Lean, mean policing machine
‘Amazing’ response to cop fitness pilot, writes BIANCA CAPAZORIO
CAPE Town’s Metro Police may be looking a little more svelte these days after a 30-day pilot programme got them exercising and sweating their way to fitness. Around 600 Metro Police officers, all constables and sergeants, were signed up for the pilot programme which came to an end this week. Each officer had to attend at least two 40-minute training sessions a week in a bid to get officers fitter, and, in some cases, leaner.
In class, a group of officers are taken through their paces from gentle stretching to heavy duty push-ups and martial arts. Trainer Sensei Thulani Ndlovu (Sensei is his real, birth name) makes it all look incredibly easy, but he has his students puffing and panting their way through the class in no time at all.
Ndlovu, who is training the officers at the Civic Centre site, said that those attending had really “seen the value” and many were attending every day, even on their days off, in order to exercise more.
“Like this we can make sure that these officers are role-models and not people to be laughed at because they can’t get out of their cars,” he said.
Ndlovu is one of 16 trainers who have been putting the officers through their paces for the past month. His classes combine martial arts, fitness, strength training and running drills. Sessions are conducted at four sites across the city.
Deputy Chief of the Metro Police Yolande Faro said: “There has been a definite improvement in fitness and energy levels. We certainly achieved what we set out to do. But the Fitness and Wellness Programme did more than just achieve great results on a physical level. It did wonders on an emotional level – for example, where team building and group cohesiveness is concerned.”
Faro said that while the programme had been a “resounding success”, no final decision had been made on whether to continue it.
And even though it was being declared a success, it was not anticipated that the programme would become as popular as it has.
“We did not expect the approximately 600 police officers who took part in this exercise programme to enjoy it as much as they did. I think many officers had their reservations in the beginning.
“Generally, people don’t like change. But the programme kicked off with a fair amount of enthusiasm and soon the officers were motivating and inspiring each other to train harder.”
Most of the Metro Police officers work 12-hour shifts, and fitting exercise into their day has proven difficult. The exercise programme makes time for exercise during the officers’ shifts. Officers are expected to attend a class whenever they are on duty, with a minimum of two sessions a week. Attendance is monitored on cards which are dated.
“Over four weeks, each person should have attended eight times but we have guys already on their second card who have attended 14 sessions.”
Jeni Abdul, who was contracted by the department to put the fitness plan together, said the response had been “amazing”. Officers who had enjoyed the programme were now petitioning to make it a permanent fixture. “In Philippi, I’m told that on average the officers there have cut their 2.4km run time by over one minute.
“There are now only three officers there who can’t run the 2.4km in under 10 minutes and one of them is a 54-year-old woman.”
Abdul has been travelling between the four regions across Cape Town to check progress, and has been roped into a number of the exercises, kicking and punching the officers with gusto.
Ndlovu said he could already see an increase in their fitness levels of those who had been exercising regularly.
Wayne Wilson, who has been attending the classes, has noticed a difference in his waistline and in his attitude. He has lost 4kg since the start.
“It’s good for de-stressing. In the environment we work in, we’re always under pressure from top management and from the public, and this helps us.”
Shaheeda Madatt said she had lost 2kg in the past month. She attended sessions every day from Monday to Thursday. “When I started I used to sweat a lot, but now it’s just second nature to me.”
READY TO GO: Shaheeda Madatt has lost two kilos over the past month.
HANDS UP: Trainer Sensei Thulani Ndlovu helps Metro officers stretch before getting their blood pumping in a 40 minute exercise session.