By: Lyle R. Sharman
December 1, 2000
Reprint Protection Officer News - Winter 2001
Health and fitness equal performance in the Security profession. Are you healthy and fit? Officers who are not in good shape will not perform as well as they need to in the multiple tasks that are expected of them. This article is devoted to help give understanding to the significant importance of staying in good physical condition, both physically and mentally. An officer, who is in good physical, as well as mental condition, will perform well under physical situations. They will make better decisions at precise moments needed. And, they will better deal with the stress factors of the job.
Taking Care of the Physical You
Author and physical fitness trainer Dennis Kelly explains in his book The Six Steps to the Fountain of Youth "the physical body is the vehicle for the mind." You can't have one without the other. It must be in excellent working condition in order to perform. In police work, it is not enough to only be mentally prepared. Officers must have the physical ability also. Here are some reasons for officers to be in good physical shape:
Officer safety is always at the top of the list in police work. Almost all skills used in this aspect of the officer's job require excellent physical conditioning. It's when officers get lazy and complacent that their risk of injury, and worse case death occur. Officers can better perform defensive tactics when they are fit. And, they are less likely to become injured during these confrontations. More force is not the desired outcome in any agency. Excessive use of force charges and lawsuits are a concern with any agency.
An officer in good physical condition will not have to use as much force as the officer who does little or no exercise.
Role Model Responsibility
Role modeling is another area that can't be overlooked. An officer that is physically fit displays a command presence. A good image is set, not only for the public, but the department as well. Supervisors, administrative staff and other officers should practice what they preach.
Lower Health Care Costs and Less Absenteeism
When an officer is fit, that officer is less likely to be injured on the job. This officer will also not have as many common illnesses such as colds and flu's. For administrators, this is a double-edged sword. You have a clearer thinking healthy officer that shows up for scheduled work shifts and assignments, and saves the department overtime and health care costs.
Higher Morale and Better Leadership
Increased health always leads to a happier individual. When people are fit, they feel better about themselves and look at life from a positive perspective. Everything flows better and the days are more enjoyable. Being fit changes a person's perspective. At work, it will improve your department's morale. Supervision will be better leaders when they, and the people that work with them are healthy and happy. There are enough "bad things" encountered by officers today in their line of work. The last thing you need to do is crowd it with poor health and a horrible outlook.
The reasons listed here represent only a few of the positive benefits. If you sat down to make a list of all the benefits of being healthy in police work, you would probably run out of paper. Now that we have your attention, lets get physical!
Physical exercise is not as tough and boring as many people make it out to be. For as many excuses there for not exercising, there are many more to start. The benefits will always outweigh the excuses. Exercise is the most important part of any weight management program. Diet alone will not be enough. Physical exercise truly sets all of your other fitness programs in tune.
The Choice of Exercises
One common mistake when taking up any type of exercise program is not choosing something that you will enjoy. Don't do it if it bores you. Choose a type of exercise that you will have fun doing. If you become bored later, you can always change things around to keep your interest going. Walking, biking or swimming are always a good start. You may want to choose the treadmill, stationary bike, stair climb machine, aerobics or other types of equipment that will give you a good cardio workout.
The best approach is to follow a program that offers a combination of three different types of exercise:
- Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise - These would include the treadmill, fast walking, aerobic classes, martial arts, tennis, swimming, biking, running, jump rope, stair stepping, hiking, baseball, basketball, racquetball or tennis. Any activity that involves rapid body movements over a sustained period of time.
- Resistance or strengthening exercises - These would include weight lifting and health club resistance machines.
- Stretching exercises - Your local bookstore should provide several selections on stretching. Find one that is complete, simple and fun. Scan through them until one seems right for you.
How Often Should You Exercise?
You should start your routine with about ten to fifteen minutes of stretching and warm-up exercises. This will get you ready for a good workout and lessen a chance of injury. You should spend about fifteen to twenty minutes doing some form of an aerobic exercise. This will get your heart rate going and your muscles warmed up. It will also allow you to burn fat and build good cardio strength. Next, spend about twenty minutes doing the strengthening exercises. This will help burn more fat and shape your body. You should end your workout with about five to ten minutes of aerobic exercises at a slower pace than when you started. This will help prevent lactic acid buildup, which will lessen sore muscles and help prevent fatigue.
Although you may spend more time exercising if you wish, the total amount of time that you need in order to keep in shape is actually less than and hour, three times a week. If you are training in specific areas, such as to strengthen areas of defensive tactics, then your workout could take a little longer.
The key to a successful exercise program is balance. Try different exercises to avoid boredom. Give equal time to key areas discussed. If you're on vacation or out of town for a few days, don't feel guilty about missing your regular routine. Go to a local gym or do some exercises in your room like push-ups. There are many pieces of lightweight portable equipment on the market today. Many of them can fit in you suitcase. One piece of equipment that the author has found to be very good is the ROTAFLEX® by SPALDING®. It offers a good workout at home, or on the road.
Physical exercise if done properly, will make an enormous positive difference in an officers performance. However, alone will not give you the results needed. Nutrition is equally important.
Any fitness program needs to be leveled with a good healthy diet. This diet consists of eating properly and taking important supplements. We could never discuss in detail everything you need to know in this article. Rather, we will give you some basic information and a solid direction to follow. Again, health and fitness instructor Dennis Kelly, mentioned earlier, offers some guidelines for good eating. He sums it up in less than ten sentences:
- Eat 75 percent water soluble foods daily (fresh fruits and vegetables).
- Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of purified or ozonated water daily.
- Bake, broil, grill or steam your food, and remove the skin from poultry and fish before eating it.
- Stop eating when you're satisfied, not full.
- Eat fruit in the morning. If you need some protein, enjoy a steaming bowl of oatmeal your way (brown sugar / honey / cinnamon; raisins; low fat cow's, rice, almond or soymilk).
- Start eating you vegetables at noon - make a (chicken, fish, and turkey) sandwich on whole grain bread.
- Snack on raw vegetables in the afternoon. If you need something more, check out the natural food store for snack bars and wholesome fat-free munchies.
- Enjoy a dinner of salad, fish, chicken, or turkey, and steamed or grilled vegetables; whole-grain pasta, with low fat sauce; baked potato with yogurt topping instead of sour cream; vegetable soup and whole grain crackers; etc.
- Enjoy and evening snack of nonfat frozen yogurt. The calcium before bedtime is a good food choice because it replaces some of the calcium that is used up during sleep.
These basic steps are a great starting tool for healthy eating. As healthy eating complements physical exercise, so do supplements complement healthy eating. It's time for supplements 101.
With more and more foods today being over processed and nutrient free, the ever-increasing need for supplements is present. It used to be that if you just ate a healthy well-balanced meal schedule, you would be getting all necessary nutrients. With the fast pace and rush of society, fast food chains are at the peak of business. Poor soil content today does not offer the necessary nutrients needed daily. The role that supplements play today is crucial for good health and energy. Here, we will offer some supplements that would be a very good benefit to your diet:
- A good multivitamin and mineral supplement.
- A good antioxidant tablet.
- An herbal and all natural colon cleanse
- A good fiber supplement.
- A natural oral chelation (artery cleanser).
It is strongly recommended that you visit your local herbal and vitamin health store to learn which of these supplements will be the best for you. You should also consult with your doctor before starting any supplement program. You may also want to find a good book on herbs and supplements to help you make the right choices, and better educate yourself in this area.
Many of us believe that physical exercise, a healthy diet and a good supplement program equals "total" health. This is not necessarily true. Metal conditioning is the most important part of any fitness program.
Mental Conditioning and Fitness
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, mental conditioning and fitness are just as important as physical conditioning. They work together to bring us to our fullest potential. If you are not mentally disciplined, then chances are you will never start, or maintain any fitness program. Mental conditioning also focuses largely on our attitudes, outlooks and ability to deal with stressful situations. When we learn to bring our mind into harmony with our body, we truly reach a point of "complete" physical fitness.
Reducing Stress - Attitudes and Outlooks
Most of the stress we feel is based on our perception of the "thing" that is bothering us. It is not the situation that causes the stress; it is the way we choose to handle it. There are many programs available today to help one look at things differently and improve the quality of life. In fact, there are too many ideas and programs available to mention here. However, I would like to suggest some that have worked well for me over the years.
- Time Management
- Breathing Exercises
- TAI-CHI (a form of martial arts designed to reduce stress and improve overall health and attitude)
- Relaxing Massage
- Herbal Supplements (for reducing stress)
- Light and Sound (mind machines)
All of these programs are very good, and when combined with a good workout and nutrition plan, offer you great health and fitness.
One of the best exercises I have used for reducing stress is known as "Freeze Frame"®. This technique was developed by Doc Childre, an innovative researcher and president of HeartMath® in California. For some time, Doc Childre's research and programs touched only the private sector. But recently, The Institute of HeartMath®, a non profit research organization founded by Doc Childre, has been researching and conducting a study of how stress effects police officers. This study reinforces the need for effective stress management in the police, as well as the security profession.
In it's study, the Institute of HeartMath reports that police officers typically suffer a variety of physiological, psychological and behavior stress effects. These effects include greater risk of error, accidents and overreaction. All, which can compromise performance, jeopardize public safety and pose significant liability costs to the department. The greatest concerns for most police departments today include liabilities that involve automobile accidents, rapid decision-making, citizen complaints and inappropriate use of force. With these concerns in mind, little to no training exists to provide police officers with effective stress management strategies. Again, the same thing holds true for the security profession.
Research has shown that:
- Police officers are over twice as likely as people in other occupations to develop cardiovascular disease.
- Being employed in law enforcement places one at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than having high blood pressure.
- Police officers have also been shown to die at a higher rate from cancer than the general population.
- At a psychological level, the stress of police work may result in chronic negative emotions such as anger, anxiety or depression, which can lead to burnout or emotional exhaustion.
The Freeze-Frame technique can be a very useful tool for reducing police related stress. It is a simple, easy to use technique that will enable security officers to take control of the stressful parts of their job.
For a more understanding of the Freeze-frame technique, contact HeartMath by looking at the reference section of this article. They offer several great programs to improve mental outlook and help reduce stress. Until then, here are the five basic steps to the Freeze-frame Technique:
- Recognize the stressful feeling and FREEZE-FRAME it! Take a time-out.
- Make a sincere effort to shift your focus away from the racing mind or disturbed emotions to the area around your heart. Pretend you're breathing through your heart to help focus your energy in this area. Keep your focus there for 10 seconds or more.
- Recall a positive, fun feeling or positive time you've had and attempt to re-experience it.
- Using your intuition, common sense, and sincerity-ask your heart, what would be a more efficient response to the situation, one that will minimize future stress?
- Listen to what your heart says in answer to your question.
There is no doubt about the advantages of being fit in the security profession. Taking care of the "Physical You" equals officer safety, role model responsibility, lower health costs and less absenteeism, higher morale and better leadership. Physical exercise, nutrition, supplements, mental conditioning and reducing stress are all part of the "Complete Program" that will bring each officer to optimum fitness and performance level.
Officers owe it to themselves, and the departments they work for, to stay fit and healthy. The information offered here is a great starting place. Build on your knowledge. Read books, take classes, but most of all, just get going. It's never to late to start - but the time to start is now.
The best of a healthy and safe career to all of you!
Recommended Reading and Contact Sources
- "The Six Steps To The Fountain Of Youth" By:
Dennis Kelly, 1115 Dartford Dr. Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689, (800) 522-8114
- "The HeartMath Solution" By:
Doc Childre and Howard Martin. Contact: HeartMath LLC at (800) 450-9111
About The Instructor:
Lyle R. Sharman is the Security Training Coordinator for the Manadalay Group. He is a part time instructor for the International Police Tactical Training Academy in Brookfield Ohio, an Arizona State certified College Instructor for the Administration of Justice, owner of Lyle Sharman Enterprises and a Partner of Liability Management Systems. He currently holds several International and Master certifications for defensive tactics and is a recognized expert in the Use of Force. Mr. Sharman is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer for the Spalding Sports Corporation and has appeared in television commercials for them. In addition to writing and co-authoring several training manuals, Mr. Sharman is the Author of two books, Search & Handcuff Training For Law Enforcement and Security and A Families Right To Survive. He now holds the position of Director for the National Association of Field Training Officers State of Nevada Chapter. Lyle can be reached at(520) 763-9601 P.O. Box 983 Bullhead City AZ. 86430. You may also e-mail him at email@example.com