I don’t have time to exercise. I just want to sit down and relax. I am too tired after my shift. I don’t like to run. Have you heard or said any of these excuses? I know I have in the past and the next thing I knew, I had gained 60 pounds, was constantly tired and had cholesterol levels that were through the roof. Fortunately, I realized I needed to make changes in my life and came to the understanding that improving health and wellness is very simple and only takes two things: diet and exercise.
Note that I did not say that improving health and wellness was easy. What is the difference? Simple means lack of complexity and easy means lack of effort. Wellness comes with a simple solution, but it does not come easily.
Having been a police officer for 15 years and working a variety of roles in that time, I know for a fact that chances are you spend most of the day sitting down. Whether you are in your squad car or office, a majority of your shift is spent on your bottom, so the “I want to sit down and relax” excuse is easily thrown out the door.
I completely understand the exhaustion behind the next excuse, but being out of shape does not help this cause. I have a great family, including an amazing wife and three wonderful children. After work, the last thing I want to do is work out, as I would rather spend time with them. This is why I always exercise first thing in the morning. That way, I always get my workout in and I always have the energy and time to spend with my family after work.
Now, I’m not saying you need to work out in the morning or before your shift, but I do urge you to work out whenever you can and when it doesn’t interfere with your family time. Find a consistent time each and every day based on your schedule. Eventually, your exercise will become a habit and the routine will be easier to maintain.
I run between 50–100 miles a week on average and participate in multiple ultra-marathons a year. I realize I am in the minority and most people don’t like running, however running isn’t the only form of exercise, and you have to find what you like and what works.
The main point is that you have to do something. Bicycling, hiking, canoeing, martial arts and even walking are all great forms of exercise. It really doesn’t matter what you do, you just need to focus on getting your heart rate up to at least 65% of your maximum heart rate for 20 minutes a day.
Officers have to take their health and wellness as seriously as they do officer safety. In fact, this year just as many officers have died in the line of duty from heart attacks as from gunfire. Let’s stop killing ourselves by making changes our diets and commiting to exercising more. It really is simple to improve your health and wellness, but it will take a little effort on your part. Make exercising a priority in your daily life. Watch one less television show or wake up 20 minutes earlier. This way, you can enjoy your time on and off duty more and live to enjoy retirement.
CURTIS POTE is an instructor at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy and teaches in the areas of physical training, precision driving, verbal defense and influence, interview and investigation, bicycle patrol and defensive tactics. Before becoming an instructor with the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Pote served as a Police Officer for 15 years. He has completed the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Fitness Coordinator Training Program and the Cooper Institute Law Enforcement Fitness Specialist course.