Familiar explanations for not exercising: not enough time, results don't come quickly enough, I've got kids at home, I'm tired, the gym costs too much money, etc. Well, what if instead of labeling those as shabby excuses not to get fit, I agree with you for the moment and suggest your sentiments are understandable?
Our lives brim full with activities. A law enforcement career creates unique demands on both the individual officer and their family. Shift work and having to log weekends and holidays adds to the dilemma, as do parent-teacher conferences, soccer games, part-time jobs, home maintenance and other forces which compete for our time.
I'm going to be blunt. Do you reason only cops working the "bad" part of the city need to train? Think again. We average a staggering 57,000 assaults on officers in this nation every year. Oh, and small town cops? They die too. How about you investigators? The fact you're on a desk and wear a suit is no guarantee. A detective and longtime friend recently had his eye closed by a 250-pound rhinoceros of a man with anvils for fists in an unprovoked attack during an interview.
Okay, the above statements may only serve to demonstrate my mastery of the obvious. You're already aware dealing with the criminal element for a living carries with it inherent risks, but have you stopped to consider the danger you may pose to yourself?
If one eliminates all motor vehicle-related fatalities and those officers lost annually in shootings, the leading cause of line-of-duty death over the last decade is "Job-Related Illness," this according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation. That's code speak for cardiac or respiratory arrest.
The plan here is to introduce a twice-a-week exercise regime that is (a) different than anything you've likely done, (b) costs nothing, and (c) will reward you with levels of strength and conditioning you've not enjoyed with such little time invested.
What I'll describe isn't a technical walk-through, but the basic tenets of the program and how to source necessary equipment and gear. As a preamble, I assume you'll take a few minutes to warm up before training and that you hydrate properly before, during and after the workouts.
The Terrible Tire
When patrolling, I noticed a stockpile of weathered heavy equipment rubber in a tire yard. I introduced myself to the manager and asked if he had anything lying around that might be destined for disposal. In part because it costs money to destroy unserviceable used tires, he was more than happy to donate and deliver a couple to our precinct.
Note: You may want to seek your administration's blessing before soliciting such a donation, but this "gift" wasn't a gratuity in nature and most business owners are eager to help their public servants with no expectation of special treatment.
Look for a tire in the range of 100 to 200 percent of your body weight. The tire I'm working with in the companion photo is 400 pounds, but I weigh 240 and I'm hoisting only a portion of the tire's mass at any given time in the movement.
Technique: squat deeply, hands inside the feet, forearms flat against the tread, maintain neutral lumbar and let your legs do the work. When you get beyond 45 degrees, the tire will tend to right itself; release your underhand grip and forcefully "check" the tire away with open palms before "chasing" it for another rep. Work dynamically. If it's too difficult to do a continuous set of 10-12 repetitions, get a lighter tire rather than reducing reps.
Between sets, beat the tire with alternating overhand sledgehammer strikes; I signed one out of our property room for this purpose. Again, no cost/huge dividends (works the core and shoulders while keeping your heart rate up between sets).
Weighted Stadium Stairs
Depending on the weight chosen, this gem will pose a challenge to both novice and high level athlete. You need a backpack, one or two 25 to 35-pound plates, and your neighborhood high school football stadium.
Alternatively, you can spend four bucks for a bag of sand at a home improvement store. Utility sand frequently comes in #60 tubes and would be more than enough to test even sturdy legs and lungs. I used two 35-pound plates for the workout depicted in this article and it proved quite difficult on a warm June day.
Walk, don't run the stairs. Vary how many steps you take with each stride. Hitting every step and keeping your weight on the balls of your feet will work the calves; striding out, hitting every other step is more difficult, works larger muscle groups in the quads and glutes, and burns more calories.
Yes, I do traditional strength training too. I run sprints. I attend martial arts classes taught by Shea Degan of Signal 88 Security Group. I don't smoke and I try to eat fairly well. Yet I'm not some sort of superstar athlete who gets by with good genetics. I'm a 41 year old asthmatic who has to work for it.
Despite enthusiasm for exercise and that I've led a generally healthy lifestyle for years, if all I could commit to were the aforementioned two workouts per week, a donated tire and a backpack full of sand are all I'd ask for–they are that effective.
The payoff of investing in yourself is far reaching for mind and body. Better sleep, a heightened sense of well being, clothes that fit, respect from your peers, enhanced longevity moving toward retirement, and the ability to defend yourself and carry out your duties when the Moment of Truth Arrives.