Phase Three of Tactical Fitness: Active Duty

Sgt. Hector Masso, a Binghamton, New York, native and automations section sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs weighted squats at the Greywolf Physical Fitness Center Aug. 13 at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd BCT, 1st Cav. Div.).

When you consider the difference of the tactical athlete’s journey through each of the phases of tactical fitness, you have to realize that phase 3 is the most important for your health, wellness, and job performance. Sure, getting to the training (Phase 1), getting through the training (Phase 2) are the training cycles required to get into the tactical professions in the first place, but you will spend a longer amount of time in phase 3 – the active duty phase.

Older Longer Than You Are Younger

Once you have gotten to and through the challenging training programs to get your job within the military, police, or firefighter professions there are two main goals to consider – job performance and health / wellness: Job Performance – Being fit to do your job is easy to understand part of Phase 3 of fitness.  There is no grey area in any of these professions that a regular tactical fitness routine will help you reduce / even prevent injuries, build strong core and grip for lifting, build greater endurance for fast recovery, and increase flexibility and mobility and more. Depending upon your job within your profession you may also need other elements of tactical fitness such as speed, agility, muscle stamina, and balance as well as skills in land, sea, air assets (helicopter/planes), mountains, deserts, swamps, and forests.  Though tactical fitness is relatively newly defined within the last decade, basically it requires people in tactical professions to be able to fully perform their job and be strong enough to save their own life and their partners or a victim’s life in emergency situations on all types of terrain. If fitness is not part of your daily programming and you are in any of the tactical professions, you could be jeopardizing your own life and the people you protect.  Not just jeopardizing your life with the inability to handle serious job-related events, but the added fitness benefits of reducing stress, better health screenings, and longevity in your career will also be neglected.

Health and Wellness – Realize that you will be older for more time than you are younger if you make the military, police, or fire departments a career. The twenties will likely not cause you much issue as you are still training hard, work hard, even play hard without many negative results from high-stress living.  However, the long days, sleepless nights, combat deployments, job stress, family stress, and poor eating habits will start to take their toll on your mind and body as you age in these professions into your 30’s and 40’s and beyond. The requirements to improve your health and wellness belong to the following list: Sleep – Number 1:  You have to get sleep.  Even if you work night shifts and odd hours, your sleep must be a priority as lack of sleep over time is the worst of the following to neglect.  Tips for a better night sleep: 1) set your watch for bedtime – just as you have an alarm for wake up – set one for sleep. 2) turn off electronics at least 30-45 minutes before bed. Read a book or magazine or just practice deep breathing those last few minutes before sleep. 3) have a cool temperature when you sleep – studies show 67-70 is a good range to quickly fall asleep. 4) remove as many light sources from the room as possible – complete darkness is recommended – even in the day.

Nutrition Planning - Food and Water:– As we age, the hard gainer life of our teens and twenties no longer applies to most people. You can no longer outwork your diet, so focusing on portion control even with healthful foods is a requirement.  Foods rich in protein / amino acids, good carbohydrates (fruit/vegetables), fats, rich in antioxidants, electrolytes, omega 3, and other vitamins and minerals (supplements) are required for a balanced diet. You need water every day – more if you sweat profusely or arid environments leave salt stains on your clothes (replenish sodium, potassium, magnesium). If these are not in sync, you will not have the fuel to handle workloads or workouts at a required ability.

If you can get solid sleep (6-7 hours) most days and eat well from ideas listed here, you can accomplish a majority of your health, wellness and stress mitigation.  The extra benefits in massages, chiropractic, counseling, and recovery gear like foam rollers/massage tools, and stretching can help you get some of the missing benefits if you feel you need more than sleep, fitness, and nutrition alone.

After Your Tactical Career: I completely believe there is also a Phase 4 to tactical fitness that occurs AFTER your military, police, or firefighter career that helps you still be active, healthy, and recover from some of the job-related injuries that very often occur. This phase requires some consideration of current age, weight, injuries, abilities, and goals. There is no reason why you cannot go back to all the earlier workouts that got you started in fitness and athletics in the first place or challenge yourself with new goals (triathlons, obstacle course races, powerlifting, bodybuilding, etc). The one thing you should add to your training week is mobility – it will be the key to aging with a lifetime of living hard / working harder. For more info on tactical fitness over 40 and 50 check out the New Rules for Tactical Fitness Over 40 link and programming.

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Fitness Tactical Fitness