Fitness is often necessary in less obvious ways. For example, to control the heavy armored doors on a limo takes a bit of strength, and keeping one’s feet from beneath the tires of that same limo requires agility. Handling doors easily when moving principals through them requires strength, as well as physically lifting a principal and pitching him into a vehicle or a safe room during an emergency. The list goes on.
Size and strength are definitely beneficial in close protection. Tall bodyguards have an advantage in physical presence as well as the ability to see over the heads of a crowd. Wide bodyguards have the advantage of plowing through crowds with less effort. Nevertheless, more often than not, I haven’t hired very large individuals because their fitness level would not allow them to move fast or move for extended periods during an evacuation under fire or other stressful maneuvers. Yet, I have also worked with some massive individuals who moved quickly and were incredibly fit.
I’ve discussed martial arts for close protection in the past. Some type of martial arts training enables the bodyguard to deal with threats quickly when lethal force is not justified. Practicing martial arts not only hones skills but also fitness. On a team that spends most of its time in one place, working out at a local dojo should be relatively easy, though getting the entire team together at once is problematic, since some must remain on duty.
One shift may be able to practice together, though. When traveling, some bodyguards who are really serious martial artists may try to arrange workouts with local practitioners, but the hours on a VIP junket are usually so long that this doesn’t work. On one extended trip, the team I was on decided we needed work on some of our basic close combat moves, so we moved furniture into the hall and put other furniture atop the bed after removing mattresses from a couple of rooms.
We had makeshift mats that allowed us to get in an hour or so of practice each night we were there. Were there problems with the staff for misusing the mattresses and moving furniture out of the rooms? No, we always tipped the staff generously, so they would warn us of any suspicious individuals or get us meals after room service closed.
Training for strength and general fitness is another matter. One can normally go to a gym or train at home. I used to do a combination of weight training and some running. Now I have a home gym, which I do 15 to 20 minutes each morning to save time. I was never as avid a runner as my co-workers. Some even run marathons. Nevertheless, the bodyguard must do enough running, street or treadmill, to enable him to move quickly during an evacuation under fire or other situations. If the principal jogs, then bodyguards will have to jog with him. It’s close protection and training combined. Only a few high level national teams will jog alongside the VIP vehicle, but that will take a lot of fitness as well.
Training on the Go
On the road, most hotels will have a fitness center. Members of the team should be able to get in a quick workout on the machines. Many hotels also have pools and some bodyguards prefer to do a lot of swimming as part of their training. I’ve traveled with a principal when the schedule was too hectic to even make time for the hotel gym. In those cases, I used to take a jump rope along. I’d get up early and do 10 to 15 minutes with the rope followed by “Ranger push-ups” with my feet on a chair or bed and sit-ups. If time allowed, I would then run the hotel stairs for another 15 minutes.
I do not recommend the practice of one acquaintance I worked with a couple of years ago. He liked to do pull-ups on staircases while hanging over the multi-story stairwells. He was an ex-member of a well-known special ops unit who also liked to free climb the outside of hotels to reach his room. He was tough and smart, but his adrenaline addiction made many team leaders nervous that he would take unnecessary chances on a job, so I didn’t see him around very long.
Often it is hard to exercise when working 12-hour days. One way to deal with the fatigue of long days is to schedule heavy workouts on days off and light workouts on working days. I’ve done that and it works well. I found for me, though, the most important thing was mental conditioning to not skip workouts.
It’s easy to come up with excuses so I just make it a hard and fast rule that unless injured or on an aircraft (and even aboard an aircraft one can do isometric exercises) or otherwise completely indisposed, I always work out. I also learned the obvious lesson that it is a lot easier to get up a half an hour early and exercise than try to force myself to do so after a long day on my feet.
The values of physical fitness for overall health should be obvious, but they should be even more obvious for those working on protective teams where their speed, strength, stamina and agility can save their lives and their principal’s life.