How Do I Stay Fit On the Job?

Working long hours or driving a patrol car all day makes it difficult to stay in shape. After several months of reduced physical activity, compared to the Police Academy, even the younger police officers can find five, 10, or even 15 additional pounds around their mid-sections.

Working long hours or driving a patrol car all day makes it difficult to stay in shape. After several months of reduced physical activity, compared to the Police Academy, even the younger police officers can find five, 10, or even 15 additional pounds around their mid-sections. The additional weight and lack of a regular exercise plan will decrease the speed and endurance needed to chase down law-breakers and can also inhibit the strength needed during the apprehension of a suspect.

If you are feeling the effects of reduced physical inactivity due to your schedule, here are some helpful tools for you to stay in "police academy shape."

Flexibility Is Key

First of all, a police officer should be flexible. After hours of sitting still, jumping out of a car and chasing someone at full speed can injure even the most athletic individual. Stretching at least your legs and lower back throughout the day and on a daily basis with your exercise routine will save you from unnecessarily pulling a muscle or worse.

Your increased flexibility will be the result of a daily stretching program that will help you better recover from the daily grind and, of course, challenging workouts. Stretching will help you break up the lactic acid that builds in your muscles. One tip: Hold each stretch you do for 4-5 deep inhales and exhales. The inhales should be three or more seconds long followed by a full exhale. This will also help oxygen get to your muscles, adding an increased effect to lactic acid release.

You can perform the most important stretches-thigh, hamstring, and lower back stretches-throughout the day.

Quick Workouts for the Busy Officer

Easy-to-perform exercises such as pushups, pull-ups, dips, squats, lunges, and abdominal and lower back exercises make it possible for the busiest of us to exercise anywhere in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

Pyramid Workout Plan

This program is appropriate for beginners and advanced alike. The best thing about the pyramid workout is that you work up from a very easy level that counts as a warm-up. Continue up the pyramid as shown until you hit your maximum level of fitness, then repeat in reverse order, which acts as your cool-down.

If you can complete the pyramid above, your final total of pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups will be 36 pullups, 72 pushups, and 108 sit-ups. If you continue up the pyramid and build up to level 10 (10 pull-ups, 20 pushups, and 30 sit-ups) on the peak of the pyramid, you will have completed the entire pyramid That is 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, and 300 sit-ups or other abs exercise of choice.

PT Supersets

This workout will push your pushups and sit-ups to 300 reps each and keep your pull-ups between 50 and 100 reps. The superset is a series of exercises to be repeated with no rest. For the upper body superset, simply do five to 10 pushups then roll over and rest your pushup muscles by doing 10 crunches and continue on with the two different versions of pushups and crunches. One super set can be accomplished in as little as two minutes. If you repeat this particular workout five times you will have done 150 pushups and 200 crunches in a 10-minute period. If you are at a beginner level of fitness, try to do your pushups on your knees once you fail at regular pushups and decrease the number of times you repeat this cycle to 4-5 supersets.


β˜… pull-ups - 5-10

β˜… pushups - 10

β˜… sit-ups - 10

β˜… wide pushups - 10

β˜… reverse crunches - 10

β˜… tri pushups - 10

β˜… double crunches - 10

β˜… Add 10-20 jumping jacks before every set and get some cardio benefit out of it. Total time: 20 minutes

Max PT/Fewest Sets Possible

This workout is one of my favorites for building from 10 pull-ups to 15-20 pull-ups. Many people get stuck at 10 pull-ups; this workout will get you over that hump. I recommend trying this workout only once a week in conjunction with the two above PT workouts during the week.


β˜… 50 pull-ups

β˜… 150 pushups

β˜… 200 sit-ups


β˜… 100 pull-ups β˜… 250 pushups

β˜… 300 sit-ups

Alternate from one max rep set exercise to another until you reach the above numbers...time limit on each exercise is two minutes per exercise. For increased difficulty, add a 1⁄4-mile run during each cycle. Aim to run at whatever your goal pace is for a 1.5- or 2-mile timed run.

Maintenance Plan

The goal is to create a maintenance program that will challenge your cardiovascular system as well as your muscular endurance. Some police departments may have weight room access with cardio equipment or even pools. If that is the case, get your cardio in the pool, on bikes, or on treadmills. Otherwise, these workouts can be done with little or no equipment as demonstrated below (next page).[PAGEBREAK]

On other days you can work your legs and abs again or combine them for a full body workout.




1) Squats - 20

2) Crunches - 20

3) Lunges - 10 each leg

4) Left/Right Crunches - 20/20

5) Heel Raises - 20

6) Reverse Crunch - 20

Add jumping jacks or running a 1⁄4 mile on a local track to this one and you have a solid cardio and lower body endurance plan.

The leg workout superset below is a little more challenging due to the fact that it requires you to stand up and lie down repeatedly, but it is much like the requirements of a police officer on duty. Sitting still, jumping up, running, etc...

Some people have commented that the hardest part of this workout is the transition from one exercise to the other. As you can see, there is really no excuse why you cannot exercise any day of the week whether you are traveling, working long hours, or staying at home with the kids. With minimal equipment and time sacrifice, we can all fit exercise in our lives and stay healthy for many years to come.

Mix a little cardio with PT for an allin- one workout with both cardio and muscular benefits:


β˜… Jumping Jacks - 10/Squats - 10

And/or jog or walk or bike 5 minutes

β˜… Stretch


β˜… squats - 20

β˜… lunges 10 each leg (regular, half)

β˜… calves - 30 (regular, toes in, toes out)

β˜… bike or jog - 5 minutes

β˜… Jog 1⁄4 mile or bike 2-3 minutes/stretch


β˜… Jog 1⁄4 mile on a treadmill or outside (or bike 2-3 minutes)

β˜… Squats - 10-20

β˜… Lunges - 10-15 each leg

β˜… Calves - 30 each leg

β˜… Stretch

The ideas above should help you maintain your fitness level even with limited time and resources. The other side of the fitness and health equation is nutrition. Although you can burn plenty of calories with the above workouts, it does not benefit you as much if you are not eating for more energy or eating too many calories. At the end of the day, if you take in too many calories than you burn, you will continue to gain weight.

5 Nutritional Tips for the Road

On average, most people can gain five or more pounds a year. That is why in five short years, people step on a scale and cannot believe they are nearly 50 pounds overweight. Weight has a way of sneaking up on you over time. You do not get overweight overnight and you do not lose the weight overnight either. Both take time, but fortunately losing weight can be faster if you follow a strict nutritional and exercise plan. Both take only minutes a day. You need to either stick to your food and exercise plan or start a plan now if you have not been active or concerned about your food intake in a long time.

Here are a few eating tips and some ideas on quick exercise routines to try when time is limited:

1) Lay off the fast food: Before you leave for a long day at work, try to eat and pack a lunch. Foods high in protein mixed with a natural carbohydrate are great energy meals. Try a lean turkey or chicken sandwich with vegetables like lettuce and tomato. Watch out for the mayo-too many calories and fat grams. Try mustard instead.

Fruits are great quick snacks, too. Try apples, oranges, or bananas for natural sources of energy.[PAGEBREAK]

2) Wake up and burn calories:

As busy days pile up with more and more obligations, the scheduled 5:00 p.m. workout can easily get bumped. Make 30 minutes of exercise fit into your mornings and do some type of workout.

β˜… Try biking, walking, or running for 30 minutes

β˜… Go to your gym for a quick circuit routine

β˜… Try calisthenics like jumping jacks/ pushups/crunch routine and jumping jacks/squats/lunges/crunches listed above

3) Don't wait; start now: Why wait? When you can, you should try to eat at regularly scheduled times during the day. Healthy snacks and meals will carry you through your stressful days much better than skipping meals or

binge eating. You will find that if you keep a good schedule, you will lose weight and inches. Add exercise to the plan and you will also get fit and feel better than you have in years. Try an eating schedule of the following recommended times:

0630 - breakfast

0930 - morning snack

1230 - lunch

1530 - afternoon snack

1830 - dinner

If your days are longer than 15-18 hours you should add another light snack of foods like yogurt, grapes, or milk. Other snacks during the day can be salads, fruits, lean meats, small sandwiches, and boiled eggs.

4) Walk more: When on patrol, try to walk around an area if possible when going about your normal day. Burning a few more calories by walking is one of the easiest ways to take or keep off extra weight. Just 20 minutes of brisk walking can burn more than 100-150 calories.

5) Keep working the abdominal region and lower back: Not with food but with exercises like crunches, sit-ups, and lower back exercises and stretches. When you do these exercises for just 5-10 minutes daily, it is easier to remember to watch your food intake and stop yourself from gorging.

Overall, it is important to keep up the habit of moving more and eating less. These tips can help you prevent unneeded weight gain and lose any extra weight you have.

Want To Lose Weight? Calories Out Must Be Greater Than Calories In

To lose weight, there are a few factors that you must consider for any weight loss program to be effective. If you remember the following formulas, you should be able to lose weight in a healthy manner and, better yet, keep it off.


This formula is as basic as weight loss gets. If you exercise more calories than you eat at the end of the day, you will lose weight. Creating a calorie deficiency at the end of a day does not mean you have to starve yourself. In fact, decreasing your calories too much can have an opposite effect on the body and cause what I refer to as "camel mode." Plus, you will not have energy at the end of the day to exercise.

The human body is built for survival and when you receive too few calories and not enough water, you can actually shut down your metabolism to a point where you will not burn fat and will store water. You will not lose weight, but you could gain weight from the increased water retention.


Basically, the body needs water and increased oxygen to burn fat as an energy source. The water intake should be anywhere from a half gallon for women and up to 1 gallon a day for men. This can be tough to do while on duty in a patrol car, so drink as needed during the day and drink more once off duty.

As you add more water to your system, your body will be able to use the retained water for excretion, prompting almost immediate weight loss that is healthy. This is not the same as sitting in a sauna and sweating, which actually dehydrates you. Adding water will rehydrate you and enable your body to burn more fat as long as you increase your oxygen intake by doing some form of exercise. Walking, swimming, biking, jogging, even yard work and calisthenics can help with working your cardiovascular system.

Here are some sample calorie expenditures for a variety of activities for people who weigh 130-190 pounds. If you weigh more than 190 pounds you will actually burn slightly more calories than a lighter person.

Everyday Calorie-Burning Exercises Activity 130 lbs 190 lbs

Aerobics 300 500

Basketball Game 475 675

PT (i.e. Pushups) 480 690

Child Care 210 300

Gardening 290 400

Jogging 410 600

Pushing Stroller 150 210

Jumping Jacks/Rope 450 650

Swimming 550 890

Tennis 400 600

Walking 4 mph 230 350

These are but a few of the ways to burn calories. Of course, breathing, sitting, standing, doing anything burns calories-even sleeping. But as you can see from the above list, the activities that burn the most calories are those that are rigorous or that can be done for several hours for best results.

Remember, the key to any weight control program is adding water to your diet and following a fitness plan that will help you add oxygen and burn calories and fat for the caloric deficiency needed to lose weight.

Stew Smith is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Navy SEAL, and the author of military and law enforcement fitness books such as "The SWAT Workout," "The Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness," and "Maximum Fitness." As a fitness trainer and author, Smith has helped get hundreds of elite military operators and other law enforcement professionals into training shape.

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