Definition of ATHLETE
1 : a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina
I think we should reconsider the notion of training military and tactical professionals like “tactical athletes.” After years of using this term myself, I am now moving away from using it. Why? I’m not sure that these professionals are athletes; rather, they’re military operators, law enforcement professionals, search and rescue professionals, and firefighters. They’re not training to play a game, rather to save and protect lives. There’s not an off-season or in-season or national championship, they have to be “on” each and every day.
Sure, it’s convenient to think of those within a tactical profession as athletes, but that thought has also created a chain of problems when it comes to helping these professionals prepare their bodies for their job function, which is NOT A SPORT. More specifically, training like an athlete in many circles means that these professionals have the same needs of D1 college football athletes, that floor-based Olympic lifts are a priority, that cross-fit is ideal because a lot of athletes use cross-fit, or that there’s something wrong with the way they move. Now, these are assumptions that I’ve heard over the years from tactical professionals and strength and conditioning professionals alike and I don’t think they are correct, BUT MANY in the profession are being scripted to think this way.
Here’s the BLUF:
1. Way more tactical professionals will struggle or die from health-related problems such as heart disease, stress-related problems, being overweight, physical inactivity, and problems relating to lack of sleep than will die from something directly related to their job function, such as fighting a fire.
Develop physical training plans that promote physical fitness, decrease stress, and teach healthy eating in a manner that is pertinent to being successful on the job.
2. A specific needs-analysis needs to be done with each specific tactical asset to better understand the job-related fitness demands and how physical training might better prepare the individual for these needs.
Build training constructs on the determined needs for each individual according to their job function and how to effectively deal with the stressors of the job. Add training elements that reinforce team-work, followership, tactical problem-solving, and promote a healthy atmosphere and work community.
3. Spending countless hours evaluating and trying to correct human movement patterns is a waste of time.
Focus on building individual STRENGTHS and taking a healthy attitude towards helping refine movement, if needed. In many cases, simply improving physical fitness, losing weight, or eliminating exercises that tear-down the body will improve movement.
4. There is a distinct need to help prepare for fitness testing.
Many tactical entities must undergo annual or semi-annual fitness testing. There generally is a lot on the line for these professionals to do well on these tests. There simply must be a construct woven into training that helps these professionals be better fitness testers in addition to their job function. Neglect this area and bad results, sometimes deadly results, can happen.
5. We need a better body of evidence and a better pathway to cultivate tactical strength and conditioning professionals.
I can state this loud enough and more clearly. There is too much training information coming from athletic strength and conditioning, medical professionals, sports sales, and from those within the tactical profession who are “hyper-fit” and not enough from actual tactical strength and conditioning coaches and exercise physiologists. We need to have a better pipeline of strength and conditioning coaches that are trained and taught by those who have worked with tactical populations and understand the cumulative needs of these professionals rather than by those trying to make collegiate, medical, or sterile lab-driven programs fit into a tactical construct. Why? Because for this population there is more than just a game on the line, there’s lives at stake.