Cops are lazy….

OK, there I said it. I know the hackles have gone up and the hate emails are being typed as we speak. “How could you? You’re one of us! What about the brotherhood and loyalty and love of guns and gadgets?!?” Yup, that’s all good and I am all for it, but let me smack you upside the head with a healthy dose of reality. This all comes down to the perception of what we do on a daily basis and how our fitness plays a role, realistic or not, in what we are doing. So, let me provide some insight into what I see in regards to this matter.

I have looked around the CrossFit community and found a lot of LEO’s involved in CF, but I tend to see and hear about more firemen and soldiers using CF and applying it daily. CrossFit Centurion is not a huge gym, but we have a decent client base and out of that group, the majority of men are firemen (and when I say “firemen” I also mean “firewomen” so don’t start hounding me over being sexist or something lame). We have some cops in here, but we’ve had a lot more show up, try it, say they love it, and then find a lame excuse to quit and go back to, A) either nothing at all, or B) doing something physical that may be good for certain aspects of fitness, but have no application to the tasks of the job. I would suspect that is true in other affiliates besides the ones I have seen and talked to.

What is more common is to see some hellaciously fit, hard charging firemen and soldiers involved in CrossFit. The firemen  seem to be very prevalent at CF facilities, do CF at their stationhouses, have affiliates based out of their stations, and do VERY well at athletic events and CrossFit based competitions. Same can be said for soldiers, here and abroad in the most ideal and the worst of conditions. The Spec Ops community is very supportive of CF and thankfully uses it more than the average bear or Taliban soldier.

I applaud the hell out of my LEO clients in here and at other affiliates because they really get it – they find a sick and twisted enjoyment in the workouts and they see the benefit out on the street when the time comes. Those LEO’s who aren’t into CrossFit, are afraid of it/don’t understand it , make excuses why they can’t stick with it or start, will never see a benefit and real world application, not if, but when the time comes and the shit has hit the proverbial fan. So, here’s the meat and potatoes, or in this case, the donuts and coffee of my theory.

As LEO’s, we get stuck with a lot of “routine” stuff. The “routine” car stop, burglary alarm, disturbance call, etc., and that is a bad place to be. But, it’s the nature of the job and we get complacent. A normal day for a cop is that of counselor, problem solver and mediator. It gets boring and uneventful. Every once in a while something fun jumps off – a pursuit, foot bail, hot call, the kind of “cop work” we all signed up to do. And then even more infrequently, and this is the really important part, we go to the routine call and something really bad happens.  Our defenses are down, we are lackadaisical in our approach to the situation, we just got done with eating something or downing a Big Gulp of soda, and all of a sudden it goes sideways without warning or provocation. Suddenly, it’s a fight. Not a scuffle, but a real “I am not going back to prison for a 3rd strike because I just killed my wife” kind of fight. You have a VERY motivated bad guy on you and he has already formulated what HE is going to do to YOU. It’s all reactive on the part of the cop and that’s not a good place to be.

I don’t know how many of you out there have ever had someone legitimately try to kill you, but I can speak from experience that it is slightly unnerving. To have someone say that to you, make the effort to complete the act, and then feel them trying to pull your gun out of your holster is less than enjoyable. Meanwhile you are now handicapped and trying to fight with one hand since the other is latched onto your gun and you’re probably on your back or trying to stay on your feet while someone puts every ounce of energy into ruining your day. You are in panic mode and now have another concern – get help!

Your radio traffic is rough at best. Screaming, maybe loud and unintelligible, or you may not know where you are. Those LEO’s out there know what I am talking about – you want to pull your hair out as you listen to the traffic and you are pounding your steering wheel in frustration because you can’t understand or know where your partner is at. If all goes well and by the grace of God things turn around, you will get out of this situation and the bad guy goes to jail.

In the end, the CAD event shows the encounter lasted about 3 minutes until the first units got on scene to assist you. You may be beat up, injured, in a systemic meltdown of adrenaline and hormones. Some cops pass out, others throw up, some have heart attacks or strokes. You make it out of one bad situation and land in another. Or how about the SWAT guy who starts gassing after a couple hours in heavy gear in lousy conditions? Or the K9 handler jumping fences and running all over Hell’s half acre after a dog in odor and can’t stay in the fight whent he bad guy is found? How about just a positive public image and command presence?

Ummm, okay that sucks you might say, so what’s the point? The point is how ready was that cop for that situation? Sure, our theoretical cop worked out and is a Master marksman at his last range qualification, but that doesn’t have any worth to it here. Why not? It was routine – everything about it. The call, the attitude, the preparation insofar as working out or shooting at static targets on the range with no outside stress. So it did nothing for that cop. That cop’s day to that point was “go to call, handle call, leave – go to call, handle call, leave – go to call, handle call, leave – go to call, scuffle with guy who is drunk and resisting, get him in cuffs, High 5 each other at the “fight” you were just in (puh-leeeze), and leave – go to next call. Routine is the enemy and variation is your friend.

CrossFit prepares people, mentally and physically, for really hard situations where physical and mental fortitude are the only way to finish/survive. That’s just the beginning. How about working under really crappy conditions at a maximum energy expenditure and effort? Throw on a weighted vest and do a workout for 20 minutes or grind through a massive set of 5×5 Back Squats at 330 Lbs then go do sprints. Holy Christ, that will make anyone want to quit and find the easy route. It almost makes me want to go back to 3 exercises at 3 sets of 10 reps of Bench and Curls. Then I could just jump on the treadmill for 45 minutes do a light jog, not stretch, down my protein shake, and wander out after 90 minutes all at a nice leisurely pace with my heart rate never above 60% MHR.  I did no real functional movements, there was no intensity, there was no work on the multitude of physical skills to make up a well rounded and healthy athlete, I didn’t take care of myself pre or post-workout, and I was in there way too long at too low an intensity to create a disruption in the body and make adaptations and cut loose a slew of stress hormones and catabolic reactions in the body.

Bicep curls, bench press and jogs a couple times a week do nothing for you when it comes down to it. They do make you strong, but in a very limited range of output and exposure. You will have endurance, but foot pursuits and fights aren’t long and easy going, they are short, all out, high intensity effort with lots of gear on and in uncomfortable conditions. That sounds familiar for a CrossFitter. How about doing 4 rounds of deadlifts, burpees and 400m runs. That now has some functionality – there is a strength component, a bodyweight movement that replicates metabolic demands of a fight or high stress situation, and that can simulate a foot pursuit after a fight. Now do it again a few more times and do it against a clock or against someone else to push you a bit.  There is nothing more functional that running and lifting something heavy…a few times. The benefits become a bit more apparent now.

The problem here being cops don’t see that. It’s hard, it’s not free or 50% off, and it goes against the grain of what they think will really work for them. Most cops I know really don’t want to work that hard. After all, it’s hard, sweaty and painful. They are lazy.

Until they are exposed to it and have CrossFit broken down to them bit by bit, it makes no sense and seems ridiculous. Those who do CrossFit and have been in those bad situations have told me afterwards that it was their physical training a capacity that got them through it. It helped them catch the bad guy, stay ahead of him in the fight, take him into custody and stay much calmer throughout the ordeal. I will personally attest to that. The cops in my gym, no matter where they work, realize it could go bad in a second and they are going to be more than prepared for it, so they work hard to ensure that they have the upper hand.

Well that’s neat, so what the hell do firemen and soldiers have to do with all this cop-bashing? Well, to be fair they too often have the same mindset of cops entrenched into their brains about working out and being prepared. But, once they are exposed to CrossFit they tend to stick around and see the worth in it much more than cops. Cops start to think if it doesn’t happen on a regular basis then it’s probably not going to happen, so “why the hell am I busting my butt like this?”

Firemen and soldiers I’ve spoke with don’t see it that way. The majority of them involved with CF were resistant at first, but once it was broken down to them they saw the light. They saw the relation between a hard, high intensity, multi modality workout and day to day work.

As a fireman you will be subject to getting up at all hours of the day, wearing a shit-ton of gear and hot clothing in really bad conditions for very long periods of time, all the while working your butt off in a high stress, dangerous environment. As a soldier you will load out in a full kit of gear, leave your FOB for a patrol or long term recon or other operation. The conditions will be harsh and the threat level high, with a constantly varying workload and intensity level. For these folks, these types of working conditions are “routine”. They are hard, but the workouts were harder and they do much better in those crappy conditions. That high heart rate and massively hard work done at the gym makes this stuff easy. The soldiers and firemen I’ve talked with attest to the efficacy of CrossFit as it benefits their job, their health and helps keep them alive. Go ahead and ask the ones at my gym.

To be fair, there are a whole bunch of fat and lazy firemen and soldiers out there, just like cops. They won’t do anything to better themselves or ensure their health and safety. I would love to walk up to those people, tell them they are a disgrace to the uniform, country and profession, but I can’t so I have to hope that they aren’t put in a position where someone else’s life is at stake – especially mine or my families. I wouldn’t feel comfortable having that person watch my back, but it’s a reality. It’s also a reality that CrossFit has only gleaned the surface of the military and public safety community. The majority of them are still doing things the old way, if they are doing anything at all.

Those that are involved in training for what life holds are making a much bigger impact on their lives, their partners lives and the lives of those they come in contact with. It’s those people we hear about and respect and can call “squared away”, “dialed in”, “operators”, “machines” or “heroes”.

For my Law Enforcement brethern and those in public safety and the military on the fence about changing what they’ve always done to prepare themselves for their jobs, I urge you to take a jump and do something hard that will make a difference. You will thank yourselves, as will those you help. Change the stereotype and be proud of what you’ve chosen to do for a profession. Be strong, work hard, and get out alive!

7 thoughts on “Cops are lazy….

  1. Britt

    I’d like to thank one of your good COPS at your box for getting me into crossfit. B. Bowman showed me the light. Been crossfitting for almost a year now became a coach and I’m headed for my Level 1 cert and its all because he was in the service overseas found it there and shared it with me! Great write up Ian.

    Britt ~CrossFit West Sac

  2. Well stated throughout! Let’s face it… People in general are lazy. CrossFit is the complete opposite of what lazy people are willing to put themselves through even once, much less on a daily basis. The types of overload that CF workouts place on the body simple cannot be replicated any other way. I am the first to say that different people are motivated in different ways. Although I am not LEO, mil or in the fire service, I find Ian’s write-up overly compelling. I CrossFit because I am driven to perpetually improve my fitness and I truly enjoy the competitive aspects of CrossFit. Most who wind up sticking with CrossFit can say the same. Those who don’t even try AND are in one of the aforementioned fields are truly ignoring the facts about physical preparedness. You owe it to yourself to be prepared. If not for yourself, do this for your family and loved ones as well as for those you have sworn to serve and protect. CrossFit will definitely change and may even save your life.

    RL — CFWS

  3. Pingback: More info from our local expert: Ian Carver « SSD Health and Wellness’s Weblog

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  5. Don

    I’m a fit (not cross fit fit, but fit) 51 year old male who can run circles around most of the younger officers in my department. That being said, I have considered CrossFit as I have several friends who are involved in it. However, it seems like one of them is always hurt from an overuse or unnatural movement injury (repetitive heavy clean and jerks cone to mind). From past experience in kickboxing and high intensity training, I find that my body does not respond well to high repetitions of the same motion.

    I have had two discectomy back surgeries over the past two years and I am in very good health at this time. I worry about entering the CrossFit realm exposing myself to potential injuries from some of the movements. I am not afraid of hard work in the gym, but I believe in knowing your limitations.

    1. Don,

      I hear what you are saying and I will give you this as my reply. There are more BAD CrossFit affiliate gyms out there than good ones. There are more inexperienced, under-educated and arrogant CF coaches out there than those who are truly into human performance, anatomy, physiology and biomechanics. We are of the latter of both groups.

      Trust me, I get it. I have been beat up by my job and activities, but yet I love being fit, pushing MY envelope, and even competing. In being my own guinea pig, I have learned what is best not only for myself, but ALL of my clients. My programming reflects this. Everything we program and do has a reason and scientific basis behind it. We program 1 year in advance so there is no question as to what we will be doing and/or where the program is going.

      I rarely do benchmark workouts with high rep shoulder based movements or heavy deadlifts. I program Oly lifts to be low in volume if they are part of a workout, and if the rep count goes up, the intensity (weight) comes down. We actually coach each and every session at CFC. That means everyone lines up in columns and rows (think “dress, right, dress”) and the movements are demonstrated, explained, and then observed by the coaches overseeing the group. Weights are then prescribed for the workout according to the individual.

      I use scientific based concepts in programming insofar as stress and adaptation goes. That means stress is turned up, then turned down, then back up again in a regular pattern. This alleviates injury and improves performance dramatically.

      I know every athlete (200+) and their 1 RM & 3RM in all lifts, so I can scale them into workouts based on scientific based percentages to make sure they receive the dose of intensity and stress needed, without exposing themselves to injury.

      The programming at CFC cycles through body parts to make sure no one area gets over worked in the course of a week, and if a particular body part does see some more work in the week, it’s in a different plane of movement.

      Every Tuesday is our “clinic” format of Oly lifting. Again, rows and columns for a specific warm up and skill transfer exercises for the lifts, then a warm up period with prescribed percentages to work to. Once it’s GO time, each athlete will complete the lift(s) (1-2 reps) of the movement with a coach standing at their side. The coach gives them corrections and feedback, then moves onto the next lifter. No one else lifts until their turn is up. This ensures everyone sees mistakes and fixes, and can apply them to their own lifts.

      Our athletes are always warmed up as a group overseen by a coach, and always cooled down and stretched for 5-10 min as a group by a coach. Hence the reason our injury rate is almost nonexistent. For those who have problem areas, we work with them on prehab/rehab movements and work around those areas if need be for the workouts.

      Injuries will come up from time to time, but it’s very rare and when they do, it’s soft tissue stuff that’s worked on immediately. I can honestly say we maybe see a pulled calf, strained hip flexor or low back spasm once in a blue moon. Our folks are sore, but they aren’t injured. They feel things coming on, tell us, we work around it and help them fix it. If they do what we tell them, they are back in action where they left off in a week or two. Again, out of all of our clients, it’s an incredibly small percentage and many of our folks with major issues coming have now strengthened and rehabbed them to the point of confidence and improvement in all aspects of their use.

      Knowing your limits is everything, but we are competitive by nature so limits are often ignored. It happens all the time, even with us. That’s when our coaches will walk up to you and tell you to strip the weight/do a different movement or workout/walk away from the workout. No one overrides my coaches and their decisions. We push where needed, but do not hesitate in reeling in folks when applicable. Strength and conditioning for health, life and profession is after all a long term, life process. The goal is not to injure clients, it is to make them fitter, faster, stronger and healthier. If they do what we tell them and don’t get stupid out of our eyesight, then this is exactly what happens.

      The point of this response is not to tell you how great I am and how awesome our gym is (although we are pretty rad 😉 ), but moreso to let you know that there are a few places out there like us, but it’s incumbent upon the potential client to really research the place, it’s programming, it’s coaches, and try a few workouts to really see what they are all about. It’s your money and more importantly, your health and longevity. Ask questions and have the coaches tell you how/why they program. There should be a rhyme and a damn good reason for what they do. If you see a ton of random wackiness, stupid pet tricks and “Hero” workouts constantly programmed with blaring heavy metal in the background and a coach clapping and yelling “Go, go, go. You can do more!”, then you need to walk away.

      The sad part is many of your co-workers or others who have injuries and a negative view of CrossFit have been involved with “those” gyms. They are tainted, as are those who look at their results, and that damages the brand and those of us out here who do it for all the right reasons. If you don’t know who/what else is out there by testing the waters, then whatever you come in first contact with may look like the best thing since sliced bread and you’ll never know any different…. until your hurt and then have a negative view of CrossFit, as it was intended to be. We have a ton of “converted” clients who initially came into contact with CF at another gym, got hurt, hated it, got conned into coming to our gym, and now have a completely new view and absolutely enjoy CrossFit as it’s been given to them at CFC. Many of those folks we’ve now had for years and they are our best advertising.

      As I said, there is more bad than good these days. It’s changed a lot since it’s inception and original concepts were posted by Coach Glassman in the early 2000’s when I got involved with it/him in Santa Cruz. It’s just going to take homework and effort in finding the right place. It can work, you just need to be careful.

      There’s my big explanation and sales pitch. If you were around us, I’d welcome you in, but hopefully you can find someone around you that does things right. If you have questions about workouts, programming, application to cop work (there are specific things I program for my SED teammates and other cops), or research on CF gyms, let us know.

      Take care and stay safe!

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