By John Thomas Grohn
I absolutely hate the saying, “It’s just another tool for your toolbox.” I actually cringe when I hear it. We carry a lot of defensive gear on us when we’re working. All this gear is heavy, so my “toolbox” is sort of full. I sometimes feel as though a byproduct of so many options is a false sense of security. I think when the time comes to “get our hands dirty” in patrol, we rely too much on this equipment-laden “toolbox” we have encircled ourselves with, and forget the mental and the physical aspect of who we are. What I am referring to is physical fitness. And if you’re not fit, you need to get fit.
But with any fitness routine, you should first get a doctor’s opinion of your current medical state, especially if you’re not a spring chicken any longer. And, this is especially true if you have not been working out regularly or if you think you may need to get an issue resolved before embarking on a fitness routine. It’s a good idea anyway to see you doctor every year.
Once you get cleared, you can start your fitness regimen with a clear mind. Growing up playing football in the Midwest, I always looked at fitness as isolating a body part and working that part on a particular day. Chest and triceps on Monday and Friday, legs and back on Tuesday and Saturday. Cardio was jogging around a track every so often.
A Better Way
I’m not a certified personal trainer. The following ideas about fitness are things that have worked for me. When I was in college rowing on the crew team, I was introduced to cross training. Nowadays, “CrossFit”-type workouts are extremely popular. It means lighter weight, high repetition exercises and body weight movements under time constraints.
I’m a believer in mixing up your workout routine. Think about how your body functions in day-to-day activities. Do you routinely lie on your back with your feet on the floor and press heavy things up and down? Or do you sometimes need to pull yourself up and over a fence when chasing a suspect? What good do leg extensions do for you when you are more likely to be climbing stairs wearing 20-plus pounds of gear, or grappling with a suspect?
Most of us are seriously pressed for time. Who has time for a 2-hour workout every other day? Add in the commute time to your gym and sometimes this will keep you from going anywhere. You can get a lot done in a short time if you go about it the right way. You can also achieve a great workout by using your own bodyweight.
Try something like this: 25 pushups, 50 squats, 25 crunches and then 15 burpees (google it), rest 1 minute and repeat the circuit 3 times. Time devoted to this is around 15 minutes and if you stick to the rest period, you will be tired. As it gets easier, throw in more movements. Buy a kettle bell and a jump rope. The Internet is full of workout clips and ideas to keep your routine varied and enjoyable.
Making A Deposit
After a particularly hard workout, my rowing coach would mention we just made a deposit we would draw on when we needed it. I always liked that saying. There is something to be said for pushing way past your comfort zone, both mentally and physically. It builds confidence. Recently (along with five of my former agency cop partners and 19 total strangers), I participated in an event called the GORUCK challenge. It’s a team event that takes place from the evening to morning hours. It involved carrying a 50-pound pack loaded with bricks, along with food and water, and two 10-pound water cans, an American Flag and another 25-pound team weight.
You are led by a seasoned US Special Operations member and along the 8- to 10-hour long route (ours lasted over 13 hours and we covered over 17 miles) you pick up heavy objects, like a 600-pound log and “casualities” (your fellow teammates who get assigned as such) and you move from objective to objective. Did I mention you would stop and do exercises, just to keep you on your toes? And you will find a body of water to get submerged into, about 3 hours into your ordeal?
So what does that prove? Really it depends on you. If you never push yourself, you never know how far you can mentally and physically go. As a public safety member, you owe it to yourself and the public you serve to maintain a certain level of fitness.
When it comes down to it, gear is just stuff. Its what’s underneath — and inside — that counts.