It’s a common ritual for police officers all over the world to suit up for their shift. This normally consists of putting on a uniform, a duty belt, and body armor – all meant to protect the officer from harm. But how many layers of armor does a police officer really need? What If I said yet another layer is needed?
Law Enforcement is a very physical job and Police Fitness believes in exercising the body to maintain functional performance and health. What is often overlooked is that the mind is as essential for health and wellbeing as muscles. Just like the body, the mind can be overworked, fatigued and stressed as a result of a heavy workload. Following are three proven exercises of mental toughness used by Olympic-level athletes, Corporate CEO’s and Navy Seals which help create another important layer of protection for the Law Enforcement Community.
The first skill is Visualization. There is a story of a prisoner of war in a POW camp. The prisoner was treated to the most inhumane of living conditions, very little food, no sleep, no hygiene and torture. The prisoner would escape into his mind, and play 18 holes of golf. He would visualize every swing, every putt, every drive for the whole course. He did this through his several year confinement. When he was rescued, he returned home and played a game of golf. The prisoner had never played “real” golf in his life. He shot a 73, which is considered a pro- level golfer.
Visualizing allows us to put ourselves in a scenario in our mind, almost in a day dreaming style or method, where we see ourselves succeeding. The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between imaginary and reality and therefore can be programmed through repetition. Visualize yourself on your next bench press set, pushing that heavy weight with power and good form. Visualize yourself in the midst of a high-stress traffic stop. Play out every scenario in your head, how you would approach it in the safest and most effective manner. When the time comes, your mind will have already practiced the response and your body will revert to its mental training.
The next skill is Breathing. Oxygen is the fuel that powers the human mind and body. Simply put, if we stop breathing, we stop living. With that idea in mind, it makes sense that the amount of quality air that we intake is a major factor in performance. When faced with an exertive or stressful situation, our body fights for this valuable resource. How many times have you seen athletes take a second before a tough free throw, or their next at bat, and take a long and deep breath to settle their nerves? Imagine the last time you were responding to a hot call and you were breathing fast and shallow. That’s the body’s response to a stressful situation. With controlled breathing, you are able to regain both mental and physical stability by engaging the whole brain. A good exercise is called “box breathing”. This consist of taking in a long breath, holding your breath for four seconds, and then releasing the breath for four seconds. It’s controlled, effective, and meditative at the same time.
The last skill is Positive Self-Talk. Negative thoughts will creep into your mind, regardless of the situation. The effects can be crippling. Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right”. An exercise for this step is to recognize your thoughts and be aware of the conversation in your head. If a negative thought enters your mind, immediately replace it with a positive thought. With enough practice, you can rewire your mind to produce more positive thoughts than negative ones. Recall memories of success from your past. Script your thoughts and actions with tested results.
The field of mental toughness has several methods that can improve performance and I encourage you to look into some of the other avenues available. These three skills are simple, but effective. The only requirement is to be self-aware throughout your day. So the next time you’re suiting up to hit the gym, the office, or the street, remember to put your armor on.
-Written by Bradley Brown