Photo credit: Ravages / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Aging, Shift Work, and Change

Back in the day…

I was 24 years old and in prime shape when I graduated the police academy.  I was single, exercising 4 days a week and my metabolism could cope with the weekly California Burrito. Life was simple and physical maintenance was easy.

Years later…

I was 32 years old, a veteran cop with a wife and a mortgage.  My graveyard work routine included several cups of coffee and lunch at a local fast food joint.  I was unaware of how my body was struggling to maintain itself.  A poor diet coupled with half hearted exercise routine and an inconsistent sleeping pattern was weakening my body and mind.

Making a sound decision to change

After two knee injuries and a sprinkling of elevated blood pressure, I knew that I could no longer sustain the graveyard lifestyle. While I enjoyed the camaraderie and action of the graveyard shift, I knew changes had to be made. Here’s what I did.

  1. I changed my environment.  Shift work is expected in many law enforcement professions.  Everyone does their time in the box.  Working the graveyard shift became an unhealthy lifestyle and I needed to trade the darkness for the light.  Once I moved to the day shift,  I discovered that having a normal sleep schedule was a force multiplier in the battle for better health.


  1. I changed my fuel. No, not the fuel in my car, I’m talking about the fuel for my body. I made a simple choice to eat more lean meat and fish and cut back on my carbohydrates sources.  Quality instead of quantity became a motto for grocery shopping. A “cheat day” also became part of my SOP because it gave me a limited opportunity to eat some of my favorite, not so healthy foods.


  1. I changed my attitude. In my 20s, the goal of working out was to get bigger. In my early 30s  I looked at the long term benefits of exercise and “longevity” became a keyword in my exercise vocabulary.  Today, my routines target functional strength and exercises that maintain a functional combat chassis.
Photography by Shinnosuke Tanaka

Photo of Pat McNamara Photography by Shinnosuke Tanaka

If you are or were in a similar situation as mine, you know how hard it is to manage the trifecta of aging, shift work and change.  We all know that choosing to change takes patience and fortitude, but even small changes can have a big affect on your life.  Do it NOW!

Check out the following links to help you make positive changes…

One of my favorite exercises is the Kettlebell swing.  You can add this to your existing workout routine or do it as a standalone exercise.  I think the swing is a must for every martial arts practitioner.


“Be comfortable being uncomfortable.”  Burpees is a dynamic and versatile exercise that not only targets almost every muscle in your body but also jump starts your metabolism. No need for a gym and you can do it anywhere!

Finally, I recommend Teri Tom’s book Martial Arts Nutrition A Precision Guide.  Tom breaks down the science of nutrition and gives the reader insight into the nutritional needs of a martial artist.


Now go forth and make some positive changes and let us know your techniques for better physical and mental changes.


Featured image Photo credit: Ravages / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA



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