Preparing for the Physical

There have been several emails in my inbox with questions about the physical side of law enforcement, and what potential recruits can do to prepare themselves. 

There is the need to be strong enough, fast enough, and fit enough to do the job – yes, you do need to be all of these things.  Different sections within the department have different physical requirements, with patrol, Dog Squad and the Emergency Response Team having the most obvious need for their members to be physically fit.

A patrol officer has to be able to chase after and physically subdue (if required) a fleeing suspect.  The physical test, which includes the Police Officer’s Physical Abilities Test (POPAT), is specifically designed to test an applicants ability to do this. 

A Dog Squad officer has the added requirement of being able to lift their dog over an obstacle and scale that same obstacle themselves, as well as be able to contort themselves into places where their dog leads them, whether it be a culvert, through a blackberry patch, or up the side of a mountain.  They have to be able to keep up with their dog, sometimes for several kilometers through harsh terrain.

Then the Emergency Response Team officer, who must meet all of the above requirements, has the added need to be able to carry X pounds of gear, various firearms, and emergency supplies/equipment while still being able to be mentally alert. These officers are held to the highest physical standard – as they should be.  Their training courses are intense (I can vouch for that, having taken part in one of the courses – the course kicked my butt, but was some of the best training I’ve ever had) and not for the faint of heart.

So, what does an applicant do to prepare themselves for the POPAT?

First, understand that you have to be able to run 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) in under twelve minutes.  You also have to complete the POPAT in under four minutes and fifteen seconds.  Here is a video of Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu explaining the POPAT and running through it himself:



How do you train for these?  Start running.  Time yourself.  Run the Sea Wall if you can, and follow the route the actual test takes – one and a half times around Brocton Oval, down to the Sea Wall, then West on the Sea Wall, past the Lighthouse, finishing at a big tree stump even with the North entrance to Brocton Oval.  If you can not run the distance in under twelve minutes, train harder. 

As for the POPAT, the VPD offers drop-in sessions for current applicants.  If you cannot make it to one of these sessions, then start cross training.  Do stairs, sit-ups, crunches and any interval training you can think of.  Train hard because the harder you train, the easier the test will be.

You do not to be a ‘naturally gifted athlete’.  Instead, you need to be a person who is willing and able to train hard, to push yourself, and to take constructive criticism about what you can do better.  One of the best feelings in the world is to know you have done your absolute best and excelled because of it.

Do you have it in you?


5 Responses to "Preparing for the Physical"

  • DC says:
  • Sandra says:
  • slamdunk says:
  • Christopher says:
  • Anthony says: