What is your department’s most valuable asset?
This was the question to the group of senior officers and command staff I posed during a recent tactical fitness and injury prevention class we taught. Thankfully all the officers answered that their staff are the most valuable asset.
So the next question I asked was, “What are you doing to invest in those assets?”
“Well…” went the uncomfortable silence. “We do a lot of training.”
Now we all understand the importance of training; as a trainer I totally understand that and so do you. BUT, how is training the required tasks of the job (which is necessary) “investing” in your assets?
A trend I have noticed in the last few years is that the brass says their officers are their best asset but then does nothing to invest in that asset. Even more alarming are the officers that do not invest in themselves. Part of this lack of personal planning can be the trickledown effect since we all know that doo doo flows downhill. When the boss is not investing neither will you.
So my brothers and sisters it’s time for some personal investment planning. Your job requires that not only will you carry and weapon but that you are also the weapon. Your mind and your body are weapons the low account balance tells us there is not a lot of investing going on.
Law enforcement is a physical job just as it’s a stressful job. The psychological stress alone will erode the best laid investments. As an example let’s say you work out 4-5 times per week before your shift. You eat relatively well and get some cardio in but it’s not your primary focus. Big and strong can be weapons on the street so your gym philosophy is all about size and intimidation factor aka the pretty muscles. Monday is chest and bi’s. Tuesday is back and tri’s. Wednesday is shoulders and ab’s. Thursday is legs which you skip and Friday you do some back, chest and arms again. If this sounds even remotely like you then you are making a poor investment.
Eventually the constant stress begins to get to you. Solid sleep is harder and harder to find, because you are constantly tired you skip a few workouts. Both stress and fatigue cause predictable eating patterns which make you crave high fat and high sugar foods. After a few months of skipped workouts and stress eating your uniform does not fit quite as well and maybe you are getting sick more than normal. This is also a predictable pattern of stress, stress eating and poor fitness.
At this point you are up 15 pounds and feel like hell. The call volume and ‘challenges’ on the street are not going to change so you decide that maybe you will try that high intensity fitness stuff everyone seems to be doing. So you team up with some other officers working out that way and off you go. But after a few of those very high intensity workouts your shoulder really starts to hurt, ‘why did they make me do a muscle up anyway you might ask?’
With a cranky shoulder we now have a cranky officer that is missing even more workouts, missing more sleep and the pattern continues. But this time it manifests in your behavior on the street and that my friends is very dangerous.
A better investment is to invest in yourself long before something throws you off course. Since most injuries are a result of either way too much sitting or the ‘misdirected pursuit of fitness’ then it only makes sense to invest in a system that you can follow throughout your career that will grow your investment.
The first smart investment you need to make is to find an outlet for the stress. Preferably this outlet is not LE related. Find a hobby or a past time that can take your mind away from the street.
Next invest in some investment tools; foam rollers and massage balls are inexpensive. Not only will they serve as a valid pre-shift warm up but these tools make deposits in the fund by keeping you loose and flexible, and they drastically reduce your chance of injury.
Finally invest in your own survival, learn everything you can about healing foods, anti-inflammatory foods and learn the triggers for stress and fatigue eating.
Officers, investing in yourselves or your staff is an investment that will pay constant dividends through improved fitness and wellness. As a final note make sure that the fitness pursuits you decide to “invest” in are not “misdirected pursuits of fitness” make sure that the equipment, program and routines are scientifically designed and valid of all aspects of law Enforcement.