Part of the SWAT lifestyle is fitness; make no mistake about it. Teams should not have the "look" of a model but actually just good sound fit individuals to hold things together in a time of crisis.
Fitness standards must be upheld, yet many teams limit the amount of fitness training incorporated into the monthly training regimen. When I speak with many SWAT operators, they give so many excuses about why they don't perform fitness training on their own time and wait for the possible team drill to get in their exercises.
Fitness training has proven to be a stress reliever as well as a great motivating tool for any SWAT operator. What many in the industry don't understand is that we, as police officers, should have a strong belief in good fitness. Unfortunately in many teams or soon to be entry-level SWAT members, my discussions with them seem to have some of the same concerns on their minds: "I don't know if I'm going to pass the PT test." You must ask yourself, "Why am I not in good shape to begin with?"
There are many fitness programs out there for law enforcement, especially SWAT field operators. The thing is, you can't rely on one style of fitness training to solve all your problems.
For example, there are programs such as CrossFit that promote great functional training fitness and health. Consider the risks that exist in any other type of circuit-based program. You could jog around a track for simple cardiovascular training and sprain your knee, throw out your back or twist an ankle.
The bottom line is you're on a SWAT team, a specialized response unit called to many dangerous situations. The duration of a call-out can keep you there for countless hours and sustainability in these environments can call for strong and sound body and mind. Examples of required durability include holding a rifle in a ready position for a long period of time. You might need to squat behind a ballistic shield during a standoff with a suspect for many hour and then suddenly burst into action. Ask yourself how long you can perform these tasks.
I always make sure my students understand the purpose of the training they are about to perform and why it's important for them to stay up to date on current fitness and other training trends that apply to law enforcement. Students will ask my opinions on CrossFit, TacFit, Insanity workouts, and many other exercise programs. I recommend these programs as optional tools for training and fitness.
I also advise them to vary the workouts and not get locked into one style of fitness. You must consider variables such as age, current or past injuries, and current medical conditions that prevent you from performing consistent, rigorous fitness tasks.
Changing workouts every several weeks helps stimulate growth, weight loss, and better core and cardio conditioning. It also provides a positive mental feeling upon completion. As a SWAT team trainer, I recommend that operators look into variable training workouts and systems so they don't get locked in on one type.
In our basic SWAT school, we include a three-hour segment on fitness and SWAT entry combatives that combines basic circuit-style fitness training with entry self-defense combatives for unarmed people. We emphasize the importance of fighting through tunnel vision and fast perception of threats in the room while dealing with a possible ambush.
The ambush fight exercise at the end of the training puts one SWAT operator in the center of the room with an instructor in an impact reduction training suit. The operator must close his eyes and wait for the ambush when the fight is on. The operator must get his feet and secure the role player on the ground within one minute.
In the end, the operators love the exercise as they realize how tough it is to fight off a subject for a minute or less with consistent movement and explosive counter moves. It's usually a wake-up call about their conditioning.
During a recent training, I worked with 19 students for 1 minute rounds with 30 seconds of rest in between. I was asked how I, at age 45, hold the aggressiveness and conditioning for each student.
I simply tell them that consistent functional training combined with traditional aerobic, anaerobic, core and MMA training in full SWAT gear or regular workout gear keeps my body guessing while working harder to maintain even stronger levels of response. A student should not live in a gym for hours unless he or she is competing for a special event. I average anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes maximum for any workout.
To live in a gym seven days a week is hard for any police officer especially those who have a family. Hitting the fitness circuit in multiple variations at least four days a week will result in some major responses by your body. Just remember that you must combine nutritious food with supplementation and rest for any successful fitness and training lifestyle.
Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team. He is a professional trainer for Team APC training.