By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Gloucester police officers have been working to shed the doughnut lovers stereotype, and maybe a few pounds too, with more than 40 officers competing in a fitness challenge that began in January and runs to mid-April.
“It’s fun, hopefully we can change the image of the department and it’s really about everyone’s health,” said Sgt. Dave Quinn, who organized this year’s police fitness challenge.
Though Gloucester police have undergone similar fitness programs, most recently in 2008, Quinn said that, with a young police force that featured some already lean officers, others decided this year to add a focus on general strength and overall health.
“It was strictly a weight loss challenge and we wanted to bring that back. We have a lot of young guys that unfortunately don’t have a lot to lose,” Quinn said.
Patrolman Jonathan Trefry, who exercises four or five times a week, falls into that category. Quinn helped Trefry load four 45-pound saucer weights onto a barbell in the police station’s garage gym Tuesday afternoon.
Trefry shouldered the weight in the small room, packed with second-hand free weights, gym machines and cardio equipment, much of which was donated by Kurt Gross, the owner of the Fitness Zone, police said. National Grid, through local resident and Citizens for Public Safety activist Jamie O’Hara, also donated some of the equipment in the facility, police said.
Trefry finished the exercise and re-racked the long metal bar with careful form. Though Trefry, along with team captains Josiah Aberle and Pete Cherry, have urged on other members of their three teams to exercise more and eat thoughtfully, Trefry said most officer do not need instruction, just encouragement.
“It’s really important to build a morale in the department. It’s more getting back in the spirit of it,” Trefry said. “It’s important to get in shape for what we might have to do. You never know when you’ll have to chase someone down or climb over a fence.”
Those who lost the spirit, maybe to a few extra slices of pizza over the years, will compete in a weigh-in for a prize and award at the close of the competition on April 14. That competition should be heated, as at least a few officers have already whittled down by 20 or more pounds, Quinn said.
And all officers — including those who entered the challenge with trimmer figures — can compete in a fitness challenge that includes bench pressing, planking and a one-mile run. In order to avoid injury in the weightlifting categories, Quinn has set the weights and the challenge is to complete the most reps at a specified weight in a specified period of time.
The female and male officers who win the competition, hosted by Fitness Zone Gloucester, will be crowned Mr. and Ms. Fitness — though bragging rights are the real prize, according to Quinn.
Police Chief Leonard Campanello will also award a prize to the fittest officer in the 40-years-old and older category “for those of us who can’t compete with these whippersnappers,” Campanello joked.
As the challenge draws closer to its end, a few officers even plan to run a 5 kilometer race (3.1 miles) or a half marathon at 13.1 miles in order to raise money for new exercise equipment for the department. Yukan Run arranged free entry to officers interested in running the April 7 race, and vouched to give to the department $1 for each pound that the runners have lost.
Campanello noted that, along with Yukan and the Fitness Zone, many local businesses stepped up to the plate, giving “generous donations” toward police fitness. The Gloucester branch of Manchester Athletic Club, on hearing of the challenge a few weeks ago, offered free membership to participating officers during the challenge, while Cape Ann Carwash, Castle Manor Inn, Cape Ann Marina and Resort, Gorton’s, and Tom’s Auto Center provided much needed support for the department’s challenge too, Campanello said.
“They all offered their support, and we’re very grateful and thankful for them stepping up to the mark and helping our department get into better shape,” Campanello said.
Campanello said he plans to keep up fitness programming within the department, eyeing some pre-existing incentives for officers who measure up as healthy and fit. The chief already anticipates a pal fitness program for next year, too, in which officers would pair up with local youth for another fitness challenge.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.