One hot summer night my partner and I were in uniform watching our local bars. My partner found himself entangled with a perp who was hopped up on drugs and not rational. As I raced to his aid I was thankful that I had the physical ability to run all out and yell "Here comes the boom" right before I pulled a Terry Tate "Office Linebacker" on the suspect. My partner was injured and out of the game so I was forced to restrain the perp as he continued to resist arrest. I was relieved that I was able to hold my own until additional officers arrived.
Most people do not realize how demanding a Law Enforcement career can be on an individual and his family. I know from personal experience how physically and mentally demanding this career is on your personal life. We spend most of our days dealing with real life problems and dangerous situations and then return to our normal lives at the end of our shift.
During my nine years as a Police Officer I have been in several situations that require physical fitness and mental clarity. Some of the obvious are pursuing and restraining suspects. With these two functions I have had to do many physical tasks such as scaling fences, running up stairs, kicking down doors, dragging people and throwing my body in the middle of all out brawls. Your mental function is also directly related to your physical health and is just as important as your physical capabilities. One delayed mental reaction could lead to you or someone else being harmed or even worse killed. In all these instances I have tried to stay safe and focused. I can proudly say that I have never missed a day of work from an on duty injury. I realize I am lucky but I know that being in shape has allowed me to come back to work with only bumps and bruises. I NEVER want to be viewed as a lazy, donut eating Cop nor do I want to be a liability to my fellow officers. And most importantly, I always want to return home in the same condition I left.
The best explanation I could find for physical fitness came from the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: Physical fitness is the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue and with ample energy to engage in leisure time pursuits and to meet the above average physical stresses encountered in emergency situations.
I believe the three most important factors to overall health are: Better sleep patterns, eating habits and workout regimens.
Sleep: In most law enforcement positions you are forced to work night shifts or rotating shifts. This can cause havoc on the mind and body. Finding a routine before crawling in to bed is key. Turn off the TV, silence your cell phone and try to ease your mind. Things I avoid hours before bed are working out, caffeine and sugars. I also remove any light sources that may keep me awake and keep my bedroom at a cool temperature. Reducing fluid intake and eating a small meal prior to bed can prevent you from waking to use the bathroom or from being hungry.
Eating Habits: Bad eating habits usually happen when someone is unprepared. We don't have the luxury of being in an office with a microwave down the hallway. If you don't have a meal readily available you will find yourself in a fast food drive thru. This will only lead to your gun belt being tighter and all the stereotypes that associated with our jobs. It is very easy to make meals that you can eat on the go and I frequently utilize CORE MRP to replace a meal when I am too busy to stop and eat.
Workout Regimen: It can be very difficult for people to justify this time into their daily routine. A little sacrifice in your daily schedule will lead to a healthier, better version of you. Remember how you looked and felt the first day on the job? It took an academy or boot camp with daily physical activity to make you feel this way. I personally feel the three core movements (Bench, Squat and Deadlift) are the most important lifts. Incorporating a strength and cardiovascular routine in to your daily routine will prolong your career and make you more fit for duty. Another option is Cross fit. It's the new craze and can be very useful in our line of work.
With our chosen careers comes several hurdles. You can attack these issues by starting with a plan. Begin by implementing small changes into your daily routine and immediately notice the positive impact they have not only on your career but on your personal life. In future articles I will expand on not only the topics mentioned above but several other training, life and work related issues.