10 Reasons Why Officers Should Stay In Shape
It's no secret that police officers have a dangerous job. They put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve their communities. But what some people don't realize is that being a police officer can also be very physically demanding. Officers often need to run after suspects, climb over fences, and wrestle with criminals. That's why it's important for law enforcement personnel to maintain a healthy level of fitness. Here are 10 reasons why all police officers should stay in shape:
Stay In The Fight
The job is harder than ever. Assaults on LE are up; are you ready to go ten rounds before backup arrives? I’ve worked in some areas where, on a good day, the nearest back up unit was 17 miles away. I have had to call upon the Texas Highway Patrol and Border Patrol to back up calls because I was the only officer on shift and the only deputy on, was on their own call for service. Things can change quickly and what seemed like easy call for service, turns into the fight of your life.
Now the variables here are endless, but I’m talking about a good ol’ fashioned fight. In law enforcement, far too often officers jump right to a mechanical means of control, that often fail, and escalate situations. Side note, if you’ve never been punched square in your mouth, maybe this isn’t the job for you. Mike Tyson had a good saying about it, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” and it’s true. I digress and that is a whole different blog or series of blogs on its own.
Back to fighting… Is your body ready to sustain the fight? Have you punched a bag lately? Have you grappled? Maybe BJJ or some other martial art like Krav Maga. Point is, if you’re not training your body for this fight, you are doing EVERYONE a disservice. The fight is coming, it’s only a matter of when, not if. If you’ve been in LE for any length of time, you’re probably shaking your head yes right now, because you have been in that fight before. TRAIN TO BE HARDER TO KILL.
We have on staff, a young man with his Masters in Exercise Science and a Tactical Strength and Conditioning certificate that writes our, soon to be published, workouts. Included in these workouts is stretching routines. I have, in some form or fashion, been involved in physical training for approximately 30 years. If I had a dollar for every time, I heard someone say, “But lions don’t stretch…”, I’d be a millionaire. Fact is, lions do not stretch and no matter what fantasy our minds are in, we’re not lions. That said, you don’t get a chance in a foot pursuit, to stretch those hammies, but a daily stretch before shift, can work wonders. Injuries happen regardless, but a high fitness level can decrease the likelihood of an injury occurring and the amount of time it takes to recover from an injury.
Stretching isn’t enough, being physically fit matters. In short, being fit allows you to perform physical tasks, longer. The human body is not as agile when fatigue sets in, putting stress on parts of the body that are less used to it. This could increase your chances for an injury. Therefore, officers must be in top physical condition to do their jobs, not only because it helps them perform well but also reduces injury risk.
Increase Your Energy
Far too often, especially on night shifts, we run inside the local stop-and-rob, like a Circle K, and grab an energy drink. There have been multiple articles and media distributed that can go into the details of how bad these are for you, so I’ll spare you all the fluff. In a nutshell, they are bad. Like, bad bad. Instead, sticking to a fitness routine will start initiating changes inside your body. Sure, while the six pack and muscles are great, I’m talking about producing more ATP and having more energy. Studies have shown that exercise stimulates the development of more mitochondria which produce ATP. This in turn gives you more energy and helps boost brain function. Oh yeah, working out will help your brain bucket too. We’ll cover that below.
Stress and Law Enforcement. They’re one in the same right? This could be its own blog as well, but I’ll keep it concise. Studies have shown that almost every adult experiences at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. One study states, that law enforcement officers face an average of three traumatic events every SIX MONTHS! This doesn’t even account for the daily stress of just being a police officer. It’s often said, we catch everybody on their worst day and that’s a lot to take in.
In short, how can we control cortisol levels? Without boring you, cortisol raises glucose levels to help you battle injury, infection, and illnesses. Too much cortisol, has some very negative side effects. It slows down growth hormones and sex hormones. That alone sounds like hell to me. It also can cause a buildup of abdominal fat, can lead to diabetes and even osteoporosis. I don’t want any of that and I’m sure you don’t either. A fitness routine stresses the body and cortisol is produced, but over time in lower amounts. Another way is deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga. In an Alpha Male dominated career field, bringing up yoga can get you laughed out of a department, so there’s fine people like Mark Divine who call it Kokoro Yoga or Warrior Yoga. Whatever it is you choose, a fitness program can help you mitigate some of the stressors of law enforcement. Go ahead and laugh, I do yoga and I’m better because of it.
During a physical altercation, where you may have to run or fight with a subject and eventually be driven to use deadly force, is your body ready to handle the physical stress in this moment? Have you ever done a stress fire event at the range? If so, have you noticed that weapon control, breathing, even trigger pull, become harder to control? Now, there are a ton of different thought processes on how to help you adapt, but we believe that your physical fitness plays an important role. Think back to injury mitigation, being fit allows us to perform higher, longer. Side note, when it comes to stress shooting, anyone can make a course that makes shooters fail. We believe in a gradual increase of stress, giving the body time to adapt. You don’t go to the gym and throw 600lbs on the squat rack and say, this is my goal and I’m getting it today, you gradually build to it, same with stress shooting.
Improve Mental Clarity
All of these are so entwined, as I keep writing I feel like it could have been 3 reasons and some subpoints. Maybe that’s mental clarity? Perhaps I should take a break and get a workout in… Now that I am back and hopefully clearer, lets talk about how fitness can help clear the mind. We’ve mentioned how it affects stress and everyone knows what it does for your outward appearance, but did you know it will improve your sleep? Being better rested for your shifts is never a bad thing. It will help improve your memory, which is definitely a good thing for officers. Studies have shown that the older you get, the less your brain creates new cells. However, those who workout have shown to reverse this effect; because during exercise, our brains will actually produce those new cells. If you’re stuck with writer’s block like I was, go throw some weight around and it might just do the trick.
Decrease Your Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
If you’ve been through our Basic SWAT, you have heard the statistics. LE personnel, live an average of 15 years LESS than the general population. The average age for heart attack victims is 67, while its 49 for law enforcement. There are so many factors at play here, the stress of the job, the sudden bursts of high physical output, and really bad diets. Put down the hotdog at 0300 hrs. That thing has been cooking on those rollers since at least 2300 hrs when shift change happened at the store. Your digestive tract will thank me. Now, some places don’t have a lot of options during the dog watch, it becomes your responsibility to plan ahead. Pack a lunch, bring healthy snacks, have a meal replacement supplement on hand, but whatever you do, don’t cave and eat food you wouldn’t give to your pet.
Increase Your Metabolism
Did you know that your metabolism will go up with regular exercise? There’s an old saying in LE that it’s 95% boredom and 5% action. Patrol officers spend hours in a car, detectives, burdened by case load, behind a desk. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, officers are sedentary. There’s been numerous articles stating how this affects your body and its metabolism. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were more active, elevating our metabolism and allowing it work hard even, when we aren’t? Another thing to combat the sedentary lifestyle, is to get out of the patrol car when you can. While working late at night, I would exit my unit, make sure my handheld was on, and walk city blocks, checking closed businesses. Not only was I being more active, but I was providing a better service for my community. All around win if you ask me.
Does this really need an explanation? Family is everything. Blood or not, those we keep close to our hearts mean the world to us. Hell, some of my friends are closer than family. We owe it to them to be as fit as possible. Everyday, you don a badge and weapon. You place yourself on the wall, keeping watch over your community and at any time, an attack can happen, potentially taking you from that family. Take pride in yourself, pride in being the protector for your family, pride in being the thin line between chaos and order. Take pride in your fitness.
Look Better Naked
We’ve all walked by a mirror naked and stared at our bodies. The fact is most people start working out for this sole reason. If you’re married or in a relationship, I can assure you, your partner will love the change in you. If you’re single, get ready to slay the dating pool as you become a better version of yourself. But it’s not all about what others will think. When you’re happier about your own appearance, that confidence will pour over into everything you do. So go ahead, get that workout in, stand in the mirror, and admire yourself, you deserve it. Just make sure it’s the mirror at home, gyms get really funny about standing nude in the weight room.
So, what are you going to do about your fitness? I’ve given you 10 solid reasons why officers should stay in shape, make a commitment today that will impact how you feel and how healthy you are!