How do you get back to working out and getting back into the shape like you used to when you first started on the job as a First Responder?
Being in peak condition is important to your safety and that of your partner and team. It also gives you energy to be active with your family and feel good about yourself.
Today I am going to walk you through the different stages of not working out, why they are not your fault, and what you can do to get back to working out and feeling great about your body and what it can do.
The Different Stages of Not Working Out
You worked out and were active before you got on the job and were able to maintain your routine for a while and then life or your body got in the way.
There different stages to life and at each stage you have to figure out how to work it all into your crazy shift work schedule.
You moved in or were already living with someone else and your schedule is not yours to do what you want, when you want anymore… It gets tough to fit in your sleep, workouts and social time between shifts.
It all happens so quickly
Kids, then, come into the picture and if sleep was not hard enough before, it’s now filled with guilt. Guilt that you are missing out on time with them or your spouse when you should be sleeping. It’s stressful knowing that your family is awake or they keep you awake when you are trying to sleep.
Even when you live on your own exhaustion from shift work and OT can kick in, throwing your body’s sleep rhythms off. The stress of the day to day without knowing how to navigate your way through it, is stressing your body to the point where you are today…
The end result is one of a few things…
- You struggle to find the time to fit in a work out
- While your sleep starts to become a struggle, exhaustion kicks in and your motivation slowly decreases over time
- You continue to get to the gym, but find that you don’t get that adrenalin high like you used to, so it is more of a mental push than before and over time you start finding that a day or so later you are more frustrated, have brain fog or your short fuse kicks in faster.
- You were taken out by nagging injuries and if they healed, no amount of willpower was able to get you back into a routine.
It’s Not Your Fault?
To start off, most of the information out there for healthy living is designed for those who live a Mon to Fri less stressed life. What worked before you got on the job in regards to exercise and eating does not account for factors that are now a part of your life as a first responder.
- Shift work
- 10-12 + hour shifts with OT or Doubles back to back
- Not knowing when you are going to eat and going long blocks without being able to
- The added weight of your gear
- Energy you use on shift- rushing to calls, foot pursuits, fighting a fire and the mental stress that also elicits a stress response in your body.
I am not going to lie when my husband became a Police Officer I thought it would be easy to continue our healthy lifestyle habits considering this was my career. And I was very good at it.
Boy was I wrong.
All of my education and training are put to the test when we needed to make adjustments based on what occurred on his shift, OT, when he was sleeping and awake, and other nuances that only the life of a First Responder has. we made these adjustments in every part of our life.
The life we were living was helpful for a few years until the exhaustion started to set in. Injuries crept up and work outs and activities started to fade from his daily routine.
Nothing I knew from my career as a personal trainer, nutrition and mindset coach worked to get him (and myself) back to full energy, injury free and motivated to work out.
After I burnt out and crashed for the second time in my life, I was finally diagnosed with a genetic condition. I learned that I function at a higher stressed state all of the time. Very similar to your life as a First Responder.
A Cry for help
I learned that these symptoms were our stress management system screaming for help.
His were due to the extra stress of his job – shift work, long hours, OT, rushing to calls and all of the other stresses of your job.
I spent years researching and taking courses to figure out what our bodies needed that were different to others that did not live in a high stressed state most of their life.
As you can see, it is not your fault that you are struggling with your work outs and other symptoms of stress.
Things To Think About
Depending on how taxed your stress management system is right now, will determine your course of action.
When you work out your body releases stress hormones. These are the same hormones that are released for good and bad stresses. In your job they are most likely floating around in your body for most of your shift.
If your body has too many floating around for too long your stress management system starts to send you signals that it needs support.
Tired and wired
Waking mid sleep
Exhaustion – waking almost feeling hungover
Judgemental of others
Need to control your environment
Nagging injuries that take forever to heal
Blood pressure issues
Depression and more…
How much does your equipment weigh? From what I have been told by those in my 911 Stress Management FB group – Police – 25 to 38 lbs, Fire- 75- 100 lbs+ , EMS – depends on patient…
Being on shift with your vest on for Police is like an endurance workout during your shift plus OT. Add rushing to calls, foot pursuits, fires, accidents and altercations and you have a cross-fit circuit with the weight of your equipment thrown into the middle of an endurance workout.
How To Get Back To Working Out And Feeling Great
If You Are Currently Working Out
If you are someone who is currently working out keep an eye out for any of the stress symptoms and if you see them ask yourself the following:
Do your symptoms improve or increase during or after your workout (1-2 days later) .
Do these symptoms occur for workouts on certain shifts, but not all? (days vs nights? )
Are these symptoms around workouts on shift only, or days off as well?
If you do not see these symptoms, keep and eye out for them so you can be proactive in reversing them.
If you see them on certain days for example, nights, when you have OT. Adjust your workouts by lowering the intensity on those days until the symptoms go away.
When the symptoms do not go away, then that is your stress management system telling you that you need extra support.
If You Don’t Have Time To Work Out, But Would Like To
Sometimes life gets in the way, I get it. It’s hard to fit everything in between shifts between family, friends and your to do list. Getting to a gym, and working out can take 2 hours of your day or more…
When I teach lifestyle habits I’d prefer my clients to start slow and steady adding in habits they can envision still doing in 5 years. Realistic goals that are achievable.
How would you feel in 5 years if you did push-ups and planks every single day?
Now let’s say after a few months you also added in a squat or lunge?
5 minutes a day and how would you feel in 5 years?
Depending on your stage of life, going for a family walk before or after dinner, or on your own?
Everything adds up.
That’s the compound effect.
Start with a very realistic goal and work up from there.
If You Don’t Have The Motivation Or Nagging Injuries Are Keeping You Out
I was in this stage for 14 years before I figured it out. I would go to the gym and try, but my body would overheat, I’d get angry during the workout and totally frustrated when I would lift weights. My workouts had the opposite effect on me. Injuries crept in. It got to the point where I couldn’t will myself no matter how much my brain wanted to work out my body would not move it was so exhausted. I got to the point where even going for a walk took too much energy.
I craved that rush I used to get when working out. But it was gone…
If you are where I was or at the beginning stage where the symptoms are creeping in during or right after your workouts and you are needing to mentally talk yourself more and more into being active, then this is for you.
First, know that this can be reversed. You can start sleeping again, gain your energy, stamina and recovery time back so that you can get back to regular workouts by supporting your stress management system.
How To Support Your Stress Management System
As mentioned, most of the information out there is designed for those who live a Mon to Fri, non-shift-work life without the added stresses you encounter each and every shift.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
About the author
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle.
Andi has a background in athletics including a 25+yr career as a personal trainer, nutrition and mindset coach to athletes and stressed out high end executives.
Being healthy and active was what she lived for. Until her body started waking absolutely exhausted, workouts become something to push through instead of enjoy. A short fuse crept in, motivation left and injuries seemed to be a part of life. All of this added up to the point that she had to stop all activity altogether.
Doctors, specialists and prescriptions were never able to fix the problem.
Once Andi realized she had a genetic stress condition that puts her body into an increased stress response state all the time (similar to what Police Officers and First Responders experience when they put on their uniform and have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen in their day) was she able to figure out what was happening and how to reverse it.
Through years of research and studying, Andi formulated a completely different way to thrive when your body is always functioning at higher than usual stress levels. One where it is possible to reverse and prevent an officer from getting to a point where they struggle to get through their days by taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one. And one that reduces the negative effects of shift work on the body.
Her husband’s career as an officer her focus has been on preventing burnout, exhaustion and a tanked immune system that she knew can result from high levels of stress that are out of your control.
As she watched his co-workers struggle with everything from sleep, exhaustion and anger leading to divorce, PTSD and even suicide it became apparent how LIFE-SAVING the foundations she was laying down for her husband actually were, because not only was he tolerating the shiftwork lifestyle, he was thriving in it.
Andi created 911 Lifestyle once she realized the strategies her husband was using MUST become available to all Police Officers and First Responders so they can peak during crisis, recover quickly after, have energy left over for their families and become the Elite First Responders that they were born to be.