What type of fitness training is best for law enforcement?

There is nothing routine about police work, so why train our bodies to adapt to a traditional routine


What is fitness? According to Random House Webster's Dictionary, fitness is described as, "in good physical condition; healthy."  This isn't very specific, nor is it a helpful definition. I'm sure we all have our own idea of what fitness means. Let's try equating being fit as it relates to law enforcement.

Assume an officer does some form of working out. What is the best way to train? Should the officer follow a routine of long, slow distance runs several times a week? Should he or she follow a typical weight training/bodybuilding routine? Or do a combination of weight training and aerobic training each week?

Who is more fit?
Is it the officer who can run three miles to catch the criminal because of years of aerobic training, or is it the officer who solely weight trains and has the strength to take down a suspect if necessary? The answer is neither.

Neither of the above training methods will optimally prepare an officer to deal with a dynamic, highly-intensive and dangerous situation that cops encounter.

Training and conditioning
There is nothing routine about police work, so why do we train our bodies to adapt to a traditional routine? We should train for short, intense encounters where our very survival may depend on quickly controlling/editing a confrontation. Workouts should be brief, but intense (anaerobic). Anaerobic training not only improves power, speed and strength, but it improves cardiovascular endurance as well.  

Components of fitness
Let's broaden our thinking on fitness. We must shy away from thinking fitness is only strength, power or endurance. For example, crossfit not only includes strength, power and endurance as components of fitness, but also includes flexibility, speed, coordination, stamina, agility, balance and accuracy. Lacking development in any one of these areas is not only unfit, but may be life-threatening for officers.

We must train not to specialize in one area, but train randomly. We must condition the body to adapt and perform well under many different and unknown conditions, keeping in mind the fitness components noted above.

Improving our standards
It is extremely unfortunate that, for most officers, the only physical training required is that which takes place in the academy. Maintaining a training program is vital for a number of reasons, not the least of which is, on average, officers die at the age of 66. We have higher incidences of obesity/diabetes, elevated blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and stress levels that build over the years. Physical training helps reduce/prevent these risk factors. We owe it to our families to live a long, functional life. And we owe it to our fellow officers, who may rely on us being in good physical shape to protect them. 

How to train
Any fitness regimen should include training our bodies to perform well in as many of thelisted crossfit components mentioned above. Keep in mind the criminals we face don’t age, only we do. For the most part, the criminals we encounter are in their late teens or late twenties and they are in peak condition.

We must train to survive that one incident that may injure us or be life-threatening. The best resource I’ve found is the workouts/lifestyle promoted on www.crossfit.com. To date, I have found no better way to train for overall fitness that directly correlates to police work.

We are beginning to incorporate crossfit inspired workouts in our academy training. While our country has more gyms and spas than any country in the world, yet we remain the fattest country on earth. Our populations' incidences of diabetes, obesity and congestive heart failure are skyrocketing, especially for police. We must train smarter and in ways that directly correlate to the type of work we do.      

There may come a time when you know what to do, but you might not have the physical stamina, strength or endurance to actually do it.

About the author

Sgt. Paul Zagaria has been a member of the Cleveland, Ohio Police Department for 16 years, where he currently serves as the O.I.C. of the defensive tactics/physical conditioning program. In addition to his police career he is a former Marine, he has served in Basic Patrol, as a Patrol Supervisor, and as a member of the SWAT Unit.

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  1. Tags
  2. Health - Physical and Mental Fitness
  3. Evergreen
  4. Barricade

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