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Fitness for the Desk-Bound Officer

Written by Matt Brzycki

As your career in law enforcement advances, you may find your job as a police officer goes from patrolling the streets to riding a desk. When this happens, some officers feel there is no longer any need for them to do physical training (PT). Others feel that with all their newfound administrative responsibilities, there’s not enough time for them to do PT.

Regardless of the reason, if you’re a desk-bound officer, eliminating PT isn’t in your best interest. For one thing, maintaining a desirable level of fitness keeps you in a constant “state of readiness” for any physical demands you may encounter on the job. Plus, being fit improves your chances for a long and fruitful life with a reduced risk of numerous diseases / conditions. Those of you who have no desire to “go to the gym” or invest any money in exercise equipment for your home still have some viable options for fitness. Let’s see how this can be achieved with some basic stretches and exercises in conjunction with one simple yet effective activity.

Stretches

Improving flexibility has several purposes. First, it allows you to move your joints through a greater range of motion. Second, it enables you to exert your strength over a greater range of motion. Third, it may relieve and / or reduce general muscular soreness. The best way to become more flexible is through stretching. You can enhance your flexibility by employing these six guidelines: 1) Stretch on a daily basis; 2) Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds; 3) Do each stretch in a pain-free manner; 4) Relax during the stretch; 5) Inhale and exhale normally without holding your breath; and 6) Try to make each stretch progressively more challenging over time by moving through a greater range of motion.

Here’s a head-to-toe routine of 12 stretches you can do while seated in a chair. Allotting 30 seconds per stretch and a minimal transition time between each stretch means it should take you roughly 10 minutes to complete the routine. (Six of the stretches are done twice, one for each side of the body.) Neck Forward: Place your hands behind your head and interlock your fingers. Slowly pull your chin to your chest and hold. Neck Backward: Place your thumbs underneath your chin. Slowly push your head backward and hold. Lateral Neck: Place your right hand on the left side of your head. Slowly pull your head to your right shoulder and hold. Repeat the stretch for the right side of your neck. Arms Overhead: Raise your arms over your head as if “reaching for the sky.” Slowly straighten your arms and hold. Scratch Back: Raise your left arm above your head, reach behind your neck with your left hand, and place your right hand on your left elbow. Slowly pull your left arm to the right and hold. Repeat the stretch for the right side of your body. Posterior Shoulder: Extend your left arm in front of you so it’s parallel to the floor and place your right hand above your left elbow. Slowly pull your left arm toward your torso and hold. Repeat the stretch for the right side of your body. Anterior Shoulder: Place your left hand against your lower back and grab your left wrist. Slowly pull your left arm across your body and hold. Repeat the stretch for the right side of your body. Lateral Stretch: Hang your arms at your sides. Slowly bend to the right and hold. Repeat the stretch for the right side of your body. Torso Rotation: Place your hands on your thighs. Slowly turn your head and torso to the right and hold. Repeat the stretch for the right side of your body. Lean Forward: Place your hands on your knees. Slowly bring your torso toward your thighs and hold. Groin Stretch: Put your left ankle on your right thigh just above your right knee. Slowly push on the inside of your left knee and hold. Repeat the stretch for your right leg. Calf Stretch: Slide your feet forward with only your heels on the floor. Slowly pull your toes toward your shins and hold.

Exercises

Improving strength has several purposes. First, it enables you to do police work and leisure pursuits with less effort. Second, it may reduce the frequency and severity of any injuries that might occur in the preparation for or the performance of your job as a police officer. Third, it can improve your confidence and self esteem. Simply put, you’ll feel better about yourself.

The best way to become stronger is through strength training. You can improve your strength by incorporating these six guidelines: 1) Strength train two to three times per week on non-consecutive days; 2) Perform the reps in a slow, deliberate manner and each rep should take at least six seconds to complete; 3) Do 10 to 12 reps for each set or about 60 to 72 seconds of sustained effort per set; 4) Inhale and exhale normally without holding your breath; 5) Use a full, pain-free range of motion; and 6) Try to make the exercise progressively more challenging over time by doing more reps with the same weight, doing the same reps with more weight, or doing more reps with more weight.

Here’s a head-to-toe routine of 12 exercises that, again, you can do while seated in a chair. Allotting 60 seconds per exercise and a minimal transition time between each exercise means it should take you roughly 18 minutes to complete the routine. Three of the exercises are done twice, one for each side of the body.

None of the exercises require any equipment; many of the exercises are self-resistive in which you provide resistance throughout the entire range of motion during both the raising and the lowering phases. These exercises are designated in the routine as “SR.” Neck Flexion (SR): Start with your head back (looking toward the ceiling) and thumbs underneath your chin. Pull your head toward your chest while resisting. Pause briefly and return to the start position while resisting. Neck Extension (SR): Start with your chin near your chest and thumbs underneath your chin. Push your head backward while resisting. Pause briefly and return to the start position while resisting. Front Raise: Start with your arms at your sides. Raise your arms forward until parallel to the floor. Pause briefly and return to the start position. Lateral Raise: Start with your arms at your sides. Raise your arms sideways until parallel to the floor. Pause briefly and return to the start position. Bent-Over Raise: Start with your torso bent forward and your arms hanging down. Raise your arms sideways until parallel to the floor. Pause briefly and return to the start position. Shoulder Shrug: Start with your arms at your sides. Raise your shoulders up to your ears as if to say, “I dunno.” Pause briefly and return to the start position. Seated Press: Start with your hands near your shoulders and palms up. Raise your hands over your head. Pause briefly and return to the start position. Bicep Curl (SR): Start with your left arm at your side and your right palm against your left wrist. Bend your left arm while resisting. Pause briefly and return to the start position while resisting. Repeat the exercise for your right arm. Tricep Extension (SR): Start with your left arm in front of you so it’s parallel to the floor. Bend your left arm so your left hand is near your torso and grab your left wrist. Extend your left arm while resisting. Pause briefly and return to the start position while resisting. Repeat the exercise for your right arm. Ab Crunch (SR): Start with your hands on your knees. Bring your torso toward your thighs while resisting. Pause briefly and return to the start position while resisting. Knee Raise (SR): Start with your left hand on your left knee. Bring your left thigh toward your chest while resisting. Pause briefly and return to the start position while resisting. Repeat the exercise for your right leg. Calf Raise (SR): Start with your hands on your knees. Rise up on your toes while resisting. Pause briefly and return to the start position while resisting. This “chair workout” has some shortcomings. For instance, it’s virtually impossible to train your hips, legs, chest, upper back and lower back in any meaningful way. However, you can augment this routine with some bodyweight exercises such as the squat and push-up (regular or modified). There are also limitations that are inherent to training without any equipment. One is that as an exercise becomes easier over time, greater resistance is required. In this case, you can employ inexpensive implements such as dumbbells and resistance bands. Having equipment also gives you the opportunity to add more movements to your inventory of exercises.

Walk This Way

A simple yet effective activity you can do to improve your fitness is walking. It’s safe, cheap and can be done just about anywhere. The American Heart Association recommends accumulating at least 10,000 steps per day, which is a little more than five miles for those who have an average stride length of about 32 inches. If 10,000 steps seem too much, don’t fret. Simply start out with whatever you can do and gradually increase the number of steps you take.

Though not a necessity, you can invest a few bucks in a pedometer, which is a device that will count your steps. This will eliminate the guesswork from the distance you walked. It’s also a good motivational tool since you can track your steps on a daily basis. Along these lines, there are a few other tactics you can use that are simple but can really add up over time. For example, park in a space that’s not close to where you’re going so you can walk a longer distance. And whenever possible, take the stairs and not the elevator.

The stretches and exercises detailed here, when done together, amount to less than 30 minutes of formal activity—while done literally at your desk. Walking is an informal activity that can easily be built into your normal daily routine. That’s not a large commitment of time, especially when it can help you become an officer who’s better prepared and more productive.

Matt Brzycki is the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, Fitness at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. A former Marine Drill Instructor, he has authored, co-authored and edited 17 books on strength and fitness.

Published in Law and Order, Oct 2011

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