It’s been a very long week on duty, like six 12 hour days kind of a long week. It’s been hot too so the calls have been extra ornery adding to your mounting fatigue. You know that one of the best ways to shake this feeling off is to get a good work out under your belt. So as any dedicated law enforcement professional should do you trudge down to the gym and crank out some semblance of a workout only after you are done you feel worse and now your back is sore too.
The body is a machine and this machine needs constant maintenance. A day in the life of an officer is as varied and unpredictable as it can be. From not knowing when your next meal is to hours of patrol to excessive physical exertion the machine has to be ready for it all. So let’s break down how to maintain and even fix the machine to allow the tactical athlete to shine.
1. Water: Your body is over 85% water. Every process in your body requires water to make it happen efficiently so think of water as the oil of your engine.
*Water keeps the disks in your spine healthy and able to absorb shock and load.
*Water can boost your metabolism.
*Water will flush toxins out of your body.
*Water improves concentration and lessens the effects of fatigue.
*The cartilage in your joints is made up of water to help it absorb shock.
*Water keeps the pump (heart) primed so that blood pressure is normal and physical ability stay high.
Just like checking the engine oil in your car we can check our water levels too. Thirst means you are dehydrated. Having to find a bathroom every 2 hours means you are hydrated. Remember that breathing, dry climates, exercise and some foods will pull water out of your body so this engine needs a constant re-supply of water to keep it primed and functioning well.
2. Fuel: All the best law enforcement technology in your car is useless if there is no gas in the tank to get to the call for service. Just like fuel grade at the gas pump we can ingest high octane foods; we can also put sand in the tank too. Leaving all doughnut jokes aside there are just foods that you can and can’t eat to keep your motor running smoothly.
*Always eat a lean protein (eggs, fish, chicken, turkey) with a healthy carbohydrate (whole grain products) Eating a carbohydrate along with a protein helps your body break down the food and utilize all of it for fuel, growth and most importantly repair.
*Your engine needs gas every 3 hours! Eating small but frequent meals accomplishes a few things. It boosts your metabolism naturally, it keeps the tank full all the time and you never get so low on gas that you turn to fuel substitutes (sugary packaged foods) as a gas replacement.
*Use clean gas to prevent engine build up. Lean non-fried proteins, whole foods and grains and a lot of vegetables and fruits act as the gas detergents to keep the pipes clean and the gas flowing freely. Sure it sounds funny when put that way but that’s what clean eating does.
*Warm up the engine in the Morning. Day shift or night pre-fueling the tank upon rising is one of the best strategies for keeping the engine running strong. If you are like me I am not a big fan of breakfast. In cases like these something like a meal replacement shake is a great option.
So let’s put all this together, you are packing your cooler for the upcoming 12 hour shift. In your cooler you will put:
*A container of Yogurt
*Homemade Turkey wraps: Spinach wrap, turkey, mustard, spinach lettuce.
* Roasted and unsalted nuts and dried fruit; aka. Homemade trail mix.
*A meal replacement bar in case it gets really busy out there.
*A super food drink or super food powder to add to your water. Odwalla, Naked, Bolthouse farms are in the grocery stores. There are many brands in health food stores that are powdered and can be added to your water bottle. Think of these as health in a bottle.
*A meal that can be eaten hot or cold in plastic ware. Something like chicken, brown rice with black beans and mixed veggies. It’s a complete meal and can be eaten hot or cold.
*Water bottles or a big water jug.
So engine references aside to keep yourself primed and functioning as a true Tactical Athlete it takes some fore thought and some planning but when it come down to it long shifts, rough days and stress will be much less likely to take their toll on your body. Remember, wellness and fitness is a lifestyle but as I have shown you it takes very little planning and little time to keep the machine fueled and ready for action!
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.