Saturday, June 23, 2012


Writing about Physical Training (PT) first isn't my way of saying it's the most important aspect of the academy. In fact, I have seen many a recruit enter the academy believing that since they are in phenomenal shape that the academy will be a breeze. They can PT all day long, but they struggle miserably in other areas. The reason I am including this topic so early on is that it is one aspect of the academy where preparation can and should be started immediately.

So what can you expect? How good of shape do you really need to be in? The answer really depends on which academy you attend. The academy I attended concentrated HEAVILY on long distance running. I think I can count the number of non-running PT sessions on one hand. The only question we ever needed answered was, "Are we running 6 miles to the north today or to the south?" At the academy where I am currently assigned, we do a long distance run for PT maybe once every other week or so. Our PT sessions concentrate more on full body workouts, core strength exercises and sprints. Most PT programs in the state will be adopting a program similar to ours soon enough, as the Lifetime Fitness program is being redesigned by POST to move more toward these ballistic style workouts. Apparently we do more sprinting after suspects in this job than jogging after them for 6 miles. Who knew? Regardless of which PT program your academy runs, if you prepare yourself, you will do well in even the most difficult programs. If it turns out to be an easier program, you'll be a rockstar.

Mistake #1 is to show up on the first day of the academy with the hopes that the academy staff will whip you into shape. This doesn't work because the majority of the recruits show up on the first day in great shape already. You will be the one lagging behind the class on runs and getting yelled at to get off your knees while the class is doing push-ups. You will also be fighting to stay awake to study at night because you're so exhausted from the workouts and you will suffer academically. Show up in the best shape of your life. You will perform better in other areas of the academy and the PT program will do what it's designed to do without killing you.

By this time, many of you are familiar with the physical agility tests different agencies put applicants through. These can consist of a dummy drag, wall climb, 500 yard run, a 99-yard obstacle course, and various other tests agencies decide to use. If you aren't familiar, look it up online. Many agencies publish exactly what their physical tests consist of on their website, or you can call and ask. In my opinion, you could almost roll off the couch, wipe the potato chip crumbs off your shirt and pass these tests in flip flops. This makes it even that much more sad when applicants show up to this test during the hiring process, get light headed and throw up from exhaustion.

Most academies supplement the standard POST agility tests with additional physical testing for the recruits. These are usually a more true test of your overall fitness. Pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups and a mile and a half run are common exercises recruits are tested on in addition to the mandated tests. Sit-ups and push-ups are often tested by how many you can do in one minute. If you can do at least 50 sit-ups in a minute and 50-push-ups in a minute, you should be fine in this area. Recruits with above average fitness get up into the 70's and 80's with sit-ups and push-ups. Pull-ups are sometimes timed, but usually you are just tested on your max reps without stopping. 20 pull-ups is a great goal before the academy starts. Over 20 pull-ups is excellent. As far as the mile and a half run, there are some rabbit recruits who can run it in under 9 minutes. This is a great time and I suggest doing what you can to get there, but it is not a common achievement. An acceptable time would be down around 10-11 minutes. That being said, don't get your time down to 10 minutes and stop. Keep training hard and get your time down as low as you can!

I am not going to include specific workouts in this post, but I will tell you that your workouts need to vary. Don't just go to the gym and hit the weights. Don't just go out and run until you drop, five days a week. You need to achieve a balance between strength, cardio and endurance. When you run, include hill runs, sprints, as well as long distances. Make sure you include a lot of core exercises. Your core is such an important aspect of your overall physical conditioning and should not be neglected. Every week or so, take a day of rest and then test yourself to see how you're progressing. If you aren't improving, you aren't working hard enough. Try any of the popular workout programs out there like P90X, Crossfit, or Insanity. Log onto the Internet and try different workouts you find on YouTube. Whatever you do...WORK HARD.

There is always the recruit who shows up terribly out of shape and tries to downplay it by telling us, "But I lost 40 lbs. before the beginning of the academy." Great job. I applaud your accomplishment, but that doesn't make the fact that you are in horrible shape go away. An obese person could stop eating ice cream every night and walk one mile a day and lose 40 lbs. in short order. Just because you are in better shape than before does not mean you are in great shape. Set higher goals for yourself. If you can't get into great shape by the time the academy starts, then maybe you should hold off on applying until you can get yourself there. When you enter this career, your life ceases to be just about you. The lives of the public, your partners, your partners' families and your own family count on your physical ability to do this job. Sometimes you have to make a mature decision and put your own needs aside. If you can't make that commitment, maybe you should take more time to prepare yourself and apply next year.

Usually the biggest hurdle for people in regard to PT is themselves. A recruit might try three times to do a set of twenty push-ups during a PT session and crumble to their knees after only ten. Then an instructor or an R.T.O. stands next to them and motivates them to keep going and not quit and they can miraculously complete all 20 push-ups. Why does this happen? Most people have a false sense of where their physical limits are. It takes someone forcing you to go beyond those limits to learn where your true limits are. When you can push yourself to your true limits on your own, you will get the most out of your PT sessions.

STOP EATING CRAP!! Start taking nutrition seriously. Stop eating fast food and microwaving frozen pizza pockets. Cut out the unnecessary sugars. Take a nutrition class. At the very least get on the Internet and start educating yourself on the right way to eat. There is plenty of information out there. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. The reason this Learning Domain is called Lifetime Fitness, is because it is something we should instill in ourselves forever, and not just during our time at the academy. This job is physically demanding and adds a lot of stress into our lives. Proper diet and exercise will keep it from taking too many years off of our life.

This is such a broad subject and I couldn't possibly cover all of the aspects in one post. I will break things down in greater detail in future posts, but the point I want to get across right now is to start getting yourself into shape. Whatever you decide to do, give it maximum effort. Don't cheat yourself. If you do, you will wish you hadn't by the end of week one of the academy.

Email me if with any questions. I have no problem offering advice on nutrition and exercise. I'm not an expert, but I have learned quite a bit and am willing to share what I know.

Motivate yourself and get to work!

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