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  • Writer's pictureJon Osborn

Preseason Prep Part 3 - Embracing The Suck Tac-Team Style

Updated: Mar 7

For the sake of complete clarity, I’m neither a Crossfitter nor a competition powerlifter. Once upon a time, I could bench press 300 pounds, but not anymore. The hard truth is that I’m a middle-aged dad with a partially torn rotator cuff who struggles to limit his cookie intake. Furthermore, I smoke a pipe, and sometimes, I drink too much bourbon around the campfire. I guarantee there’s not a pro-athlete alive who subscribes to this lifestyle.

Then again, I’ve also worked as cop for over two decades, which partially explains some of the choices listed above. I’ve seen the dark side of society and spent too much time in dank, smelly places. But if decades of police work teaches you one thing, it’s the fact that when the chips are down, you’re never as fit as you would have wished, hardly as tactically sound as you would have hoped, and never shoot as well as you would have wanted.

In short, there’s always room for improvement. The minute forward progress ceases, you become static, which means you’re falling behind. In police work, the repercussions for failure include black eyes, broken noses, lawsuits, or absorbing incoming lead. None are desirable outcomes.

From the time I first pinned on a badge, I always wanted to work on a tactical team. Some departments refer to these units as SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), ERT (Emergency Response Team), SRT (Special Response Team), HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) or any other mishmash of letters denoting high-risk response.

Ours is called SET (Special Enforcement Team). In 1999 I got my chance to try out, and ultimately got selected. I’ve never looked back.

There’s no shortage of discomfort in police work, especially on the tactical side of things, so, like Allen often says, you learn to embrace the suck. Fact is, you’re either tired, bug-bit, overheated, hypothermic, sweat-soaked, or thirsty. Sometimes you have to piss so bad it hurts – but you’re in the public eye, so you wind up filling your coffee mug and later spill the contents all over your pants and the front seat of your assigned patrol car. Been there.

Then again, there’s a fair amount of “suck” involved in outdoor sports as well. As any out-of-shape hunter can attest, dragging a downed deer out of the woods, trudging up scree-covered slopes in search of elk, or trekking mile after rolling mile in search of grouse can be taxing, to say the least. The workouts listed below may have been tailored to tactical teams, but they’re perfect anyone hoping to improve their overall fitness. Besides, it never hurts to switch things up. Well, in this case, maybe it’ll hurt a little. Either way, get out there and embrace the suck!

Here’s a short list of some of the exercises we’ve used to help embrace that level of suck and make daily life flow a little smoother:


In the dark months during COVID-19, we weren’t able to partake in traditional workouts, so we challenged each other individually:

1. Pushup Challenge

We’ve done this several different ways over the years, but the most excruciating was 300 pushups per day for 100 consecutive days. Depending upon one’s condition, this may not sound like a lot – until you find yourself ripping out 150 pushups right before bed or cramming in 50 reps between radio calls or range time.

2. Running Challenge

Most people hate running because it’s uncomfortable. That said, a strong cardio base is important. In police work, it’s partly about recovery (how fast can you’re able to recover from sprinting and move to something like shooting) and partly about endurance (the ability to drag an injured buddy to cover while he’s wearing 60 pounds of gear.) The better the cardiovascular fitness, the better the performance under stress, and the clearer your thought-process in the clutch. Like the pushups, this challenge leaves room to tailor to specific needs. Last spring, fishing guide, Matt Peisert challenged me to run “100 miles in April.” It wasn’t impossible, but it involved grinding miles out day after day to get it done.

3. Pull-up Challenge

Years ago, a coworker showed me how to build a white-trash pullup bar for $20. Pullups are another exercise most people hate, mostly because they’re agonizing. Then again, they’re only difficult when you don’t do them. Make them a habit and 15 or 20 reps seems easy. I make it a point to do 25 pullups daily, but in February, we challenged each other to 50 pullups a day.


Running doesn’t have to be mundane, but no one likes trekking mile after mile around a track. Here are a few team runs that incorporate strength and cardio – and keep things interesting.

1. Stadium Run

This workout, care of retired teammate, “Dan the Man,” is pretty simple. Find a football stadium, lace up your Keds, and commence running stairs. Begin by repping out a set of push-ups at one goalpost, then advance to the bleachers and run a clockwise or counterclockwise serpentine route around the field, up one set of stairs and down the next. Eventually you’ll wind up back on the field near the opposite goalpost, and there you’ll complete another set of pushups. Five times around the stadium nets you 200 pushups and a solid quad-burn.

2. Dune Run

This workout requires a continuous flight of stairs, like the steps you find ascending the dunes along Lake Michigan. It’s even simpler than the Stadium Run. Simply chug up the stairs till you reach the top, then ramble down again. Set a goal and then surpass it by a flight or two each day thereafter.

3. Beach Run

Five-mile barefoot run over beach sand with push-ups, planks, sit-ups, air-squats mixed in.

If you are looking for more, here are two additional tests to tax the level of suck you’re willing to endure:

NTOA PFQ (National Tactical Officers Association Physical Fitness Qualification)

50 points max-score

30 points minimum to pass

Three minutes recovery time between events

1. 800 Meter Run

Performed “slick” (training uniform and boots)


3:14 or less = 10 points

3:15 – 3:29 = 8 points

3:30 – 3:44 = 6 points

3:45 – 3:59 = 4 points

4:00 – 4:29 = 2 points

4:30 or greater = 0 points

One point extra credit for any 15 seconds under max score.

2. 400 Meter Run

Performed holding 25-pound dumbbell in each hand, wearing 20 pounds of body armor and gas mask without filter.


2:44 or less = 10 points

2:44 – 2:59 = 8 points

3:00 – 3:14 = 6 points

3:15 – 3:29 = 4 points

3:30 – 3:44 = 2 points

3:45 or greater = 0 points

One point extra credit for every 15 seconds under max score.

3. Burpees

Performed “slick” (training uniform and boots)

As many reps as possible in three minutes


50+ = 10 points

46 – 49 = 8 points

43 – 45 = 6 points

40 – 42 = 4 points

38 – 39 = 2 points

37 or less = 0 points

One point extra credit for every rep above max score.

4. Squats

Performed wearing 20 pounds of body armor and gas mask without filter.

As many reps as possible in two minutes


75+ = 10 points

73 -74 = 8 points

70 – 72 = 6 points

67 – 69 = 4 points

64 – 66 = 2 points

63 or less = 0 points

One point extra credit for every rep over max score.

5. Pull-Ups

Performed “slick” (training uniform and boots)

As many reps as possible in one minute


20+ = 10 points

18 – 19 = 8 points

16 – 17 = 6 points

14 – 15 = 4 points

12 – 13 = 2 points

11 or less = 0 points

One point extra credit for every rep over max score.

PRT (Special Enforcement Team Physical Readiness Test)

120 points max-score

Performed twice annually

1. 1.5 Mile Run

Max score = any time under 9:30

2. Bench Press

Max score = body weight + ½

3. Pull-Ups

Max score = 15+ reps

4. Push-Ups

Max score = 80+ reps in two minutes or less

5. Sit-ups

Max score = 85+ reps in two minutes or less

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