For Brett Hagan, Chris Robart and Tyler Simpson, the connection between the act of rucking and mental health is clear: both involve carrying a burden that can put strain on the human body.
The connection is why this team of organizers has created Ruck It Up, a new fundraiser event that’s using “rucking,” or walking while wearing a weighted rucksack, to raise awareness for mental health.
“Rucking implies action energy and purpose, and it requires strength, endurance and character, and also builds it too,” said Hagan, on behalf of the organizing team. “So we thought this would be something good to get the community together, share some stories, and hopefully help out some mental health initiatives here in the community.”
Taking place on June 26, Ruck It Up will be a six-kilometre-long outdoor hike through the trails of Wakamow Valley. Participants will be asked to maintain physical distance on the trails and respect public health orders.
It's open to all ages, said Hagan, and everyone is asked to bring their own rucksack geared up with whatever amount of weight they choose for themselves.
“You can put anything from two pounds up to 50 pounds, it's just what you want and how much extra work you want to put in,” said Hagan. “If people don’t want a backpack or if they want to just go with five pounds, that's definitely OK. We just want to get people out and understand what a good workout rucking is.”
Registration for the outdoor event is $25 and all of the proceeds will be donated to Journey to Hope to aid with its mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.
Hagan said the idea for Ruck It Up was inspired by the personal mental health experiences of the co-organizers, as well as the ongoing strain the pandemic has put on exercise opportunities — which is often used as an outlet for people dealing with stresses.
“Mental health has definitely affected all of us in different ways,” said Hagan. “And we thought, being that we’re stuck inside (with the pandemic) this was a way to get outside and still have people together, with masks and social distancing, but still getting a workout in.”
Rucking, as an activity, seemed like the right choice for what Hagan, Robart and Simpson were imagining for an event focused on promoting mental health awareness.
“It's great for resistance training and cardio all put together, having that backpack on with the weight. You get a nice core exercise, it helps with posture, and it's a little bit more aggressive than just a basic walk or hike, so you’re getting a good physical strength workout,” said Hagan. “Plus, being outside in nature really helps your mental health.”
It’s also very symbolic, said Hagan, with rucking serving as a physical representation of how handling mental health can sometimes feel like carrying a weight that no one else can see.
“For people who maybe don't deal with mental health issues and don’t understand the burden of having to deal with mental health daily, having that backpack with extra weight on your back is something that can give them a little bit of experience of what it’s like,” said Hagan.
Hagan also said they chose to name the event Ruck It Up as a play on the common saying, “suck it up,” which they feel is long overdue to disappear from the vernacular surrounding mental health.
“(We should be) getting people to talk about mental health more, rather than pushing everything down,” said Hagan. “Telling people to ‘suck it up’ is old news (and) it doesn’t work.”
Hagan, Robart and Simpson are hoping to make the event an annual one each spring, to keep putting a spotlight on the importance of understanding mental health.