The Central GOVERNOR
BY Madeline Murray & E.J. O'Malley
The objective in this article is to attack the mindset of our Tactical Athletes. The central nervous system is the governor in the fights of life. My belief is that we undersell and underutilize the power of the mind. Optimizing the health of our athletes must encompass a mind/body connection. Courage, confidence, emotional regulation, and self-discipline are the attributes that define positive psychosocial skills. I will focus on the fitness battle and I’m very proud to introduce Madeline Murray to assist me with the nutrition side of the house. Madeline is currently an intern in the Physical Training Unit. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech and I’m thrilled to pick her brain with fueling tactics.
Ultimately my job is to create a mastery motivational climate in training. It is easy to create a combative circuit in the gym and crank up Metallica. The challenge for me is to empower and inspire in the classroom. I deploy pictures, videos, and personal stories of victory and defeat in hopes creating thought. In the 1960’s, Albert S. Humphrey developed the SWOT Analysis to help formulate strategy. We address the strength, weakness, opportunity, and threats here at the Academy. This tool really sets the tone for the mental/physical battles ahead. These men and women are the 1% of the Law Enforcement profession. Use this statistic as a major strength of intelligence, grit, enthusiasm, and experience. This is your foundation to build from. My passion is to find the weak links in the chain that unfortunately crack that foundation. The fitness modalities that expose weakness could be core training, aerobic/anaerobic capacity, and previous injuries. If we patch and tighten these areas in training, the carryover is a resilient athlete after 10 weeks. The focus is on the details of the little things. I know we bore our students with band walks and dynamic warm-ups, but these daily rituals make the best, better. My wife and I took our 3 boys to a Washington Nationals baseball game recently. My bride knows I enjoy arriving early to watch batting practice and the warm-ups. Bryce Harper was band walking in the outfield before the game. One of the best players in the league was spotted doing the basics, respect! I’m chasing simplicity. Where are you now? Where do you want to be regarding the physical culture?
Opportunity means 24/7 access to me. Getting out the door is the hardest part. Our methodology is a 20-30 minute session, then recover. The research is very clear on how the nervous system shuts down after 1 hour. Be mindful in a shorter window and make better choices of drilling. Use technology as a motivator for accountability. Smart watches can reinforce a competition to better your numbers today. My earbuds and playlists play a big role in the intensity arena. Music is not a crutch for me but it helps me focus on the task at hand. Visualize success in the weight room or on the bike. There will never be a substitute for strength. Buzz words like unload, finish, and compete flow through my mind constantly in any high intensity protocol. Adapt to the ever-changing environment. I use my back yard, parks, hills, and pools on the weekends to enhance movement. I think running in a light rain is a gift!
The threat category is a monster that will derail everything. Sleeping and fueling properly are tier 1 skills that are essential. Alcohol, as an example, can affect the brain and body for up to 3 days if doses exceed 5 or more. Back to back nights of fun ruin the nervous system for up to 5 days. REM sleep cycles are disrupted which leads to a 40% reduction in strength the following day. You will pay the piper! Is the threat low self-efficacy? Sports psychologists have learned that those who suffer from a lack of confidence were almost twice as likely to be injured in physical training as those who exhibited high self-efficacy. More fight or flight scenarios need to be on the schedule, nonsense! The skillset of diaphragmatic breathing is vital for recovery and relaxation. We all need to be better with belly breathing. Try to find a great yoga practitioner or martial artist that doesn’t believe in the diaphragm. Everybody needs a boost or an edge. I don’t think we need more hard work, we must diversify. The psychological component may need a tune up for every Law Enforcement executive.
Here is a dynamic quote to get the mind right:
“4 P Formula – people + personality + process + purpose = success”
~Jack Stark, PHD Performance Psychologist
We as humans are impressionable and eager to learn about the newest trend; we are followers in the world of ever changing nutrition gimmicks, and it feels like we can never keep up. Law enforcement hours are long and non-conventional, and the job can range from sedentary to needing to be physically active at a moment’s notice. Nutrition is often put on the backburner in the midst of the chaos, or lack thereof, but this should not be the case. What is not said enough is that in order to take care of someone else to our full capacity, we need to take care of ourselves first. Nutrition is often overlooked as a means of self-care, possibly because it seems challenging to approach, and there are many unanswered questions which makes it seem as if there is some sort of barrier to nutrition, or to wellness in general. Therefore, the primary goal becomes education to understand behavior change basics, and giving resources along with encouragement.
A diet by definition is a restriction of food, whether it be quantity or kind, and the majority of the time we end up with more “cheat” days, or giving it up altogether. Too often we feel we have to make monumental changes which will somehow be successful in changing our lives. What is not well understood is that change needs to be a conscious decision which occurs gradually. This seems easy enough, so why is it that our society struggles so much with nutrition?
Convenience plays a large role in diet, what is easiest to consume on the go. We often see law enforcement officers eating out because there is no time for lengthy preparation, drinking their calories through sugar sweetened beverages, or snacking on food from the vending machine because it is easily accessible. This lifestyle of law enforcement officers contributes to the mindlessness of eating which is considered an eating disorder that the majority of Americans suffer from: binge eating. When eating out, choose restaurants that have higher quality ingredients like Panera or Chipotle. Water should be the primary source of fluid, minimize the amount of sodas, teas, and sugary coffees consumed in a day. Bring small snacks packed with protein such as cheese sticks, apples and peanut butter, peanuts, or yogurt to minimize mindless snacking. Again, convenience becomes the focus as we eat what is within reach by looking at the kitchen counter tops and front of the fridge. Try replacing that candy dish or chip bag with a bowl of washed fresh fruit, and put vegetables in the front of the fridge for easy access. It is also important to vary the consumption of foods rather than sticking to the same routine in order to ensure consumption of all required nutrients. While seemingly simple, these changes to make eating healthier easier might help lead to a more sustainable and realistic lifestyle.
Practice healthy lifestyle habits by implementing these changes to the diet slowly so they are achievable. www.choosemyplate.gov is a simple place to get started learning about portion control and making other small changes. Use their supertracker to gauge the nutrients consumed and bring awareness to those which are either over or under consumed. It is easy to give up on implementing healthy changes when we see they are not working, but it is equally as simple to continue implementing these behaviors when positive results are seen.
About the Co Author: Madeline Murray graduated from Virginia Tech in May of 2017 with a B.S. in Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise. She will continue her education at Virginia Tech in the fall, pursuing a Master's in Public Health. Madeline is currently an intern for the Physical Training Unit with the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
About the Co Author: E.J. O’Malley is a Health and Fitness Instructor at the FBI Academy, Physical Training Unit. He earned his B.S. from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania and M.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
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