This is George. George is me. I don’t mean he’s me in a Tyler Durden/Fight Club sense, I mean that George and I have a lot in common. When you read his story, you’ll see he had a similar set of events that spurned a series of conversations in his own head. George is a sworn officer in the Cleveland area – and I’ve been to Cleveland. We both started in law enforcement at nearly the same time. We also have a love of craft beer in common. All of it proof that we’re both classy gents.
George was one of the first people to reach out to me early on as The Squad Room got rolling. He offered a lot of encouragement and enthusiasm for what I’m trying to accomplish – even when I myself wasn’t sure what I was trying to accomplish. It was cool to know that another LEO was out there, already excited.
As it turns out, George had also decided to share what he’s learned with the law enforcement world. George runs www.premeditatedfitness.com. There’s a lot of great information on the site and a great place to go if you’re looking at where to start on your road to fitness. He’s also a contributing fitness writer to Police One.
He is a success story. The first of many I plan to share here. Proof that when we take ourselves seriously and make the commitment to just be better than yesterday, we can make incremental changes that create monumental shifts. His story is proof.
“How the hell did I get here?”
Earlier that day a subject with a beer gut ran from me – after he was cuffed. I chased him down and tackled him, but it took me a few blocks to catch him. As I was showering that night it gnawed at me. The guy had a beer gut, his hands were behind his back, and he was older than me. What made this idiot think he could outrun me? Then it hit me. If he wasn’t cuffed he would have. I got out of the shower and took a look at myself in the mirror and that’s when I asked myself the question above.
I had always considered myself an athlete. I played basketball and football and was in the weightroom often. As an offensive lineman I was always on the bigger side but it was predominantly muscle. When I graduated from the police academy I was 220 pounds and lean. That’s not what I was seeing in the mirror now. There was very little muscle tone left and lots of fat. I stepped on the scale and it read 247. I broke out a measuring tape and my waistline was 47 inches. I was a train wreck.
So how did I get there? After graduating from the police academy in 2006 I started working full-time for a department that worked rotating 12 hour shifts. After probation I picked up two-part time jobs and fit in shifts around my full-time schedule. Initially I stuck to working out regularly, but over time I found myself skipping more and more trips to the gym because I was too tired. When I didn’t workout, I started eating garbage. I was working hard so I “deserved” to treat myself and eat whatever I wanted. This lead to lots of trips through the drive-through. My schedule was so jacked up that I slept different hours almost every day. So I’d keep a 6 pack or two of craft beer in the fridge and have two or three before bed. That is the recipe to go from fit academy grad to train wreck in a few short years.
Seeing myself in the mirror that night and realizing that the subject could have outrun me, and probably take me in a fight, was my rock bottom moment. I used it as motivation to change. I started eating healthy and working out again. I didn’t really have a game plan though. I just did what conventional wisdom said to do when you want to get in shape. I followed a bodybuilding style 5 day body part split workout program, I ate 5 to 6 small meals a day, and I did a lot of long slow cardio. Most importantly I avoided eating fat because conventional wisdom and USDA recommendations said to eat a low fat diet.
I had some initial success and dropped 10 lbs quickly. However this was most likely just from cutting out the beer and fast food. After the first month my progress stalled. I stopped losing weight, my energy levels were low, and my motivation was lacking. I was eating healthy and working out, but I felt like crap. The 6 small low-fat meals per day left me feeling hungry and constantly thinking about my next meal. I was miserable. After a month of no progress I realized something had to change or I would backslide into my bad habits.
I started doing research. I did a lot of reading, watched videos and listened to podcasts. I eventually stumbled upon the Paleo diet. The Primal Blueprint and The Paleo Solution were the two books that sparked my interest. The basic principles behind the diet appealed to my logic – eat healthy real foods and focus on food quality. I committed to a 30 day Paleo challenge and immediately noticed drastic improvements in my health, energy levels, and mental state.
I had always suffered from heartburn. I ate pepcid AC tablets like clockwork. I always attributed it to my love of spicy foods. However as soon as I cut wheat products out of my diet, my heartburn disappeared within a week. I took antacids once or twice a day for years, and now I can’t remember the last time I used one.
My energy levels improved as well. I attribute this to adding healthy fats back into my diet. I believe eating healthy fats helped keep me feeling full and energized. I also stopped obsessing about my next meal since the meals I was eating were keeping me satisfied.
During the 30 day challenge I lost 20 lbs and decided that the Paleo Diet was a lifestyle that worked for me. I still follow it to this day. I don’t follow it every single day, but 90% of the time I am eating lean meats, healthy fats and lots of green veggies.
While researching diets I also looked into new training regimens and came across the beginner strength training programs Strong Lifts and Starting Strength. I abandoned my bodybuilder style training and started training for strength. I found myself getting stronger, losing fat, building muscle, and most importantly, loving every workout.
I have expanded my training to include metabolic conditioning, mobility work, and kettlebell training, however barbell strength training still makes up the foundation of my training plan.
I made drastic improvements in my strength, health and physique. I lost a total of 50 lbs, I lost 11 inches on my waistline, all of my blood work numbers improved drastically, and I became stronger than I’d ever been.
I currently follow the paleo diet and tend to stay relatively low-carb with one or two intentionally high carb meals per week. However I still indulge on special occasions and holidays.
My training philosophy is to focus on strength as my primary goal. I cycle barbell programs and kettlebell programs. Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 is my go to barbell program and Pavel’s Simple & Sinister is the kettlebell program I use.
I get the majority of my cardio from two or three metabolic conditioning sessions per week. I run sprints once per week and do a kettlebell complex once or twice a week. Dan John’s Armor Building Complex is my favorite kettlebell complex as it can be used for hypertrophy, strength, or conditioning. Dan John discusses it in Easy Strength.
Some tips I have learned from my experience are:
- Set Precise Goals: My initial goal of “getting healthy” was admirable, but it was too broad. There was no way to track progress. When I refined my goals to “lose fat” and “get stronger”, tracking progress became much easier. If you are doubting which goals to go after, focusing on strength would make an excellent primary goal for almost every officer.
- Follow a Program and Diet: Don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Seek out a training program developed by a reputable coach that aligns with your primary goals. Same thing with your diet, find something that aligns with your goals, don’t try and develop your own diet.
- Try a 30 Day Challenge: If you are stuck in a rut try a 30 day challenge. 30 days seems like a long time but it is minuscule over the course of a career and it could lead to drastic changes.
- Be Honest with Yourself: The biggest reason I got into such bad shape was because I lied to myself constantly. In my mind I was still an athlete. I was going to start working out again on my next off day, and I was going to start eating healthy after this one last bad meal. It was complete BS and I was just feeding a negative cycle. There was always a reason to postpone getting back in shape one more day. We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. I didn’t see success until I started holding myself accountable for my actions. Garrett and Traver’s conversation about being honest with yourself about where your point A is really hit home for me.
- Never Stop Learning: Part of the reason I got in such a rut was because I thought I knew everything about fitness and nutrition since I was an athlete. I didn’t see changes until I sought out new information. Garrett is putting something special together here at The Squad Room; use it to help grow your health and wellness knowledge base.
During my fitness journey I became extremely passionate about fitness and nutrition and the unique fitness and nutrition demands that law enforcement work creates for officers. Everyone on my shift got tired of hearing me talk about it all the time, so I created a website to discuss it.
Premeditated Fitness is dedicated to helping Police Officers and First Responders be the strong, powerful, agile, enduring, and lean officers that the job demands. My goal is to help officers achieve this level of fitness in the most time efficient ways possible to maximize fitness and quality time with family.
If you are struggling to eat healthy on the job, I have a free e-book that I will send you if you sign up for the site’s email list. You can get Eating Healthy on Duty here.
Stay Safe and Stay Fit,
Editors Note: Since George’s story was first published, I found this great list of 111 Kettlebell exercises on Manvsweight.com you can use if you’re just starting out with kettlebell training or you’re a seasoned pro – Garrett.