By John Morgan
Those of us in the Executive Protection industry spend a lot of time, energy and money training – and rightfully so. We live and work in a world where we can’t afford to be wrong. Therefore, repetition and training is vital to our long-term success. However, one area seems to be consistently overlooked or neglected and that is our physical fitness.
Be honest with yourself; if given the choice between trigger time at the range and busting your butt in the gym, which one are you going to choose? In no way am I suggesting that range time is unimportant. However, I want us to take a step back and put things in the proper perspective as we make decisions regarding our training regimens.
Any detail that you are on is probably going to consist of long days, spent mostly on your feet, getting in and out of vehicles, potentially walking long distances while carrying a fair amount of weight on your belt and/or back and, of course, a heightened sense of awareness which naturally increases your stress level and heart rate.
And that’s a normal, uneventful, detail. Now consider a “worse-case-scenario” where you have to spring into action, run those long distances you were originally planning on walking, man-handling your protectee into a vehicle, and even potentially engaging in close-quarter combat with an assailant.
As professionals, we have to be prepared to handle both of these scenarios…and both require a certain level of physical fitness.
Simply being on your feet all day can be a strain on your lower back and leg muscles. Combine that with the repetitive action of embussing/debussing and dealing with the stress that the job brings and you can quickly begin to see the need to keep your body strong.
Below are a few quick tips for the Executive Protection professional that can help you maintain an appropriate level of fitness, both while traveling and at home, while always being prepared for that worse-case-scenario.
Note: The below is not a comprehensive workout regimen – it is simply a few ideas to point you in the right direction.
Stretch: This can’t be emphasized enough. Take 10 minutes every morning to do a quick full body stretch. Not only will help keep soreness and fatigue at bay while on those long, tedious details but it will also get the blood flowing giving you that much needed energy on those early mornings.
Start with your neck; making big slow circles back and forth. Then work your arms and shoulders by swinging them back and forth and making forward and backward circles with both arms. After that, move down to your back. Keeping your feet relatively stationary, twist side to side quickly.
For a good lower back stretch, lay flat on your back and bring your knees into your chest pulling them as tightly as you can with your arms. Once you feel like your back is good and loose, it’s time to work on those legs.
Start by spreading your legs a little past shoulder width and bending down and touching the floor and hold for a 10 count. Repeat this several times, trying to reach farther back each time. Next, put your feet together and reach for your toes. This will give your hamstrings a nice stretch.
Finally, squat down so that your knees are fully bent and the majority of your weight is on your toes. Use your elbows and push your knees apart as far as you can. This will help stretch out your groin along with your knees and quads.
Weight/Strength Training: No matter your goals, weight training needs to be a part of your regular work out program. Because the EP professional is on his/her feet a lot, be sure to incorporate exercises that engage the lower back and glutes.
Some suggestions for this would be squats , lunges and deadlifts. Partner these with more aerobic-style exercises like box jumps or jumping rope to help build muscular endurance and explosiveness (a necessity when getting off the X).
Core training is also an important part of any weight training program as nearly everything movement your body makes engages your core muscles. Some simple exercises to help strengthen your core are leg lifts (lie flat on your back, hands under your hips, and lift your legs about 12 inches off the ground), double crunches (lie on your back and lift your shoulders and legs off the ground.
Then simultaneously bring your knees and chest together so that they meet in the middle of your body. Use your hands to stabilize if needed), and planks (lie face down and elevate yourself into a pushup position with your elbows on the ground.
Make sure your back is straight and your hips are slightly elevated, pushing the backs of your knees toward the ceiling. Hold this position for :30 or more if able and repeat)
Finally, you’ll want to work on your upper body. The key here is to make sure you’re getting a well-rounded workout. Everyone loves to max out on bench and then brag about how much they lifted. However, don’t fall into the trap of simply power lifting.
Benching 300 lbs. is great but maxing out or doing just low rep sets doesn’t require your muscles to build endurance. Remember, if you’re working a long, tedious detail, muscular endurance is going to be much more important and functional than your ability to bench press the car you’re driving a single time.
Cardiovascular Training: Have fun with this one! You don’t have to get on a treadmill for an hour to improve your cardiovascular endurance. However, if you enjoy running, biking or swimming, those are great cardiovascular exercises!
But, for a change of pace, try putting yourself through a circuit-style workout once a week that focuses on functional movements. For example, set up the following five stations and do them each three times with no more than a one minute rest between stations. Finish it off with a short half mile jog/walk. Depending on your level of fitness, you will want to adjust the times as necessary.
– Station 1: Shuttle Sprints (run 15 yard sprints back and forth for :45 seconds)
– Station 2: Jump Rope (mix it up….forwards, backwards, run the rope, double jumps, etc. for :60 seconds)
– Station 3: Mountain Climbers (these are done by starting on all fours and then quickly bringing your knees up to your elbows, alternating legs each time to create a climbing motion. Do these as quickly as you can for :45 seconds)
– Station 4: Lateral Slides (slide laterally, being careful not to cross your feet, for 15-20 yards and then go back the other direction. Do these for :45 seconds)
I understand that Executive Protection is an industry that requires frequent travel and that those frequent trips can thoroughly disrupt a workout schedule. Don’t use that as an excuse!. Nearly all hotels are equipped with a fitness center where every one of the above exercises could be performed.
But, if for whatever reason, that isn’t an option, simply make time in the morning for a good stretch, a few sets of 15-20 pushups alternating with core exercises of your choice and a light jog. Something as simple as that will take you no more than 30 minutes but will make a huge difference in your energy level and your overall wellbeing while on the road.
Let me leave with this: however you decide to approach your workout, please do it safely and with the proper instruction and always have an attainable goal in mind.
The EP industry is a demanding one and one that requires you to have a vast array of skills, a strong mind and keen awareness.
Don’t let those important traits suffer because your body isn’t strong enough or you don’t have the endurance to perform these duties at the absolute highest level at all times. Remember, hope for the best but plan for the worst….and train for the worst.