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Trainer Talk

Staying in Shape for The Job

Staying in Shape for The Job


I started my Law enforcement career in 1991. At that time, Academy classes were six months long and fairly challenging. Several of my friends went through the process and told me to be prepared for the hard work ahead. Despite being scholastically competent, dozens of officers eventually failed because they were not able to meet the physical standards required for graduation from the academy. Back then, the physical fitness standards required to graduate were not easy. Thankfully I passed, but I always wondered how some of my peers could let their fitness (or more accurately, their lack of fitness) cost them their future careers.

Over my years on the job, I watched the physical standards for entry into the police department decline, and more unfit officers being pushed through. Most police precincts and commands have gyms available for officers to use, but unfortunately, very few officers took advantage of the resource. As law enforcement officers, we cannot afford to be out of shape—the question is not whether we will be in a physical confrontation, but when.

In 2004 I was invited to the Armament Systems and Procedures (ASP) Trainer conference in Las Vegas. It was and is the toughest, most physically challenging course I have ever been through. We were expected to give 100% on every drill and every strike. Anything less was unacceptable and would mean failure. Fortunately, I made it through. And to this day, I bring that same intensity to every course I teach. ASP’s three-day instructor course (AIC) focuses on instructor development, teaching skills and methods, product knowledge and maintenance, and mastering physical skills. Whenever we have a student who is struggling with the program, it usually comes down to their fitness—which affects their ability to strike with power, move with efficiency, follow simple directions and finish the drills. Lack of fitness also affects their ability to teach correctly. When Instructors are tired, they become unable to think clearly and inevitably make mistakes during their teach-backs. These mistakes can cost them their certification. More importantly, if you can’t properly execute the strikes and apply the principles and tactics in the controlled environment of the training floor, you will be unable to do them on the street.

We cannot solely rely on our departments, or the courses they send us to, to get us into shape. Being fit has to be a personal choice, and must become part of our daily personal and professional routine. Being fit as a police officer means we need to be fast, because we chase bad guys and encounter people in distress. We need to be strong both physically and mentally in order to subdue non-compliant individuals and place them under arrest. We need endurance and fighting skills because our lives, and the people we are sworn to protect, may depend on it.

It is never too late to start training. I encourage you to join a gym and do resistance training, sign up for BJJ or MMA classes, start a running program, whatever gets you moving. Even calisthenics in your living room while watching TV is a step in the right direction. It’s never too late to start training; and something is always better than nothing.

James Schramm

NYPD (ret.)

ASP Trainer since 2004