Wellness Basic Training, Part 3: Physical Wellness Training

basic training basics breathing first responders habits law enforcement physical stress wellnes training Sep 01, 2022

Physical Wellness- going beyond working out.


Three fundamentals of physical fitness:

  1. Stimulation

  2. Nutrition

  3. Rest 

You can see that those overlap in the middle of the white circle, and that is so important to understand. 

You cannot perform at a high level, mentally or physically, without paying attention to all three. Period. 

Your performance will decrease in the other two without any of the fundamentals.

The Relationship Between Stress and Exercise

The physical performance of exercise positively improves and changes your experience of stress. 

Here is what I mean by that. 

You create stress in the body when you exercise, and because you are always able to finish whatever you are doing, it is through the exercise that you are teaching your body stress is not bad. 

Now you're thinking, well, it's exercise. Of course, it's not a bad thing. 

When you go into it knowing that you are creating stress in your body and teaching your body that stress is ok, you can change your relationship with stress, and improve your physical and mental performance during the experience. 

Breathing During Exercise Engages Your Nervous System

When you exercise, you increase your breathing. I always teach that the breath must start in your belly, taking full breaths.

Doing so stimulates the vagus nerve, and every time you breathe, it sends a calming signal to your brain that everything is ok.  

Every time you exercise and deeply inhale and exhale, you are getting a benefit in your brain. 

Return to Homeostasis After Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance is the heightened state of awareness that law enforcement officers maintain while working a shift. It keeps them hyper aware of their surroundings so that reactions are quicker.

When your shift ends, you must do something to bring your body back into homeostasis or equilibrium.

Exercise helps you do that. 

For some people, that can sound counterintuitive. You may feel wound up and want to relax and do nothing.   

But in fact, it's exercise that can help your body release that hypervigilance. 

Remember, exercise helps you process and release stress, and by changing the relationship with stress and finding ways to release it, allows you to reach homeostasis. 

Nutrition- What you eat matters!

Nutrition can either positively or negatively affect your stress level.

The chemicals in your food contribute to why and when you choose particular foods. 

When you eat poorly, it worsens stress and makes it worse. It's a slippery, downward slope.

If your nutrition is not benefiting you, there's a way you can change that.

Sticking to routines with your food can improve your nutrition. Simple, small steps can make a big difference in your mood, sleep, stress, weight, and health.  

Building on the tactical, repetitive training I discussed in Part 2- you can create routines with your nutrition that can make a big difference. Examples include choosing meals and snacks that work best for you, particularly when working, and sticking to a meal prep routine.  

It is likely that your spouse, partner, or loved ones would be happy to help with this if they know that your nutrition can help your performance, thus increasing your chances of making it home at the end of each shift. 

Get More Sleep!

Adequate sleep is another tool that aids in coming down from the hypervigilant state and bringing it back into equilibrium. 

In addition, when you sleep, your body can consolidate and process memories instead of storing them as trauma in the body.   

You CAN NOT improve your Wellness, physical fitness, or nutrition if you do not rest. It's a scientific fact. Yet, too many people, and especially police officers, are doing too many things to interfere with rest. 

Sadly, we live in a culture where we start to feel poorly about ourselves if we have too much downtime in our lives. 

About three years ago, I decided I was tired of using "busy" to measure my success because it was only causing me more stress. I proactively started finding ways to change my definition of "success," which included doing less. I started following @becomingunbusy. Here is a fantastic post she had a few weeks ago.

Track Your Wellness

You must have physical, tangible reminders of the wellness activities you are doing because it helps to "see" progress and to feel the success of the work you are doing.

Tangible reminders also help hold you accountable. Here are some examples of how to have accountability:

Use an app with an alert, reminder, or notification. 

A trainer that checks in with you regularly.

A journal that you write in every day with goals that you track on your own.

Your goal is to be 1% better each day. 

Where could YOU improve 1%? 

When done regularly, small things add up to something much more significant. 

Improving 1% each day results in a 365% improvement at the end of the year!

Stay tuned for part 3: Physical Wellness Training.

Wellness Basic Training

A 7-step course that:

  • Defines wellness and guides you through what it means to you, and
  • Helps you create a wellness program unique to who you are and your specific needs.

Learn what whole health wellness is and devise a plan to start a wellness program in your daily life that YOU create.

Click here for more information on Wellness Basic Training.


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