The Case for Rucking Meetings

The Case for Rucking Meetings

By Michael Easter

Rucking Meetings Improve Productivity, Relieve Zoom Fatigue, and Burn More Calories than Walking

I’ve written at length about the benefits of being a 2-Percenter. You can read more here, if you’re unfamiliar. But the idea comes from a rather depressing statistic. Two: That’s the percent of people who take the stairs when they also have the option of taking an escalator. And it’s killing us. Inactivity is one of the main contributors to the 10 leading causes of death.

Being a 2-Percenter is about taking the damn stairs. Every time. But it’s also about saying yes to every other little opportunity you have throughout the day to do the slightly harder thing.

Ruck meetings have become one of my favorite ways to be a 2-Percenter. They’re just like walking meetings, but better. I started experimenting with rucking meetings during the summer of 2020. This was peak pandemic. I was moving less and incessant phone and video conferences in my home office felt like they were killing my creativity and productivity.

One day I had another scheduled work call—the fourth that day—and I couldn’t bear the thought of more time sitting in the office. So I tossed on a ruck, popped in some headphones, and took the call while strolling through my neighborhood.
When I got home, I’d more than made up for my lost activity. This didn’t surprise me. The average person takes 113 steps each minute while out on a walk. Most Zoom meetings, meanwhile, lasts 54 minutes. I, too, hate math, but let’s do some. This means that if you go for a ruck during your next meeting instead of sitting on your butt, you’ll log 6,102 steps.
That exact number of steps per day is in a range that researchers at the University of Massachusetts discovered can drop your risk of death by 40 to 50 percent compared to if you were to walk just 3,500 steps a day (which happens to be what the average daily step count dropped to during the pandemic). Wearing a ruck will supercharge each of those 6,000+ steps. You’ll burn more fat and twice the calories.

What did surprise me was how rucking changed the very nature of the meeting itself and my work afterwards.

During the call, I had fewer distractions and was a more engaged listener. I was zoned into the call and not half-listening as I scrolled the internet from my desk (we all do it).

I also felt more rejuvenated once I got back to my office. I cranked out more work and the work was more creative. Studies suggest I’m not alone in my observations. Scientists at the University of Miami found that walking meetings led to an 8 percent increase in productivity. The work might be better, too. Research conducted at Stanford discovered that walking increased creativity by 60 percent compared to sitting.

I’ve been rucking through meetings when possible ever since. I won’t say it’s been perfect. I’ve received some perplexed looks over the Zoom boxes. And had calls drop off. And sirens in the background. And I once clumsily tripped while speaking.

I’ve come to realize that, like executing any good idea at work, you can’t just bumble your way into rucking meetings. They’re a new and slightly off-beat idea in the business world, so they require tactical planning. These tips will help your rucking meeting go off without a hitch.

Scout Your Route

In one of my very first rucking meetings, I was walking down the street when the call garbled, leading me to scream “CAN YOU HEAR ME?” a few times. Then it dropped. I had to frantically dial back into conference line and apologize and ask to be filled in on what I missed. It was a bad look.

The world is full of vortexes where full bars of cellphone service seemingly evaporate for no good reason. When this happens in a work meeting, it’s not only frustrating for you, but also your colleagues. And your boss—who probably, just before your call dropped because you had this strange idea to ruck during your meeting, was considering giving you a promotion.

Test your route before the meeting begins. Call your mom or grandma (she’d love to hear from you) and ruck your planned route to ensure you have reliable service every step.

Lighten the Load

Rucking during meetings was a sneaky effective way to get fit. A few months in, I found myself leaner and with better endurance. So I started using heavier weight and walking faster, basically forgetting that I was rucking during a meeting, not taking a meeting during a workout. This backfired.

If you overload your ruck and go too fast, you’ll end up sweating into the camera lens or breathing over the phone like Tony Soprano throughout the call. This is entirely awkward for everyone on the other line.

If you normally ruck with a 30 pounds, drop the weight to 20. If you ruck with 50, drop the weight to 30. A good guideline: If you can’t speak clearly for long stretches of complex sentences at every point of your route, including the hills, you’re using too much weight. I consistently use the Ruck Plate Carrier, which feels nice and streamlined for a meeting, with a 20 or 30 pound Ruck Plate.
You’ll still see a massive benefit from using a lighter weight. Research suggests that the calorie-burning benefits of rucking hit a rate of diminishing returns the heavier the ruck becomes.

Favor Green Spaces

The average American spends 93 percent of their time indoors. And that stat was taken before the pandemic. We default to indoor, climate-controlled, sofa-filled environments because they’re more comfortable. But research suggests that our modern removal from nature is one of the roots of the epidemic of mental and physical health issues sweeping the country.

Any time outside is good. But we also know that there’s a psychological difference between rucking through, say, some paved-over parking lot versus a green forest. I noticed that I felt psychically lighter after my rucks out in the desert near my home.

If you can, favor wilder areas during your rucking meeting. Spending just 20 minutes a few times a week in green spaces—the kind you can find on in a city park or especially tree-and-grass-lined street—decreases stress and increases productivity.

Avoid the Noise

Once I found a solid route that received service and had views of nature, I thought I was set. I’d hacked the system. I was wrong. One day, a park I rucked through was filled with children all screaming as they celebrated a birthday party. Another day, one of the houses along my route was having landscaping done. I walked into both all and I basically lost all ability to hear.

I now know to not only steer clear of loud roads (that seems obvious), but also to keep my head on a swivel, looking for noise landmines that have popped up along my regular route. Ultimately, noise is something you can’t entirely control. So be a savage with the mute button and consider investing in a good set of noise cancelling headphones.

Bring a Co-Worker

Cheryl from accounting and Eric from marketing aren’t actually that awkward. What’s akward is trying to have a real conversation with Cheryl and Dale while you’re all cooped up in some drop-ceiling, fluorescently lit, windowless room. Most office conference rooms are indeed where personalities go to die.
It turns out that people come out of their shell once you get them outside and moving. One team of scientists found that in-person walking meetings improved communication and camaraderie between co-workers compared to sit-down office meetings.

Reward Yourself Wisely

Rucking, even with a light load, requires refueling. But researchers at Harvard who studied walking meetings before the pandemic found that some of the study participants were walking to a donut shop for an extra-long maple bar or Starbucks for a Venti Frappuccino. The scientists agreed that’s all well and good sometimes. And the upside of rucking rather than sitting through a meeting is that it gives you more room for life’s epic, fried, maple-glazed indulgences. But the scientists worried that having every walking or rucking meeting end in a thousand calories of sugar, salt, and fat may backfire.

With that in mind, I called my old friend Dr. Mike Roussell, who’s a GORUCK Tribe member and Ph.D. nutritionist. He suggested a small snack that mixes carbs, protein, and fat to keep you moving and thinking. A handful of pistachios, he said, is his go-to. One field test discovered that people who skipped breakfast but ate a handful of pistachios mid-morning reported more focus and less hunger at lunchtime.

I’m still taking rucking meetings on the regular. They’ve created a positive feedback loop in my life. I burn more energy across a day, which helps me sleep better, which improves my performance in the gym, at work, and in rucking meetings the next day. Rinse and repeat.

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Michael Easter is an author, professor, and adventurer. His work has appeared in over 60 countries and can also be found in Men’s Journal, New York, Vice, Scientific American, Esquire, and others. He lives in Las Vegas on the edge of the desert with his wife and two dogs. If you want to read more, subscribe to his newsletter and read his book, The Comfort Crisis.