Congratulations on getting your selection letter and confirmation that you now have an academy date. There are lots of important decisions and adjustments you now need to make before it’s time to enter on duty. Here are some common mistakes that I hope to help you avoid:
Eating a junk diet. Take note of what you’re putting into your body. Do you make lots of pit stops at McDonald’s? Are you heating up Stouffer’s mac n’ cheese at 10:00 PM? Now is a good time, before you leave for the academy, to clean up these habits. If you want to get serious about this, it will require extra effort when you get to the academy. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that what they’re serving you in the mess hall is grade A material. That’s all the more reason to take your nutrition into your own hands by supplementing outside of your regular meals.
If you start fueling your body with a clean, healthy diet months before leaving for the academy, you’re going to notice a huge difference both physically and mentally. You’ll be more alert, have more energy, and it won’t feel like such a struggle to remember the things you’re learning. You want to be operating at the top of your game, and this is arguably the most important step of all.
Watching a lot of television. Most of what you’ll find on cable does not amount to time well spent. That’s why I got rid of it. Of course, I did keep my Netflix. I’m not above going on a Breaking Bad binge. However, the majority of your time should be spent on things that will actually improve your chances of success at the academy.
Head to your local library and check out the careers section. If reading is torture to you, find some good audiobooks on success or leadership. Besides traditional books and audiobooks, you have resources available at your fingertips online that generations before you never had. These can be incredibly helpful in your preparation for the academy. Check out some law enforcement podcasts like the POLICE Magazine Podcast. Try to constantly be flooding your mind with helpful, positive material rather than distractions.
Performing sets of 20 to 25 pushups. When I was getting physically prepared for my Academy, I thought I was doing a great job by knocking out 4 to 8 sets of 25 pushups per day. I was doing these pushups at whatever rate I wanted, often just focusing on doing them fast enough to get through my sets. What I wasn’t thinking of was how different it would be in the mat room at the academy.
Rather than just being allowed to do pushups at your own pace, you’re tethered to the instructor’s pace for the entire workout. If he chooses to do speed reps, you’ll be doing speed reps. If he chooses to hold it at the top in a front leaning rest position, you’ll be doing that as well, as long as he just decides to stay there.
I can clearly remember my classmate sweating so badly in the front leaning rest position, that the instructor asked him if he was building a swimming pool over there. The instructor gets a kick out of everyone else’s suffering in the class, so the best thing you can do is try to be prepared in order to suffer less.