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What comes to mind when thinking about the daily operations of a police officer? For most, they picture the officer cruising around in a vehicle. Now if you were tasked with staying in shape, but a large component of your job was behind a desk or sitting in a car, that would make keeping the calories off your waistline a little difficult. So if you’re an officer or someone looking to get into this field and wondering how staying in shape is possible, then we have some advice on how you can do that when the hours are long and often sedentary?
Police Officers stay in shape like most people – through diet, exercise and mental health awareness. Most agencies have built-in gyms for their officers. Otherwise get a gym membership, purchase at-home equipment, or go for a run. Ensure that you are eating a healthy diet and also find time to decompress and relieve stress.
So, if you’re a police officer then let’s go in-depth in regards to staying healthy and in shape.
Do Police Officers Need to Stay in Shape?
The short answer is yes, but why?
While officers do spend a lot of time in their patrol cars, there is a large portion of their job that requires them to be physically active – sometimes for long periods. As an officer, you are required to go to the police academy or pass a physical fitness test in order to obtain the job. When you are filling out the application for a role as an officer – there is a list of responsibilities and requirements. These requirements often state something along the lines of, “you must be able to run, climb, jump, drag, and a slew of other physical activities.” That is just the start of it too.
As an officer, staying in shape means better job performance. It equips you with the ability to efficiently carry out your daily duties. It also serves as a bit of a safety net what can be a dangerous line of work. Your job is to serve and protect remember!
With that being said, you’ve got to be prepared for any altercation that you may find yourself in. Most criminals refuse to go down without a fight, they typically like to put up a fight, so things get a bit physical at times! Staying healthy and fit reduces the chances of you being overpowered by a suspect.
Required Training for Police Officers
The majority of your law enforcement agencies will require that you pass some sort of physical fitness test before you are offered a position. Even though you may not be physically active on each shift, you need to be physically prepared to be active for your entire shift. Whether you are made to go through a police academy or take a written test and physical test – the physical aspects are pretty uniform across both.
For starters, you’ve got to be able to run a set number of miles in a specific amount of time. If you cannot do this, you’re already out of the running (sorry for the pun). That’s one of the first things they have you do – test your endurance. The time and amount of miles required isn’t all that uniform but it can be anywhere between 1-2 miles within 16-21 minutes (on average).
You’ll also be required to complete an obstacle course. In the obstacle course, you’ll be tasked to do things like jump fences, climb stairs, and sprint – just to name a few. More than likely this obstacle course will be timed and you’ll be evaluated on how long it takes you to complete it. This is just to test you and make sure that you are able to complete parts of the job requirements if they arise while you are on shift.
Lastly, chances are there will be a strength test. The strength test could include pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, bench presses, and much more. This is constantly evolving and there are now a number of ways an agency can test your strength. Now, let’s talk about how to prepare for the training you’re going to endure.
If you’re looking into becoming an officer, chances are you’ve spent hours researching before you applied. So, you’ve got a pretty good idea for a timeframe of when you’re looking to complete the physical training.
Give yourself time to train. The time you’re going to need really depends on where you are already on your fitness journey. It’s not going to look the same for everyone. However, there are some tips and tricks that anyone can benefit from. Let’s get into some of those!
Probably everyone’s least favorite work out of all. Cardio is one of the best ways of burning fat. The key benefits of doing cardio are improvements to the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. So, what is considered cardio?
Some great examples are jogging, kickboxing, swimming, and jump roping. Honestly, cardio exercises are pretty limitless. As a police prospect or current officer, cardio can be your best friend. I can assure you that you’re going to need it. Engaging in cardio is a big part of your day-to-day operations and the “fitter” you are, the easier your job will become.
I’ve got this reasonably priced jump rope, which I purchased on Amazon, and it does the trick.
Full Body Workouts
As a police officer, you’re going to want to target pretty much every part of your body when working out. At some point in your employment, every muscle you have will be put to the test – especially in your required training. They’re going to try to push you not just to your limits, but also past them.
With full-body workouts, you get to work out all of your muscles in one go. Intense, but extremely beneficial. Some full-body workouts include jump squats, pushups, planks, lunges, and much more! If none of these workouts listed fits your taste – Google has plenty of options! I promise you will find something that feels natural to you.
This is where I start speaking frankly – if you’re going to be a police officer, you’ve got to have some type of strength behind you. So, your muscle endurance needs to be high.
With muscle endurance, you’re training your muscles to be able to do a task over and over again, through a long period of time. Your muscles can be trained, and during your required training – they’re going to be put to the test. There are many ways that you can complete muscle endurance exercises. Some quick examples are: wall sits, planks, pushups, situps, and deadlifts. Again, if none of these speak to you – seek out other options. I can assure you there are plenty out there.
These are just some of the ways that you can prepare for your required training. If you start training before you’ve applied and before your testing, then you’ve already won half of the battle. It is a long journey to becoming a police officer and staying in shape will help you tremendously. However, staying in shape is just a part of it. You need to be healthy overall, you’ve got to be in a good place internally too. So, without further ado, let’s get into that!
Healthy Tips for Police Officers
If you’re going to be a police officer, you’ve got to stay healthy. You’ve seen the movies, so I don’t even have to say it, but i’m going to. Police officers have a perceived bad reputation for getting into the field and then overeating donuts (society’s words, not mine). Don’t be a stereotype – break it. You need to be sound in body and mind. Let’s talk about how to get there.
Eating healthy, alongside working out, is the best way to maintain your weight and stay regular. Working as a police officer, it is going to seem more convenient to take your patrol car through a drive-thru – don’t. Don’t lean on convenience as a scapegoat, fight the urge to eat out.
Meal prepping foods that are healthy for you and taking the time to sit down and eat will go a long way for your health. Invest in some fruits, vegetables, and quality meats. You can still enjoy your favorite meals from time to time, but it can’t be the norm!
Understand that staying hydrated throughout your shift is essential – especially on hot days. Most of your time will be spent outside and that can soak all your fluids right out of you.
Keep water and drinks with electrolytes in your patrol car. Find an insulated small cooler (this one is impressive) so that your drinks stay cold. If you stay hydrated you eliminate the chances of your muscles contracting on you in the most inopportune times. You’re not going to go wrong with staying hydrated. Plus, it’s another reason to get you out of that patrol car – bathroom breaks!
I cannot stress this enough, get quality rest. As an officer, chances are you’re going to be pulling twelve-hour shifts – maybe longer. Your days are going to be super long, so you’ve got to counteract that by getting proper rest.
Your job is to serve and protect, and I can assure you that you will not be fully functional if you’re running off of little to no sleep. Also, the amount of overtime that is available to police officers is on the verge of unlimited – there are always open shifts (in most places). Taking extra shifts isn’t always a bad thing, but avoid taking on too many. Burnout is a real concept and it can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. Be sure to take your time off!
If you’re struggling to sleep, we recommend blue light-blocking glasses first and foremost. If you’re not sure what they are, check out this video as I explain.
Mental Health Awareness
Listen, this job is not easy – especially for your mental health. You’re going to see things and go through scenarios that the typical person will not. The field is one of a kind and can truly take a toll on your mental health. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of it.
Make sure you are allotting time to do things that you enjoy. Read a book, go for a hike, and spend time with your family. These things may seem mundane, but in the long run, they will help. Don’t be afraid to seek counselling if it gets to that point. Most agencies offer mental health debriefings, especially after a hard case – so don’t skip out on it. Even if you are feeling perfectly fine, it can help in the smallest ways.
Related post: Shift Work & Mental Health – What People Don’t Tell You
Here’s another unfortunate stereotype placed upon officers – chain smokers. Don’t fall under that category. Smoking takes so much away from you. Plus, it makes your job way harder than it needs to be. It’s going to make you extremely short-winded. Imagine being outrun by a suspect because you can’t catch your breath. Good luck explaining that to your lieutenant, but seriously – try your hardest to refrain from this unhealthy habit.
As you can see, there is a lot of work that has to be put in to be a well-rounded, healthy police officer. However, it can be done. Don’t let this discourage you or deter you from your dream. Anything that you set your mind to you can achieve. It’s going to take long and rigorous hours, but you can do it! Just make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Don’t fall into the trap of spending hours in your patrol car with little to no movement. Take your downtime and go get a quick workout in. It doesn’t have to be long, but it has to get your heart rate up. Take care of your health, mentally and physically and you’ll be golden. Lastly, you’re going to make a rockstar of an officer. Go out and be great!
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