Bodyguards and Functional Fitness: Why practitioners should care about how they move
Let’s step away from the strategic for a moment and discuss a base level issue which affects everything we do… health and fitness. Realizing many may have already decided to “swipe left” and move on to another spot, I’m asking you give 3-5 minutes.
“In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance. You must research this well.” – Miyamoto Musashi
When you boil it down, practitioners lives’ can be pretty mundane with occasional boughs of adrenal rushes brought on by unknown risks or complex problems manifesting in the most unexpected moments. Not ever having our heart rate up around the 175 beats and trying to perform means in an actual situation our cognizant senses will begin to give way to basic muscle movements. We are told, from day one to “keep it on a swivel” and to cherish mottos like the US Coast Guard’s, “semper paratus.” A bodyguard is made to; plan-and-wait-and-go-and-wait-and-go-really-fast-and-wait, well you get the picture. Between the waiting and going, are periods of foraging for food and trying to find some moments to either energize or get some rest. Easily sustainable for a short amount of time, but over the long haul, the toll is felt. Keeping your health up often becomes a, “if I get to it.”
What do we mean…fitness?
When I say fitness, I’m not talking about working out to star in the next Expendables, here. What we need to understand is training and health for the daily rigors of life and the job or a functional fitness. The former thought is both untenable and not germane to the job of protection.
So, with this idea of a functional fitness what is it that Close Protection Agents do on a routine basis? Top of mind – but not limited to is:
- Stand (Halls and walls people!!)
- Sit (Surveillance Detection anyone?!?!?!)
- Lift/Hold (Heavy-ish) Objects (ever put your buddies gear or a starlet’s luggage in the rig)
- Sprint (with a principal’s briefcase or managing the designate through a spontaneous riot)
- Jog (anyone who has ever worked with a principal who is a runner just groaned)
While I’m certain we could come up with many more basic ideas of what we do (some could be specific to your particular detail) we can agree these are basic elements that make up or job ~ hell, they look like a lot of other jobs, too.
Several years ago, my team performed an experiment; we decided it was time to “re-learn” how to work out. Many in the group being former military, the observation being what instruction we received may have been arguably good for [soldier X] it was not necessarily a good for our jobs in close protection, ages (yup, said it) and overall lifestyle. As a result, we arranged training through a local CrossFit gym (aka a box) to learn/re-learn how to do functional lifting, cardiovascular and functional routines. For the next three months, the majority of the team went to a weekly class worked out between the instructor and our team. While there was CrossFit type activities involved, we were clear our goal was on learning the right way as opposed to the rigorous workout of the day (WODs) associated with this style of fitness. Over the weeks and as we progressed, this idea of functional fitness really became highlighted as the way forward.
“It’s about getting strong, durable, and relentless in simple, old-school ways that a man can train, test, and measure.” – Daniel Duane “Everything You Know About Fitness Is A Lie “
Put the F(itness) in Function
Putting together a personal program which supports the primary aspects of our job is key. Most would suggest you always start with a baseline that begins with working with your doctor to understand where you stand. I’ll leave that to you and hope you choose a medical practitioner who understands your job and is a forward leaner when it comes to things like fitness and nutrition. Let’s assume you do this already; how do you get towards a routine that supports the function?
Our above list suggests we need to have a program that allows us to lift, pull, and perform at a decent cardiovascular level and sprint. Basically, a routine that encompasses:
- [Weight] Lifting / Strength Training (Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength)
- Plyometric Activities (Jump around…Jump around!!!)
- Stretching (Namaste, people!)
- Cardiovascular (the Slog)
- High Intensity Training (intervals, sprints, breathing hard activities)
Make your routine about these things. I would suggest if you’re heading into the gym and the only thing you’re pumping out is a massive chest and biceps, try getting on a treadmill and running for 45 minutes – better yet – go outside! Conversely, if you are the marathoner… get into the gym and focus on some deadlifts or kettlebell swings. And both of you should incorporate some pull-ups, step ups or box-jumps.
My point being, examine where you are and what you’re trying to get out of it for the job. Take your ego out of the picture and look at it from a strict “I need to do ____ to do this job.”
While I remain a fan of the spirit of CrossFit, it’s important to note there should be a line (albeit thin) between the two terms. CrossFit has grown into a pretty massive industry. And while I think these athletes are amazing, functional fitness remains a very base level philosophy to me, wherein the executive protection industry is concerned. They are mutual, but I do not believe the two are exclusively so. In fact many functional type fitness efforts like movnat (Moving Naturally) or Tactfit (Tactical Fitness) are also beginning to make their presence known as well as the Phenom that has become Tony Horton’s P90X workouts.
Other Factors worth exploring
This is probably the most important factor in maintaining your health (especially on the road). So many things written on this subject. Vinnie Tortorich’s idea of “No Sugar No Grain” is a good place to start if you have nowhere else to go. Another concept worth exploring is the free ranging “Paleo movement wherein eating “real foods” and not shirking off of protein is concerned. While I am not a doctor nor a dietician we all know in the middle of the night you sometimes have limited choices to refuel and grab three hours of sleep before you have to get back at it. Honestly, if we know this is going to happen, we should plan for it. In the end, a little discipline and moderation won’t fail you.
A rapidly growing trend it reminds us that agents are athletes in our own right. While we aren’t going to making jump shots or running down the guy making a play for home plate, it doesn’t take a lot to imagine scenarios in which we must be able to move in a non-linear fashion. This requires we are limber and ready to explode those muscles. Also, we need the ability to keep moving after the moment and adrenaline have pumped out of our system while dealing with the rigors that the halls-and-walls routine takes on our bodies.
You’re laughing. I know it. More and more this idea of, as Tony Schwartz coined in The Power of Full Engagement, “energy management.” Your plan should include getting some down time. Even during a long detail, understanding when to shut off all the non-essentials to the detail and focus on relaxing and re-energizing is as important (maybe more so) than working out. Lack of sleep (over a period of time) does all kinds of things to you and has a distinct negative effect to you, tactically. Any fans of LTC Dave Grossman’s “On Combat” will agree.
“We’re not meant to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time. Science tells us we’re at our best when we move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy — a reality that companies must embrace to fuel sustainable engagement and high performance.”– Tony Schwartz – The Energy Project
“Opera Non Verba”
This piece isn’t to say “what specifically to do”, but more about you getting outside of yourself. The most important factor is the point we take stock in where we are and what the endstate is for you and your team. It should be part of your operational and business plan… your routine.
You don’t need three hours a day in the gym to be functionally fit, either. Most of us are lucky to get 30 – 40 minutes of training. Make that count. Remember – sweat doesn’t equate results…results, results do. Focus on what you’re building and then, sustaining it. Here is my week. I often pair up with a teammate or a buddy for the interval training, too:
- Monday – HIT Interval training (could be P90X3 or a WOD)
- Tuesday – 3 to 5 mile run
- Wednesday – Weight Training Circuit
- Thursday – Interval Training/WOD
- Friday – HIT Interval Run and stretching or yoga
- Saturday – Weight Circuit
- Sunday – Walk or easy 3-5 mile jog (this is more about relaxation than anything)
Remember, we are talking about being a professional practitioner, if that bleeds into our personal life and makes us a better, parent, spouse, friend, etc. all the better. Please don’t fall into this trap of “I need to get fit to….get fit” either. The naked truth is this; bad guys don’t give a damned about your ego. In fact, they are counting on it to get in your way. That way, the day you need that extra seconds of speed… it will fail you.
We pride ourselves in honor and an uncanny ability to plan and maintain discipline. Shouldn’t our own health have the same protocols?
Keep your head down and get moving.