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August 31, 2011

The Voice Inside Your Head



Several months ago, a colleague from the police department told me about his new obsession, CrossFit. It’s a strength and conditioning program that appeals to police officers and firefighters because it requires proficiency in endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility – all crucial elements of job performance.

Before being hired, police officers are required to pass the state standards of fitness which include a timed 1.5 mile run, bench press, sit ups and a flexibility test. Most departments still use these standards as a measurement to determine a new applicant’s fitness level. That makes sense for prospective hires but for a police officer patrolling the street, these benchmarks do not replicate the actual demands one encounters.

Foot pursuits are not uncommon during an officer’s shift. When a bad guy decides to run, the officer giving chase does not do so at a leisurely pace for a long distance. Pursuits rarely last more than a few minutes but the officer is in full sprint during the chase. They jump fences and call out their location and direction of travel over the radio in full gear while simultaneously keeping mindful of the threat posed by the criminal. This level of physical agility requires more conditioning than the state standards. The most elite officers I know train daily to keep in optimal shape so they have an advantage over the criminal.

I decided to try CrossFit training at BareBones CrossFit in Yorkville. I was immediately intimidated after meeting my coaches because it was clear from their minimal body fat and muscular physiques that they are elite athletes. Observing that I was clearly out of my element, I decided to wait for them to turn their backs so I could escape but I had already given them my real name. Fearing they would hunt me down, I reluctantly stayed.

One of the first work-outs involved doing as many rounds of rope climbing, kettle ball swinging, 400 meter run, and pull-ups as possible in 20 minutes. The last time I climbed a rope was in 7th grade so I laughed at the prospect. My coach showed me a modified version of the climb that would build my skills so I would eventually be able to scale the rope. After my first few sessions, I wanted to deliver a punch to my good friend for suggesting CrossFit but I was too sore to form a fist or raise my arms. Instead, I pressed on and continued going back for more.

The work-outs are designed with a prescribed standard to be met. I seem to modify the standards more often than my gym mates but that’s okay because I’ve learned something far more important in my 2 ½ months of CrossFit. I went there to get in better shape; I remain there because of what it has done to the little voice inside my head that tells me to quit when things get hard. In CrossFit, you cannot quit because the coaches will remind you that the workout you’re doing is named after a real soldier who lost his life serving our country. When I begin to feel as though I cannot do 50 more box jumps or pull-ups, I remember that 20 minutes of pain is nothing compared to what our soldiers endure in the trenches.

That little voice inside our heads actually determines if we fight or give up. I have heard many stories of police officers who, after being critically wounded, have rallied and found the strength to fight back and survive. It’s all because they trained their inner voice to say, “Do not give up.”

This isn’t a commercial for exercise. Rather, it’s a reminder that you don’t have to be a soldier or a police officer to be a warrior. You are stronger than you think in any area of your life but you must condition that voice inside your head to tell you so.

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