Every year, I make it a point to attend the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC) annual training. This month it was held in San Diego, but often it is held in other towns around the country like Las Vegas, Virginia Beach, Orlando, and Colorado Springs. The event is where the science of physical fitness, mental toughness, and resilience meet the needs of the military, law enforcement, and fire-fighting community professionals. I speak at these events each year, but I make it a point to attend many of the classes and take advantage of the opportunity to learn something new each year from some of the smartest trainers in the world. Now, ten years old, the term Tactical Fitness is its own fitness genre, answering the call of the tactical athletes in the professions where physical fitness can be the difference between life and death.
The Evolution of Tactical Fitness
Since the first TSAC Symposium over ten years ago, the community has grown and evolved significantly. Here are a few of the positive developments that have come from creating a such a specific program:
1. Education: A great effort has begun in this direction. Teaching all first responders they are Tactical Athletes and to treat themselves like athletes is an ongoing educational challenge. The NSCA has also created a TSAC Facilitator certification program that helps trainers have standard core knowledge as well as follow on education each year, with continued education units (CEU) in the form of online training or attending sanctioned training programs and conferences. Training the trainers is a key element at the TSAC conferences. While education is the primary focus it is not limited to just the physical mission of the Tactical Athlete.
2. Resilience: In an effort to address the mental and emotional stress of the tactical professions, resilience, mental toughness, and thinking under stress are also core training objectives within the programming. Guest speakers, like Colonel Dave Grossman, drive home the need for our tactical professionals to learn the physiological and psychological stresses of their job. Taking away the stigma of seeking assistance with dealing with high stress events has been a major focus of the TSAC and its participants. Efforts in this realm have made a significant positive impact on all who get involved and learn more about the physiology of stress and coping mechanisms.
3. Tactical Trainers: Human Performance Departments have been created across the military branches and special ops units largely due to the military seeing the need for a smarter way to train. Many groups within the military, special ops world, police, and fire communities have hired actual fitness consultants to create smart training programs to prepare for the deployment cycles of the military or the daily grind of shift work within the police and fire fighting / EMT communities. A focus on nutrition, tactical athletic performance, rest, and recovery is in constant balance with being mission ready. Some of the trainers are veterans themselves and have higher education in physiology, as well as certifications in strength and conditioning by such groups as the NSCA.
4. Vendors: Meeting the vendors and testing out equipment is an exciting part of the conference. Some of the fitness world's greatest companies are represented in the vendor halls. Here is a list of some of the standout vendors that received attention from the military, police, and fire department purchasers:
TRX – A classic piece of suspension training equipment and deployable gyms made by Sorinex, entrenched in the tactical fitness world. Sorinex and Raptor Weight Vests – Sorinex is a gym equipment manufacturer creating customized gyms for tactical gyms, colleges, and profession teams. Raptor Weight Vest is now working with Sorinex to sell here in the USA. Strength Board Balance – A new balance board great for rehab as well as adding to standard workouts. Combat Ready Tape – Kinesiology Tape but prepacked for body parts. Great for the Go-Bag / Med Kit. MoBell Muscle – Collapsible barbells / sand bag weights. Easy for travel. Gopher Performance – One of the leading distributors of fitness, education and wellness products. BeaverFit – Makers of customized deployable gyms and tactical training areas. The Right Stuff – A NASA developed hydration product used by professional and tactical athletes, and Olympians. Brute Force Training – A leading distributor of sandbag and functional training. Perform Better – A leading distributor of education and functional training products.
There were over 30 vendors featuring products, services, and educational opportunities for the Human Performance Departments, the individual tactical athlete, and trainers. Due to space, I am sorry I could not list all of the vendors equally. If you are interested in learning where the future of Tactical Fitness is moving and meeting many of the decision makers in the business, consider the NSCA run Tactical Strength and Conditioning Annual Training program next year.