Taking Care of Our Tactical Athletes

by Joshua Gaskins, Senior Fitness Trainer, Department of Human Resources

Tactical professions, such as police officers, firefighters, and sheriff’s deputies, use their minds and bodies to protect and serve.  Being in good physical condition enhances the ability to face physical, environmental and psychological challenges both on and off duty. The demands of these occupations have shown to increase both the risk of chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer and obesity) and musculoskeletal injuries as compared to the general population; not to mention the increased risks of developing cancer and suffering from obesity.  Unlike a typical sports athlete, “tactical” athletes face the unknown all year round, day in and day out. This underscores how imperative finding a balanced relationship between work, fitness, nutrition, sleep and personal life habits is; to combat these known risks and to promote an enhanced quality of life. 

Through Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC) classes, coaching, and challenges, the Henrico County Public Safety Fitness Program strives to make sure our tactical athletes can achieve that balance. They work with the Police, Fire, and Sheriff departments to research and apply appropriate and effective strength and conditioning strategies to optimize job performance and prevent injury for both recruits and sworn incumbents. Let’s see firsthand the positive impacts it has had on two of our own:

Sergeant Dustin Eddington’s story:

I am a Sergeant for the Police Division and I am currently assigned to the Prevention Services Unit – CIT/TAT (Crisis Intervention Team/ Threat Assessment Team).  I work with the unit by visiting citizens in the community that may either be in a mental health crisis and/or in need of services, to include voluntary/involuntary hospitalization. 

Our unit also works all threat assessments: acts of violence, school shootings or other mass casualty threats in hopes to de-escalate and treat those persons.  I am also a Peer Support Person that is available to our first responders in times of stress should they need someone to talk to/listen. For my primary job, my day starts typically at 6:30 am and ends 4:30 pm. I also work secondary jobs 3-4 days a week which gets me home at about 11:00 pm at least 2-3 days a week. So, to say I have a busy schedule, well that would be close to accurate.  I average 70 hours of work a week. 

I started this Health Trip journey almost 2 years ago after a health scare in my family forced me to look at my own health. I weighed in at over 270 pounds at that time. I was grossly overweight and totally out of physical shape. I attended a class on a whim, just to see where I was from their point of view. It was horrible. I could not even complete a workout. Still on my journey, I have lost 70 pounds so far. I try to start off 4-5 days a week at the gym, working out with the TSAC morning program.  It gets my day started on the right track and focused; knowing that my personal goal of exercise has been completed and I can now focus on the day’s events, whatever they should be. I am in a totally different place as far as physical shape and can complete the workouts.

Now, I challenge fellow peers to join the program (see the stats of Detective Damon Grant below), which has been a huge pay it forward accomplishment that I am most proud of. My journey is ongoing with no end in sight, but with the training and assistance of Joshua Gaskins and Joey Pacelli I am meeting and exceeding my goals.

It is a challenge, but I am not alone, as others have stepped up and joined in on achieving their own personal weight management goals, which is a huge motivator to me, knowing that I am not alone in the struggle… Some Days, the struggle is Real… 🙂

If you have read this all the way to the end, I appreciate it. I hope that if you are someone in need of that “push” to get into the gym, please know that you’re not alone and you will have help every step of the way.  You just have to show up and put in the work.

Damon Grant’s Success Story:

I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and had an episode with high blood sugar. My Sergeant was affiliated with this class and introduced me to Josh. I started working out with the class and it was tough. I was overweight and not feeling very energetic. Since I have been working out with this class, there have been some positive changes. Despite the pandemic originally canceling fitness classes, Dustin and I still followed Josh’s program. Now, with classes resumed I have lost 59 pounds since February 2020.

The icing on the cake is that both Dustin and Damon recently completed the 30-day Concept 2 Rower Fall Team Challenge with Team Henrico. Dustin finished in third place on the team with 201,014 meters and Damon finished in fourth place with 186,641 meters. Their amazing efforts helped Team Henrico earn first place in the Corporate Division in this worldwide competition!

While the focus of the Public Safety Fitness Program is to help Henrico’s tactical athletes,  certainly, everyone can relate to the challenges of a good work-life balance and the battle to stay healthy along the way. The Fitness and Wellness Division offers many opportunities to assist all permanent Henrico County employees on their Health Trip journey. 

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