I want to start this edition of Keeping Your Edge by giving you a glimpse into how my non-operational days go, those are the days I’m not actively moving around with a client.
Traditionally, I wake up early, prepare a breakfast shake that’s high in protein, contains a serving of greens and, at times, slow burning carbs. Afterwards, I head to the gym to get a workout in. Those workouts usually consist of weight training and cardio. Depending on my available time, I also cross-train, alternating a martial art (currently Boxing) with Yoga. If I don’t have the time (or the energy) to get all that in, in the morning, then I move the cross-training to the PM workout. That’s 1-2 workouts a day, with no days off, although some days I go lighter than others to give my body a bit of a break.
Now with that said, I am no means a bodybuilder or a fitness-freak with biceps so big that my I have to wear more holsters for the two additional “guns.” Standing 6’-3” and weighting 226lbs, I think I’m pretty proportional. When working out I try and balance strength and dexterity, yes, I want to be strong, but I also want to be able to touch my toes. Equally as important, I want to be quick enough on my feet to be able to respond to a threat. My philosophy is, in the event the crap hits the fan, the Protector’s primarily responsibility is to cover and evacuate the client. That’s difficult to do if you can’t even make it half a block without getting winded.
Which brings me to the point of this article. Are we as protectors, just giving lip service to the physical nature of the craft? Yes, this is a thinking man’s game and the best muscle to work out is the mind, however, are we really preparing for that “Moment of Truth,” the one we hope never happens on our watch, but that we nonetheless have to plan for?
Just like in society, the men and women of our industry come in all shapes and sizes. I’m of the belief that much like a football team, some body types fit into some positons better than others. With that said, keeping with the football analogy, all of the players still have to make try-outs. And that’s where my analogy starts to lose steam, you see the great majority of the Close Protection Programs on the market do not have a physical component to them. Anyone who signs up and pays their money can take them, and in most cases the most strenuous lifting you will do is with the pen to take notes.
Now as an instructor and business owner I get the reasons why, for one, there are just so many hours in a program, how much of it do you devote to any type of physicality? Better to leave that to a dedicated martial arts class or similar where there’s a chart of progression. The other reason is pure economics, if students know there is a physical component to the course and they have a worry about the shape they are in, they might just pass on your class and seek out another where they won’t have those concerns. Again, I get it, however are we doing our industry and the client’s justice?
But let’s say the course that you graduated from did have a physical component. Does it now become a situation where, much like the Military or Law Enforcement, you went in lean and hard, but now with no one looking over your shoulder or pushing you, the temptation of an additional slice or two of pizza is just too appealing. In the majority of instances the client is simply taking our word that if an incident were to occur requiring intervention on our part, we would “perform as advertised.” That means the pressure is on us to not just deliver lip service and pray for the best, but also try and keep the machine that is our human body running as efficiently as possible.
I’ve tried to do that in my life, not just overnight but in gradual steps. The High pace of my operational tempo and the long days and nights, not to mention that I’m not getting any younger, have made me pretty health conscious. For example, I don’t do dairy, have eliminated all sugar from beverages, and having never been a coffee drinker, only use tea as my caffeine source. I’ve also campaigned to those that I mentor to adapt whatever healthy lifestyle choices they can. However, I hope they didn’t let the advice go in one ear and right out the other, if so, some of them are in for a rude awakening.
Following in the footsteps of some of my forward-thinking industry peers, my Firm has recently instituted a Fit Test with a minimal set of requirements that will have to be successfully passed to work with our clients. I’m not comfortable with selling the client a fancy marketing plan, instead I want them to be confident that the Agents on their assignments have both the brains and the brawn to complete the task at hand.
Does Fitness Matter Anymore?
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and an international security consultant.