What it takes to be physically fit

FBI/DEA Physical Fitness TestHaving served as a Special Agent with the FBI for over 26 years, and 16 of those years as a Physical Fitness/Defensive Tactics Instructor at the FBI Academy, I have put a lot of thought into the importance of physical fitness as it relates to the law enforcement profession.  I have read numerous articles on the subject, attended seminars, and listened to experts in the field discuss this very topic. And I have waxed eloquently on the matter on more than one occasion. Let’s just say I have a propensity to jump on the fitness soapbox! With all of the years of teaching and preaching on the subject, I would like to think that I know a little something about it.  Actually, the truth is that I know a little something about it!  It is a field of science and research that continues to expand and, often, confound those who are really just trying to get in shape.  Well, here’s what I have learned over the years:

First and foremost, getting fit is not easy and never will be!  The idea that there is some magic formula, exercise, pill, diet, machine, or DVD is nonsensical.  If it was easy, everyone would be in shape. But, all you have to do is look around you and you will clearly see that is not the case (in this country or in any developed nation!)  So, if you are looking for the easy out, then you can stop reading right here, exit the website, and waste your money on the next fitness fad you see! Besides, if you are looking for the easy out, a career in law enforcement, the military, or firefighting is probably not for you.  

For those who are still reading, I appreciate it, and even better, you most likely possess what it takes to be physically fit – a sound mind and body, a strong work ethic, and perseverance.  Those same characteristics are also essential ingredients to serving in the military or a public safety profession. I often joked as an instructor at the FBI Academy, that although we hire rocket scientists, you don’t have to be one to be a Special Agent.  I’m confident that holds true for the military and other public safety professions as well. What we do require is integrity, common sense, and hard work. And in all of these professions, fitness is not just important, it is an ethical obligation that we owe to our brothers and sisters in the field!

Those who know me or were fortunate (unfortunate) enough to have me as an instructor at the FBI Academy probably won’t describe me as the touchy, feely type.  I always demanded and expected the best out of Academy students. I didn’t spend much time telling them how great they were or how fortunate the FBI was to have recruited them.  I encouraged them to take their fitness to the next level no matter what their current level.  In return, I always gave them my best and led from the front. I didn’t ask them to do another push-up I couldn’t do or run another mile I couldn’t run.  (Here’s where I would typically go off on a leadership tangent, but I’ll save that for another day!)

So, what does it take to get to that next level?  It takes maximum effort at all times. It requires giving 100 percent when you believe that you only have 50 percent left in the tank.  It means training when you don’t feel like it or when the weather sucks. (I’m not saying train outdoors in a thunderstorm, but don’t let little things persuade you to take the day off.)  I’m also not saying don’t take days off. You need to rest especially if you are training hard. The key is train hard and take rest days rather than train at an easy or moderate pace every day.  Will some work outs be easier than others – of course. We all need to set our workout schedules such that some days require less out of us. Otherwise, you will subject yourself to injury and/or illness.  

Remember that a good workout is not a good workout plan!  A workout plan incorporates hard days with less hard days and rest days.  It incorporates the 4 pillars of human movement: locomotion, level changes, push/pull, and rotation.  It incorporates cross-training to increase performance and decrease the risk of injury. It provides a variety of exercises that are functional and involve multi-joint movement.  It varies the emphasis from strength to endurance to speed to agility and fires up the central nervous system. It relies on the FITT principle to ensure the components of Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type are all included.  But no matter how good the workout plan, the results are based on the overall effort of the plan user, i.e. YOU!

I am confident that the products we have provided for you on this website have all of the elements needed to improve your fitness level and maximize your score on a physical fitness assessment, such as the FBI’s PFT.  However, those element are worthless without your dedication to following the plan and giving your maximum effort for every exercise, every step, and every movement.

Charles “Butch” Greathouse

Note:  Before you begin any exercise program, you should carefully review and answer the questions on a standard Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q), such as the one found on the FedBoost website.  If you answer “YES” to one or more of the questions, you should see your physician and find out from him/her what exercises, if any, are safe for you to perform.