A University of Iowa research study recently examined the physical activity level of police officers in the United States. The study found the on-duty activity level of officers to be low and further linked the sedentary nature of police work and the stress of the job to increased health risks. The following article is the second in a series outlining what some police officers are doing to reduce these risks and stay healthy.
In 2013, job-related illness was the third leading cause of death for on-duty police officers in the United States, according to statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial Fund. Sadly, this has been a trend for the past decade.
Many law enforcement professionals struggle to find not only the time and energy to commit to a regular workout schedule, but a specific fitness program that accomplishes what the job demands of their bodies.
In order to help fight these trends, Sgt. Nick Surre (the author or this article) and Officer Craig Francis co-founded, developed and established LEO-fit.
The LEO-fit workout program is designed for law enforcement officers to build strength fast using time-specific, high-intensity workouts that require limited resources and equipment. LEO-fit also offers information on nutrition and mental health, demonstration videos and helpful smartphone apps for fitness.
All the information on LEO-fit is free. Weekly workouts are posted each Sunday on the website. LEO-fit also tries to help motivate and encourage its followers daily through its Facebook page.
As a midnight shift patrol sergeant for a middle Tennessee city, I'm personally familiar with the challenges of scheduling time to exercise. Aside from the normal duties of a patrol sergeant, I also supervise the department's Honor Guard Unit and Fitness Program.
As a former athlete turned police officer, I've trained under several different fitness forms and plans, including strength and conditioning programs at the collegiate football level, and circuit training and Crossfit brand models.
- Download and use My Fitness Pal. This free smartphone app is user friendly and has lots of good features to help you count calories. The scan feature makes it easy to add in foods as you prepare your meals.
- Pack your work lunches. Skip the drive-through and grab the cooler to ride shotgun with you. This makes it easier to choose healthy options that are just an arm's length away.
- Plan a cheat day every week. If you choose one of your days off, you can go out and eat with your family or have ice cream with your kids.
- Drink more H2O and less soda, energy drinks and sugary coffee. Don't waste your calories on beverages, especially those with little nutritional value.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise. Get to a gym, go for a run, walk the dog. Do something.
I also received a certificate as a Cooper law enforcement fitness specialist and have worked one-on-one with colleagues to help them reach their fitness goals. I developed and established departmental fitness standards and tests that are relevant to being a police officer.
LEO-fit co-founder Craig Francis was also a former athlete before beginning his law enforcement career. Prior to joining the LEO-fit team, he was a typical gym junkie who spent hours in the gym training under various traditional weight lifting programs. When his policing career began and other life demands emerged, he found it a consistent struggle to find the time to train.
Due to this challenge, Francis was willing to try a different type of training regimen. His participation was essential in the practical application and the testing of LEO-fit's validity. He's a proactive patrol officer for a city outside of Detroit, Michigan.
At the beginning of our law enforcement careers, we both struggled to find a specific fitness program that accomplished what the job demanded of our bodies. Over the next few years, we started developing our own workout plans tailored to the needs of the job. Using a combination of all the different fitness forms and plans that we'd previously used, we created a one-stop fitness program (LEO-fit) specifically designed for police officers.
Over the next year, we received many requests from colleagues, other departments and law enforcement friends for help in their fitness training regimens. Due to the popularity of the program, we discussed the idea of making the information more broadly available to the law enforcement community through a website. In January 2014, we launched the LEO-fit website and social media presence.
The LEO-fit test was developed as a physical testing standard for determining an individual's current fitness level. It's one of the first activities that should be completed before starting the LEO-fit workout program.
The goal is to reach the highest possible level: LEO-fit. The test itself is based on the Cooper law enforcement fitness standards and establishes a single standard by giving a goal range. By doing this, it allows a natural adjustment for age and gender.
The test itself is a four-pronged assessment that focuses on four identified areas needed in law enforcement: upper body strength, core strength, lower body strength and cardiovascular endurance. In order to reach a specific level, you must meet the minimum standard in each of the four assessments.
The LEO-fit 100 workout program coincides with the LEO-fit test levels. This allows you to identify which current workout level you should attempt in the workout program.
Start with a warm-up session as you would for a typical LEO-fit workout.
- Do as many push-ups as possible in one minute. Rest for two minutes.
- Do as many sit-ups as fast as possible in one minute. Rest for two minutes
- Sprint 300 meters as fast as possible (stop watched/timed). Rest for five minutes.
- Run one mile (1.6 kilometres) as fast as possible (stop watched/timed).
Rookie officer level
- 14 or fewer push-ups
- 19 or fewer sit-ups
- 67 seconds or more to complete 300 meter sprint
- 10:19 minutes or more to complete one mile
Police officer level
- 15-39 push-ups
- 20-39 sit-ups
- 66-57 seconds to complete 300 meter sprint
- 8:01-10:18 minutes to complete one mile
- 40 or more push-ups
- 40 or more sit-ups
- 56 seconds or less to complete 300 meter sprint
- 8:00 minutes or less to complete one mile
The LEO-fit program is a 25-week workout program that includes four workouts per week. Each workout has three components: warm-up, strength and workout.
To help prevent injuries and to maximizes your body's response to the training program, LEO-fit recommends a 10-minute warm-up prior to the strength and workout session. A suggested five minutes of walking and/or jogging, neck rotations, arm rotations, knee rotations, ankle rotations, 10 straight leg toe touches, 10 air squats, ten push-ups and any other stretching.
The strength session is broken down into four main power lifts: back squat, standing shoulder press, deadlifts and bench press. This program follows the Windler 5-3-1 strength system, which consists of a four-week programming cycle.
Each workout session has three different levels: rookie (beginner), officer (intermediate) and LEO-fit (advanced). All three levels have participants doing the same type of workout but altered depending on the fitness level the individual.
To get the maximum results from the workout, it's important to give your best effort. Do all the exercises as fast as possible, while keeping proper form.
Most of the workouts are performed for time, meaning you will need to run a stop watch in order to track how long the workout takes you from start to finish. LEO-fit also encourages you keep a journal to track weight lifted in the strength session and workout results.
Here's an example of a LEO-fit workout:
- Warm-up session
- Strength session (barbell back squat)
- 2 warm-up sets
- 1 set of 5 reps at 65 per cent
- 1 set of 5 reps at 75 per cent
- 1 set of 5+ reps at 85 per cent
- Rookie level: 3 rounds for time: 20 air-squats, 20 lunges (10 each leg) and 20 sit-ups
- Officer level: 3 rounds for time: 30 air-squats, 20 lunges w/25lbs dumbbells for Men/15lbs for Women (10 each leg) and 30 sit-ups.
- LEO-fit level: 3 rounds for time: 40 air-squats, 20 lunges with 35-lb dumbbells for Men and 25-lb for Women (10 each leg) and 40 sit-ups.
Make the time
Policing can be a largely sedentary job and there isn't a whole lot we can do about changing the daily work routines or job tasks. But you can control what you eat and drink, and what you do on your downtime and days off.
No matter what workout program you're doing or what you're trying to achieve, the bottom line is that doing some activity is better than doing none. Be aware of what you eat and make yourself do physical activity every day. A 10-minute workout is less than one per cent of your entire day.
Police work comes with a ton of responsibility and officers are forced to become selfless. But they can't let their health and fitness take a back seat to all of work and life's other demands. The job is unforgiving and too dangerous for that. Officers need to keep their job and life's perspective in sight.
For more information, please visit www.leo-fit.com.