Flexibility is important for all public safety employees.
Photo credit: Fryan Fass
An effective fitness program has to be embraced by the whole organization to be effective.
Photo credit: Bryan Fass
There are times that new policies and new ideas upset the apple cart. There are times that change, even change for the improvement of your health and fitness stir up the bee hive. Last month we discussed some pre-shift injury prevention and wellness steps that you and your departments need to be doing. To reduce injury, improve fitness, increase speed, power and bolster wellness we discussed some techniques that will do all of this in a short period of time. For the folks in administration and the insurance people who look at reduced injury and a return on investment for this type of program the benefits are astounding. For you as the public safety professional that you are these techniques offer all of the above.
After the “roll call fitness” article posted I got al lot of emails and comments, the vast majority were positive and asking for more information on how to launch this type of approach at their departments. So let’s address some basic structure on how to design and run a program for roll call fitness.
First take a look around your department and at your local resources and identify who has a fitness and wellness background or interview local physical therapy staff. These folks MUST understand what you go through in a day. Prolonged sitting, postural distortions from gear and equipment, sit to sprint tactical situations, fatigue from shift work and nutritional challenges to name just a few. Beware the trendy high intensity and military fitness programs as many of these will cause injury while trying to make you hyper fit. Ideally, some key officers on each rotation from your department will go through some training to learn self myofascial release, active stretching and passive stretching designed to reduce injury and improve human performance. These officers will be tasked with leading everyone through 10 minutes of tissue mobilization and active stretching prior to roll call. Your fitness, wellness, morale and injury reduction will be significant and I promise that it will be fun getting there.
All command staff MUST champion and participate in the roll call fitness. Simply being present with your officers as they go through their proactive wellness routine and the simple command technique of leading by example will have immeasurably positive consequences on your officer morale and participation.
With wellness and injury prevention pushed to the forefront of your departments priorities some very predictable patterns will emerge. Uniform costs will increase as officers lose weight and get in better shape needing new uniforms that fit. Sick time and call outs will drop as fit officers get sick less so running short or having to pull mandatory overtime will decrease. Morale and team work will improve making each shift a more productive and cohesive unit.
For this to be an effective and lasting program a few more items need to be addressed. We need the total support of a few key players. Your city/county/municipal/state risk managers need to be included in this program, they often have access to training money and additional resources to help launch the program. If your department has a union there needs to be a clear understanding that this policy is for all officers and is solely for the improvement and longevity of their career and will benefit the community you swore to protect. To make this live on and succeed there must be a top down and bottom up approach. All command staff must be 100% on board and participating, all officers must participate in the roll call fitness every day. Without this organizational cohesiveness and structure the benefits of this type of pre-shift program will sadly fail. It takes the power of the entire organization and all officers to survive and thrive in the stressful environment of public safety and law enforcement. Change can be scary and often resisted but in this case the change is necessary and long overdue.
About The Author:
Bryan Fass is the author of “Fit Responder”, a comprehensive wellness plan for the first responder, and the Fit Responder Blog. Bryan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Medicine and is certified as a licensed athletic trainer and a strength and conditioning specialist. He was a paramedic for over 8 years. Bryan has authored four books regarding fitness, wellness and human performance. Bryan is available for Consulting and Speaking on Public Safety Fitness Testing along with Fitness, Wellness and Injury Prevention Programs. Contact him via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.