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StreetFit Challenge Winners!

Written by Kelly Spence

While being healthy and physically fit is important for everyone, it is especially vital for the law enforcement officer. The success of an officer’s career may depend upon his physical well-being. Yet being in shape is not only important for the officers themselves, but also for the members of the communities they serve. Policing favors the fit.

Law enforcement professionals have a moral obligation to maintain their fitness; a citizen’s safety, or even life, may often be placed in the hands of local law enforcement. By being healthier and more fit, officers will be better able to protect their citizens; will perform better at the duties of their jobs, such as chasing a potentially dangerous subject fleeing the scene of a crime, or saving a victim from a burning building (as our first place winner did); and will even improve their own quality of life, by having a more positive attitude about themselves and their jobs.

With this in mind, LAW and ORDER conducted the StreetFit Challenge. We challenged you to start eating healthier and working out in an attempt to lose weight and get in better shape. The Challenge lasted for six months, beginning in March and ending in September. We hoped that by providing an outside incentive, in addition to your own improved attitude and physical well-being, we would motivate more of you to dedicate yourselves to maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Thanks to all of you who participated in the StreetFit Challenge. Out of all the officers who participated in the Challenge, we have designated a first, second and third place winner. The winners were determined by the percentage of body weight lost, rather than the total pounds lost, to make the results fair and in proportion to each individual participant’s starting weight. The first place winner is to receive a new uniform as well as a cash prize. The second and third place winners will also receive cash prizes.


First Place Winner: John Ellison

Full name and title: “John Henry” Ellison, Deputy
Age: 57
Police department: Boone County Sheriff’s Office, Boone, IA
Starting weight: 214 lbs.
Ending weight: 188 lbs. (current weight: 174 lbs.)
Total percentage of weight lost: 12.14%
Best part of the experience: “The permanent change it has made in the way I think about food, eating and exercise.”

For Deputy John Henry Ellison of the Boone County, IA Sheriff’s Office, the StreetFit Challenge was just the motivation he needed to finally take initiative and do something about his health—motivation “from a brother,” as he put it. “I was already sick of the way I looked, and this challenge gave me the incentive to do something about it,” Ellison said.

Getting motivated was just the first step; then came the hard part—getting started—which Ellison said was the most difficult part of the Challenge. “I had a hard time giving up certain foods and the amount of food,” he said. He admitted to even gaining weight during the first month as he struggled to control his portions and food intake.

But Ellison did not let that initial discouragement stop him; he stuck with it and started seeing improvements. He maintained a strict exercise schedule, which consisted of strength training and aerobics on different days of the week. Aerobics were the toughest part for Ellison, who said, “I hate aerobics, so I have to force myself to do them.”

Ellison had a lot of support to help keep him going. His wife, his daughter and his supervisor Chief Deputy Gregg Elsberry were his main sources of encouragement during the Challenge. “My wife encouraged me and would tell me I was looking better, and my daughter would get me going on those days I was too tired to workout. She would bug me until I got off the couch, and then she would exercise with me,” he said.

His wife also helped him in another way—by preparing his meals. It was Ellison’s diet which had to undergo the most change. He said that before the Challenge, “I pretty much ate whatever and whenever I wanted, which is how I became overweight. I would eat a whole bag of Oreo cookies just before sitting down to supper.” At the advice of Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Dominowski, who was in the Army with him, he started eating six small meals a day. He also stopped eating sweets and started eating whole grain items, fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

It was by maintaining this exercise regimen and following this diet plan that Ellison was able to go from 214 pounds in March to 188 pounds in September—a difference of 26 pounds and a total percentage of weight loss of 12.14%!

And he did not stop there. At the end of the Challenge, Ellison started the Abs diet and exercise plan (written by David Zinczenco of Men’s Health) which consists of weight training on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and aerobics on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. He has also continued eating six small meals a day. Due to his persistent dedication, Ellison has continued to lose weight since the Challenge ended and is now down to 174 pounds. That is a total percentage of weight loss of 18.69% from his initial weight!

Losing all this weight and maintaining a healthier lifestyle has had significant effects on both Ellison’s personal and professional life. He feels better about himself, and he has noticed improvements strength-wise and aerobically when training with his team. His improved fitness might even have been the difference between life and death for one young girl.

Ellison said, “On Sept. 1, 2009, I ran down my street to a house fire, climbed a ladder and, with the help of others, rescued a teenage girl from a second story window. Afterwards I noticed that I was not winded or tired. I think that was the first time I realized that this Challenge had made a difference.”

Being more in shape has also helped Ellison at work in other ways: “Later in September, I attended a defensive tactics school that was very physically challenging, and the first thing my wife said to me was that she doubted I could have gotten through the school a few months before. I knew she was right.”

Ellison thanks LAW and ORDER and Tactical Response for the motivation and for helping facilitate what he believes to be a permanent change in his lifestyle. He hopes that his story might motivate others to do the same. “To my brothers and sisters who may not be in the best shape,” he said, “if an overweight 57-year-old can do this, well, I just hope that maybe in a small way, this encourages you.”


John Ellison’s Workout Routine

Sun: aerobics
Mon: chest, triceps, shoulders, abs
Tue: biceps, back, abs
Wed: legs, abs; aerobics
Thu: chest, triceps, shoulders, abs
Fri: biceps, back, abs
Sat: legs, abs; aerobics


Second Place Winner: Glenn Palmer

Full name and title: Glenn E. Palmer, Sheriff
Age: 48
Police department: Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Canyon City, OR
Starting weight: 226 lbs.
Ending weight: 204 lbs.
Total percentage of weight lost: 9.73%
Best part of the experience: “At about five months, my clothes no longer fit. I had to purchase a new belt. My duty belt kept sliding down over my hips.”

Sheriff Glenn E. Palmer’s decision to enter the StreetFit Challenge was a matter of perfect timing. Palmer, of the Grant County, OR Sheriff’s Office, had already joined a fitness challenge locally and decided to enter this one too. “I also wanted to start getting into shape, and now was as good a time as any,” he said.

To start getting in shape for the challenges, Palmer implemented a workout plan which consisted of a one-hour exercise class two times a week, walking between one and four miles everyday before and after work, riding his bicycle, and going on the occasional hike in the mountains. He cited the exercise class as the toughest part of the Challenge overall. But though the class was strenuous, and though he was sore, he continued to walk and ride his bike.

The dieting aspect came much easier to him. “I actually enjoyed eating healthier and new types of food. Toward the end of the Challenge, fresh fruit and vegetables were in season,” Palmer said. Yet what contributed most significantly to his weight loss were not the things he did eat, but rather what he cut out. He stopped eating anything with processed sugar, such as soda and candy; cut out all cakes, doughnuts and desserts; changed to noodles made of spinach from a health food store; and cut out almost all breads. “Fast food joints were off-limits,” he insisted.

Thanks to all this hard work, dedication and sacrifice, Palmer went from 226 pounds back in March to 204 pounds in September. That is a difference of 22 pounds—9.73% of his initial body weight! He also reported having lost 13 inches and seeing a decrease in his blood pressure values (18 off of his systolic pressure and 10 off of his diastolic pressure).

Palmer has noticed a difference in his overall health. “Being in shape made it easier and less strenuous when we eradicated quite a few marijuana grows this summer,” he said—a task that would take significant physical capacity considering the steep country terrain of Grant County. But the greater improvement has been to Palmer’s attitude: “I feel better about myself and getting to work everyday.”


Third Place Winner: Daniel Kotlarek

Full name and title: Daniel Kotlarek, Police Officer
Age: 36
Police department: Apex Police Department, Apex, NC
Starting weight: 182 lbs.
Ending weight: 167 lbs.
Total percentage of weight lost: 8.24%
Best part of the experience: “How much I learned about nutrition and strength training.”

Officer Daniel Kotlarek’s participation in the StreetFit Challenge was as much for his fellow officers as for himself. Kotlarek, of the Apex, NC Police Department, said that he has always been a huge advocate of physical fitness requirements in law enforcement: “I felt that this Challenge, combined with positive results, would motivate my fellow officers to begin a nutrition and fitness program.”

Yet while he was trying to inspire others to get in shape, Kotlarek often had a difficult time staying motivated himself, particularly during the summer months. “Summer is a time for barbecues, concerts, gatherings, boating, etc. These are all activities that are associated with junk food, alcoholic beverages and inactivity,” he explained. But through all that, he was able to stay focused on his goals. If he did slip a little, he made up for it the next few days with “detoxification-type” nutrition.

This detox diet was also a part of his regular routine; at least three days each week were designated as detoxification days, which consisted of eliminating animal proteins from his diet. In addition to this, Kotlarek would only eat organic, non-processed foods. He took his diet very seriously, having done extensive research on the effects of chemical-laden foods on the human body. He also followed a variation method each week, with some high fat days, some high protein days and, as previously mentioned, three detoxification days.
Just as strict as his diet plan was Kotlarek’s workout plan: “I exercised every day of the week and rarely missed a day.” His routine consisted of 30 minutes of high intensity cardio a day, followed by either isolation training (training specific muscle groups by themselves) or functional strength training (giant supersets of various repetitive exercises).

He said that this routine “trains the body to resist fatigue—exactly what we need for that ‘fight or flight’ mode. We must be able to stay in the fight once we catch that bad guy after a 300-yard chase. By utilizing this style of training, my body resisted the ability to plateau by always staying in ‘guess mode.’”

How did Kotlarek manage to stay motivated for six months with such a rigid diet and exercise plan? “I had a huge amount of support from my patrol captain, Jacques Gilbert,” he said, “He has been my mentor since before my law enforcement career began.” Kotlarek and his patrol captain would go to the gym together and trade recipes, food and gardening tips. “He is a large part of where I am today, and I owe it all to him,” he declared.

All of this hard work inevitably led to great results. Kotlarek began the Challenge at 182 pounds and ended at 167 pounds—a difference of 15 pounds, which is a loss of 8.24% of his initial body weight! He also reported that his body fat at the end of the Challenge was an impressive 15%. He has noticed a significant change in how much easier it is to complete reports on his in-car laptop. “The twisting doesn’t bother me anymore,” he noted. Kotlarek also had to exchange his duty belt for a smaller one and have his body armor resized.

Kotlarek thanks LAW and ORDER for issuing the challenge, the members of his department for their continued support, and his family for their support and motivation. He challenges everyone to become involved in some sort of healthy lifestyle change and offers these parting words as motivation to all his fellow officers out there: “Remember this: When you are not working out, the bad guys are. We are warriors and our only option is victory!”


Honorable Mention: David Griffet

Full name and title: David I. Griffet IV, Police Sergeant
Age: 43
Police department: Champaign Police Department, Champaign, IL
Starting weight: 225 lbs.
Ending weight: 212 lbs.
Total percentage of weight lost: 5.78%
Best part of the experience: “I learned more about how my body works and how to properly maintain it, meaning I need to eat better foods and use my workouts to help make me stronger. Knowing what my heart rate needs to be to burn fat and making myself stronger can only help me stay healthier.”

While Sergeant David Griffet of the Champaign, IL Police Department did not place in the top three winners of the StreetFit Challenge, he feels like a winner. “I know that I am leaner, healthier and more energetic than ever before. My clothes fit better, and I feel good about myself. So, in my own little way, I won,” he said.

Getting in shape was actually the second step on Griffet’s journey to becoming healthier; a few weeks before the Challenge began, he became tobacco free. After that, he began working out, though seeing no visible results. At the suggestion of one of his officers, Griffet decided to join the StreetFit Challenge. “What did I have to lose?” he said, “Nothing at all.”

The toughest part for Griffet was struggling with food choices and amounts. He met with a nutritionist and learned the importance of eating breakfast on a regular basis. A self-proclaimed “creature of habit,” he began eating the same basic meals for breakfast and lunch, which consisted of things such as a cup of Cheerios and milk, and a wild grain wrap with turkey. For dinner, he began eating smaller portions and incorporating healthier products into his meals.

In addition to making healthier food choices, Griffet began working out four times a week for more than 30 minutes at a time. He would walk a bike trail near his home for at least two miles, stopping at each tenth of a mile to do exercises like jumping jacks or push-ups. At work, he would engage in mainly cardio activities, with the occasional strength or weight training thrown into the mix.

Since completing the Challenge, Griffet has noticed an improvement in his overall health, as well as his attitude. “I now have a desire to better myself and my personal appearance, and to maintain it,” he said. His newfound fitness has also motivated him to try things he has never done before. On May 8, 2010, Griffet will run the Indy half marathon—a feat he never would have thought of attempting before now. (Ed. Note: Good luck, Sarge. LAW and ORDER Publisher Henry Kingwill just completed his first Chicago marathon!)

Griffet is nothing but grateful for the changes his improved fitness has made in his life. “I guess it’s kind of corny, but I feel like one of those late night commercials for fitness,” he admitted, “Today I turned 43 years old, and while I do not have their defined stomachs, I can honestly say that I am the healthiest that I have been in years. For that I say ‘thank you.’”

Kelly Spence is the assistant editor for LAW and ORDER magazine. She can be reached at kspence@hendonpub.com.


Special Thanks to Kathleen Vonk


Our sincere thanks go to Ann Arbor, MI Police Officer Kathleen Vonk for her year-long series on nutrition and fitness. Her columns were run in both LAW and ORDER and Tactical Response to coincide with the StreetFit Challenge. Her advice covered topics including how to eat better, how to get in better shape, interval training and the value of stretching. A lot of officers, from supervision and admin to K9 and SWAT, are in better shape thanks to her instruction. Thank you, Kathleen!

Published in Law and Order, Jan 2010

Rating : 9.3


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