Recovery seems to be a sticking point for a lot of first responders. We deal with a lot of stress and experience critical incidents that can cause both short term and long term trauma. The job comes with a crazy schedule and therefore a perceived lack of time, in many cases. We add additional stress upon ourselves through training, both physically and mentally.
So what can we do to help ourselves? How does recovery play a role in the life of an LEO?
Let’s start with what recovery means. One definition is the following:
“A return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.”
For us at Effective Fitness, that version is the most important to us. We strive to give that to you after every workout session and beyond. So how do we accomplish that?
A healthy state of mind for you will be different than everyone else. Some people read to clear their mind, some have hobbies, some workout, and the list can go on and on. There are a ton of options to help you have a healthy state of mind. Alcohol is not a recovery tool. It can hinder your performance and excessive alcohol can other negative affects on both your mind and body. I have found, like many others, that exercise is one of the most effective tools available for mental health. Being in the gym allows me to completely clear my head of any other thoughts. While there may be other tasks or goals you may intend on accomplishing in the day or in the future, the gym forces you to focus on the task at hand and leave everything else outside. A misstep in the gym with poor form, especially under heavy load, can cause serious problems. Career ending and life changing injuries happen in the gym all the time. A very large portion of the time, they are avoidable but freak accidents still happen.
Being in an environment that requires your full attention, where you can constantly test and exceed your mental limits, is a wonderful thing. Not to mention the fact that there are physiological reactions to exercise that are scientifically proven to put you in a better mood and keep you happier throughout the day. I have never walked in the gym, put in work and walked out feeling worse than I walked in, at least mentally.
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A healthy mind also comes from disassociating work related tasks. It’s very easy to get sucked into the LEO life. “I am the sheepdog that protects the sheep from the wolf.” Every rookie loves the idea of being a sheepdog. It’s almost seduces you into believing you are something that you are not. The idea of being a warrior and a guardian can consume you. It consumes many to the point where they believe that is all that they are. This can also add undue mental stress to constantly be on the lookout for danger or bad people.
We must constantly remind ourselves that we are humans first. Most of us are also mothers/fathers, brothers/sisters, sons/daughters, and the list goes on. We have families that we must also invest time in to give us the break of not being constantly stressed out over being the “protector of all.” We must first protect ourselves with a healthy mind. Give yourself a break, you need it more than you think.
We are assuming you are reading this because you are an Effective Fitness member but if you are not, you should be (shameless plug). We provide you with top notch training, specifically designed for First Responders. (For more info on the membership, click here: A Fitness Program Designed For Cops).
If you’ve been following us for a while, or even if you are new, you will notice a trend. We constantly stress the importance of recovery. We are asking you to add physical stress to your body on an almost daily basis. However, we provide you tools within our workouts to assist you with recovery.
One thing we can’t force you to do is SLEEP! Studies have shown that poor sleep cycles can have one of the biggest negative affects on our performance, our ability to recover, and prevent our bodies from adapting to physical stress. To put it simply, you are not going to see any “gains” if you are not allowing your body to rest from the added physical stress you are forcing it to endure.
Having a healthy body also means fueling it properly to assist with the recovery. Again, we have tools available to you to assist you with this process. Junk food won’t help you recover. While some foods may give you mental satisfaction and taste delicious, they may be hindering your recovery. We typically recommend 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, sourced from whole foods as an initial base for a healthy diet. Fill in the rest of your calories with healthy carbohydrates and fruits/vegetables and you are well on your way to properly fueling your recovery. We are asking you to break your body down during the workouts, in return, your body is asking for the fuel to properly adapt to the changes you are asking it to make. Strive towards giving it what it NEEDS, not what you want. There are a ton of really excellent recipes for healthy meals/snacks that taste delicious.
By now we should all be able to agree that strength is king when it comes to physical fitness. Everyone wants to be strong and with good reason. It’s always impressive to see someone who can deadlift 500 pounds or squat 400 pounds. While there are many strength athletes hitting twice those numbers, having the ability to move that much weight will always be a significant sign of a very strong human.
However, as a First Responder, we must also be fast and agile. The ability to deadlift 400 pounds and run a 6 minute mile, now that is a feat. A feat we should all be striving for. Tactical athletes are true “hybrid athletes” who must be able to run, jump, lift, push, pull, fight, shoot, etc., all while wearing additional gear.
The demand for performance is high.
The simple answer is no.
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Mobility is also imperative for career longevity and survival. A regular beat cop will spend the equivalent of years sitting in a patrol car. A 20+ career of wearing external load in excess of 20-35 pounds will destroy your body over time, unless we prepare for that task.
Simple stretching techniques have proven to loosen tight joints such as the hips and knees, where First Responders see the most injuries over their career. Coupled with a consistent strength training program, you will be setup for success for many, many years.
I can hear it now, “There’s no way I can do all of that” or “I simply don’t have the time.”
I can guarantee you, you do have the time. It just needs to be a higher priority.
Our team has over 100 years of combined experience in Law Enforcement and 80% of our team have families, including young children. Do not use this as an excuse. If anything, use this as motivation to MAKE TIME to train your body and mind, as well as recover your body and mind.
More excuses: Working 12.5 hours shifts, which doesn’t include a 1 hour commute, each direction... the list goes on.
Maybe you're on a SWAT team (like the majority of us at EFT) which means we have ADDITIONAL training every month and emergency call-outs to respond to from home.
How about the fact that 75% of us at EFT have other part time jobs as instructors, small business owners, coaches, trainers, etc.
Did we mention that we have hobbies? We like to hunt, fish, hike, camp, play sports, coach our kids sports. Again, the list goes on and on. But hopefully you get the idea.
If we can do it, you can, too. The time is available to you. Your priority must be you, so you are mentally and physically strong enough to give to others.
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