CrossFit For Cops
by John Wills
Are you willing to spend 20 minutes, 3 days per week to get in shape?
Other than firearms expertise and tactics, there is no other component of law enforcement preparedness that will aid in your success and survival on the street like being fit. We all have our own ideas about what workout regimens are most appropriate for the job we do. As a huge proponent of fitness for cops, I've lived it, taught it, and been rewarded for being in shape by surviving a shooting. The doctor told me directly that had it not been for my fitness, I would have died. I don't need convincing; maybe you know someone who does.
I recently sat down with Adam Edison, who owns RARE CrossFit in Fredericksburg, VA. We discussed how CrossFit (CF) training fits into a police officer's toolbox of practices that will help keep him alive. We both agreed that it's imperative for an officer to be fit. Being in shape transcends every aspect of being a cop; it breeds confidence, which translates into quick, decisive, authoritative action that can mean the difference between life and death. Moreover, if we are going to take the time to work out, shouldn't we spend that time productively? Shouldn't our workouts mirror the tasks that we perform in the course of our duties? The answer to both questions is yes, and CF seems tailor made for us.
What is CF? It's a system of fundamental movements that have been around since man was being chased by dinosaurs. It involves movements like squatting, running, jumping, pulling, pushing, climbing, carrying, and throwing. It's a philosophy that eschews traditional pieces of equipment and paradigms that dictate three sets of ten repetitions. CF trains the body to work most efficiently in the manner for which God designed it. It's a system that doesn't vary, whether its user is a world class athlete, youngster, or grandparent.
Many CF training facilities are little more than warehouses. You won't find any chrome plated machines or floor to ceiling mirrors there. Nor will you find guys and gals strutting around in designer outfits, wearing makeup and jewelry and listening to MP3 players. What you will find are a few basic weights, pull-up bars, kettle bells, jump ropes, truck tires, and rowing machines. What's different about this routine is intensity. After a dynamic workout and stretching, the meat of CF training is a twenty-minute workout. When you've finished, you'll feel like you've been at it for hours. Most of the exercises involve using body weight. That's important for us. We need to be able to run up stairs, climb over fences, and pull people out of cars. That's twenty minutes of building power and aerobic capacity. Many of us separate our cardio and strength training, doing one or the other on alternate days. CF incorporates both on the same day.
Adam told me about a couple of his clients who are law enforcement. Heather, a local sheriff's deputy, is 24 years old, 5'3", and 120 pounds. She came to CF unable to do one pull up; she now does ten. I know many male cops who struggle to do one pull up. Steve is 6' 0", and 300 pounds - another local deputy. He has lost more than 12 pounds in three weeks. Both have experienced a boost in their self-esteem and confidence. Adam was quick to point out that CF clients, as well as anyone who expects results from working out, should combine proper nutrition along with their fitness routine. Eating properly results in better recovery, both in the gym and on the street. Additionally, some people who have experienced chronic health problems may find their symptoms have disappeared or ameliorated after utilizing the CF workout.
Adam is a very positive person; I like that. He uses phrases that reinforce and strengthen mindset, things like: train to your weakness; expect the unexpected; get comfortable being uncomfortable. He also does not want to hear the word, can't. Good stuff. Often, Adam will have clients come to CF who are runners or bodybuilders; folks who think they are in good shape. Once he puts them through an evaluation workout, they quickly find out they are deficient in several areas. Why? Because they've focused on one narrow aspect of conditioning. CF is a total body workout, and power is really the emphasis. The CF formula is Force multiplied by Distance, divided by Time, or simply, moving a large load, a long distance, at high intensity. It's probably the most ideal workout routine for law enforcement.
I was recently in Toronto, Canada, teaching a class. While I was there, I spoke with Dave Evans, Training NCO for the Air Marshalls. Dave is a certified CF Trainer. He recognizes the value of CF training for LEOs, and promotes it to his colleagues. He's seen the results it produces, physically and mentally. What I see as an advantage of CF training for cops, other than the fact that it causes you to become totally fit, is the time expenditure - it's minimal. Twenty or thirty minutes, three or four times per week, will allow you to experience excellent results. That sure beats pounding the pavement every day for an hour or more. If you don't want to give up your routine, maybe you're training for a marathon or triathlon, just do CF twice a week. You'll find that adding CF will boost your fitness level and probably cut your times. Adam told me about one runner who actually began to run personal bests after she included CF training in her routine.
Adam doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He's an ultra-marathoner - 50 and 100 mile runs - he's done twenty of them. Last February he ran a 32-miler; since then he's done little running, other than a mile now and then, or a 400 meter workout. But in November, he will compete in the Mountain Masochist Trail Run, a 50-miler, run on a combination of roads, Jeep trails, and a single track at an elevation of 9200 feet. He completed the same run last year, finishing in the top third in ten hours. Immediately afterward, he competed in a benching contest, The Beast Challenge, where he benched his weight, 135 pounds, twenty times. That's total body fitness. He's confident that his CF foundation will put him in good stead to run this year's race, and I must say that I agree with his assessment.
If you think you're up for the challenge to take on CF training, look on the web to find your closest facility. I think that it's a perfect fit for cops. It mirrors what we do each day on the street. We need every advantage we can find to be victorious. CF training is one of the tools you should have in your toolbox.
Stay safe, brothers and sisters