Picture this: the pursuit (or "car chase" for those of you whose agencies have made the term "pursuit" go the way of the dinosaur!) ends with the suspect bailing out and running. You and your fellow officers set your perimeter and give chase. Suddenly, the unthinkable happens. Your suspect is actually getting away! All of your driving skill and perimeter prowess suddenly mean very little as the chance to catch this one seems to get longer and longer by the second. All the while, your lungs feel like you've inhaled broken glass and your legs remind you that you haven't stretched this much since grade school. The bad guy gets a free pass, and you and your buddies return to the cars to swap excuses about how you could have caught this guy "back in the day."

Sound familiar? I'm sure we all can relate to at least some aspects of this story, as much as we don't care to admit it! The truth is our jobs as police officers keep us extremely busy much of the time. This leaves little free time for ourselves. The last thing we want to do on our precious off-time is stand on a treadmill and count calories. I mean, our lifestyle isn't that bad, is it?

Well, consider this. The lack of any exercise alone is bad enough, but coupled with the lifestyle we live it is a recipe for disaster. Our jobs have some of the highest stress levels of any profession in the world, as we feel it every day. Most of the time, we're sitting in the car or standing / sitting taking reports. Stress plus non-activity is not a good plan for longevity! Then, let's add in our fast-food "eat when dispatch lets us" mentality and we have all the makings of a very unhealthy lifestyle.

So, what can we as individuals do about it? How can we stack the odds in our favor? There are many ways, but one of the best ways to keep fit for duty is to exercise regularly. However, this leads us back to square one, the one where we are standing at the treadmill dreading the next tedious hour.

In the spirit of keeping everyone healthy, let's take a look at two very basic and inexpensive ways to stay fit and active, all while avoiding the look of the dreaded "treadmill zombie." These may seem obvious and you may have brushed them off in the past, but look closer. You will notice that both of these tips have one thing in common; they are both outdoors and do double-duty, keeping you fit while helping you relax and de-stress (something we can all use a little more of!).

In fact, both of these activities rank right at the top of lifetime fitness training. They are both great for your heart, improve your muscle tone, build strength, keep your weight down, lower your stress level, and improve your mood all while getting you out in the great outdoors. That being said, who wouldn't want to give them a try?

Hiking

Hiking is one of the best ways to stay fit over the course of your entire life and rid yourself of some job-induced stress at the same time. It also has many other outstanding benefits, such as getting away from "the norm" of your everyday life, getting some fresh air, enjoying spectacular scenery, and spending time with family and friends. Also, hiking is one of the rare activities that can be tailored for your fitness level. You can go on a nice leisurely stroll in the woods, or strap on a backpack and tackle a 10,000-foot mountain peak. Either way, you're giving your heart and muscles a workout all while enjoying the great outdoors. Invite the family or some friends and pack a lunch (or fishing pole!), and you have the makings for a great day off.

You don't have to be blessed enough to live next to the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada Mountains to enjoy a hike, either. Every state has both state and national parks built with hikers in mind with a myriad of trails and paths to explore. Check them out online and go for a hike!

Biking

Ready to turn up the tempo a notch? Grab a bike! Biking is outstanding exercise, and is one of the best ways to burn calories and keep your heart pumping at its best. Cycling also improves balance and muscle coordination as you ride your way to better health. Also, cycling can offer you a great change-up from any exercise as you can switch from road cycling to mountain biking simply by changing the bike you ride. Both offer countless fitness benefits, and both get you outside more. If you don't think cycling is a great workout, try riding up a hill sometime at a decent speed. Your body will think otherwise very quickly!

Like hiking, many local governments have gone to great lengths to provide riding paths and trails for your enjoyment. Also, like hiking, these paths and trails are free of charge and ready year round for your enjoyment. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, the trails are there. Weather or not you choose to go on them may be a different story, but they'll still be there every day!

The bottom line is this: We all need to be accountable and keep ourselves healthy. We have the best job on the planet, so let's make sure we stay healthy and fit so we can enjoy it to the utmost. Also, staying fit will help ensure you have many years of health to enjoy after your career is over. Keeping yourself healthy will also allow you to do one more very important thing while at work: stay safe. Our job is the most fun, but can also be one of the most dangerous jobs in existence. Remember that not all of the dangers of our job come from bad guys, either. Much of it comes from our lifestyle. Let's be sure we stack the odds in our favor as much as we can, including our health.

So, the next time you're in a gym dreading your workout, consider taking up one of the activities those big expensive indoor machines are patterned after, and get outside and enjoy the great outdoors! Every aspect of your life will appreciate it, except for the next guy who tries to run from you…

Author

Dan Pasquale
Dan Pasquale

Officer

Dan Pasquale is an officer with the Tracy (Calif.) Police Department. He spends his spare time writing for PoliceMag.com

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Dan Pasquale is an officer with the Tracy (Calif.) Police Department. He spends his spare time writing for PoliceMag.com

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