Feedback: Increasing Elements of Strong Fitness Culture at First Responder Unit

Here’s the feedback we got from last week’s article: Increasing Elements of a Strong Fitness Culture at a First Responder Unit

I am a Captain for Cal Fire, in California.  In my 20 years experience in this department the I have seen some things change in regards to PT.

It has always been a “mandatory”  to PT 1 hour/day.

The major issues that pledge us to day:

– Lack of funding for equipment. We are provided zero dollars to buy PT equipment. Despite it being “mandatory”. So gear is often cheap leftovers from someones  parents old home gym. And rarely does a station have even basic gear (jump ropes or a pullup bar) to support a an engine company to do a team work out.

– Lack of accountability. Many Chiefs and Officers are not conditioned and do not enforce or build a culture of fitness. (Though this getting better.)

– No department physical standards. Other then the CPAT on initial appointment to a permanent position. No ongoing testing or way to discipline for “not meeting the standard”

– A systemic belief that there is no need for conditioning plans… “just go hike.. It what we do anyway..”

– Quote from a chief’s mouth “Weights cause injury… We can’t afford that”

In regards to building the culture, the chart is correct that you don’t need a lot of equipment or the Chiefs to be in shape also. Though, I think the effect on moral can not be overstated; feeling supported from the top.

For people in the higher position this is were a strong culture of leadership is needed. All to often we here pillow talk of “we support” until its time to take action…

Any thought on how to get buy in from the top? My Department does actually spend some money on training a few people (maybe 10) to cover the whole state of California on some basic PT info… But it almost never trickles down to the company level…

Even with all the support that could come from above, It will remain a daily decision by the company officers and members to stand up from the computer and go put the work in..

Thanks for the awesome work!


Buy in from the Top?

My current approach is be steadfast and persistent in the requests, but not shrill – and to let your training results – both fitness and buy in from other members – speak for themselves.

The goal of a Unit Fitness Leader – either formal or informal, is to be a beacon, role model and resource for unit members ready to become professional about their fitness. Your aim as a Captain is Mission Performance and the safety of your guys – fitness helps both.

We’re test driving our own first responder UFL Course next week with a LE and Fire Rescue unit. It will be interesting to see the response.


Rob    I’m a detective with a city in Virginia. Just read your article on increasing fitness culture. I can tell you from personal experience it is an up hill climb. I literally fought the machine for two years to have a gym upgrade completed by Sorinex. Now I fight to fill it with interested police. I just wanted to thank you for addressing the issue and I hope you meet with great success.

    I will say the biggest change needed is in mindset. Cop ego is a hilarious thing to behold. We are all about t-shirt phrases and inspirational posters while gasping for air during the third step of a five step climb. My cadre of DT instructors has seen the biggest benefit by instituting real functional fitness training in our academy. Not some blowhard who couldn’t do one push-up yelling at you about “bleeding in training not on the street” or some nonsense, but actual trackable programming. By instilling the importance of physical training, making it fun but meaningful, smashing goals, we are building physically confident Officers. That translates to a myriad of other Police tasks, and leads to thinking warrior Police, which is what we strive for. As I like to tell our recruits, ” I don’t like cops, they are the reason for the horrible views and rules I find myself under. Cop is a shortcut to saying Police Officer, and I wish to use no shortcuts, I will earn. I want to be Warrior Police, and so will you.”

    Educating Police on the absolute and concrete benefits of physical fitness is the key. We have only had two academys to experiment with but they are performers. We took physical fitness out of the “punishment” realm, we still have our ways, but the recruits see the results and are hooked. In turn they will occupy positions of authority and that will facilitate change. And I will be retired, with a big smile on my face and on my way to the gym. Thanks for your efforts and reading my rant. Stay safe.



I’m really interested in this plan and even in places where mandatory fitness tests have come about (Colorado Springs P.D) they have been challenged and lost in court from the last I’ve read.

I initially tried some of this stuff with our department, but was unsuccessful. In the end, I stopped banging my head against department mandated stuff and minimum standards and have had better success just working with those guys who want to better themselves, they tend to bring others along anyways.

Again I look forward to seeing how this plays out. If there is a better roadmap, I’d love to give it a try or at least bring it to someone capable (brass) of getting it started.

On a side note, during our training cycle I’ve led a one hour dynamic warmup/ stretching session for our guys who decline to take our optional pt test. I’ve handed out a few questionnaires as to why they don’t currently take they optional test.

#1 Answer No monetary incentive

When asked what would entice them to take/train for and pass the optional test

#1 % increase in pay

#2 Comp or Vacation time for passing



The practices that I have seen that work well:

Three hours per 40 hour work week for on duty PT time.

Annual fitness testing being treated as a “team” style event with a positive tone, as opposed to making it an obligatory chore to “just get done.”

Time off awards for increasing performance in annual fitness testing.


To busy to get a training session in- “not enough time”

Leadership/supervision that talks the talk but does not walk the walk.

Leaders who set a poor example of their own personal fitness.

Lack of access to good quality training equipment and workout space

Ie: Go use the bow-flex machine we bought in 1998…




Change people, or remove people who don’t believe their fitness can save or hurt someone. Sounds like a department issue.

As for age, that’s sounds like some data gathering.


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