known as the GORUCK Heavy. From 5pm July 2nd to 6pm July 3rd, I threw myself to the mercy of GORUCK Cadre. That’s right, 25 straight hours of low crawls, push-ups, sit-ups, running without rucks, running with rucks, buddy carries, log carries, random heavy thing carries… Typical GORUCK good livin’. 40+ miles of it. Needless to say, I know Washington DC very intimately now.

I have done Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Crossfit competitions and even GORUCK Lights and Challenges. None of that compares to the Heavy. This was a whole new world of hurt. Physical stress and demand far beyond anything else I have undertaken. The only thing that I have done that compares is the Crucible at the end of Marine Corps Bootcamp. For me, that was 13 years ago in a 19 year old body. My 32 year old body certainly felt the demand a lot more from the Heavy.

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The GORUCK Heavy solidified life lessons I have learned but need to be reminded of on occasion, as we all do to be honest. First off, my physical toughness is limited by my mental toughness. Our bodies can push beyond our perceived limits to accomplish amazing things, if we let them. Often our mind will tell us, it’s too heavy, it’s too far, it’s too much; so we quit. You should know the difference between discomfort and legitimate pain from injury. If you don’t, you’ve never been injured. Discomfort is something that feels worse the more attention you give it. If you remain focused on something else, discomfort generally fades to a tolerable level. Pain from an injury will not. So, stay focused on your task at hand and keep your mind off of your discomfort. I thought a lot about my girls and my dog during the long rucks in between the event “highlights”.

Second life lesson the GORUCK Heavy reinforced is the power of positive encouragement. I was fortunate enough to be in a group of individuals who are GORUCK superstars. Most of the people in the class travel the entire country doing Spartan Death Races, 50 and 100 mile ultramarathons, GORUCK Heavy’s, etc; athletes way beyond my level of conditioning. It was inspiring to watch them smile and laugh through the whole event as if it really was a fun time! My body started to break down around hour 15 and I was on the bubble if I would finish or not. I wasn’t going to quit, but I was about to be “med dropped” for heat exhaustion. Luckily, my kickass teammates noticed I was struggling and stepped up to help me out. For the rest of the event they constantly asked how I was doing, told me I was doing great and that we were all going to make it together and pulled weight off my shoulders to give me a few minutes reprieve when I need it. When you’re at a breaking point, hearing that positive encouragement has profound effects and totally gave me the drive to keep pushing. I didn’t want to let them down. They believed in me and I wasn’t about to quit on them. They also poured water on me randomly to help keep me cool. Also, lucky for me, we had an EMT following us during the event and he was periodically checking my vitals to make sure I wasn’t over doing it. This gave me that sense of security that I could keep pushing beyond my perceived limits and not risk injury.

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Those are the two biggest lessons the GORUCK Heavy instills:

1. Your body is very capable of more than your mind will allow, so train your mind as much or more than your body.
2. The power of a team exceeds the power of an individual.

These lessons apply in the gym. Encourage each other. One more rep. Keep coming in, keep giving 100% in the workouts and you will see success.

If you’re interested in doing a GORUCK event, I highly recommend it. But I would NOT recommend attempting a Heavy for your first one. Start with a Light or a Challenge. Feel free to ask me questions and I will be happy to share the good, the bad, the glamorous and the ugly.

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