Area police officers suit up for Georgetown fitness program

(Jabin Botsford/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST) - A mirrored image shows Lt. James Bartlett of Alexandria, left, and Detective Dan Gillenwater of Arlington, center, working out with other police officers from the District and Virginia at Water Street Gym in Georgetown as part of the Fit for Duty program.

They work 10-hour shifts, keeping watch over some of the Washington area’s busiest hot spots. They’re quick to answer the first radio call or spot suspicious behavior. But area police officers, say staff members at Georgetown’s Water Street Gym, could benefit from having a bit more spring in their step.

Along with Pacers running store and Whole Foods, Water Street Gym has been working with nearly 40 officers from police departments in the District, Alexandria and Arlington County, guiding them through a two-month-long fitness training program.

Steve Kostorowski, who opened Water Street Gym with his wife, Susan, in 1989, says he and his staff were looking for a pro-bono project that would reward public servants.

“Police, who serve us all so well, seem to come to the top of that list,” he said. “Those who serve are so underserved.”

As part of the first Fit for Duty program, officers train for almost two hours every Sunday at Water Street’s athletic center or Pacers’ Logan Circle location. Under the supervision of trainers and running coaches, they do exercises designed to improve cardiovascular health, stamina and muscle strength. An eating specialist from Whole Foods on P Street teaches the officers about low-sugar and dairy-free diets.

Kostorowski, who also offers hands-on training and physical therapy for a handful of off-season professional hockey and basketball players, tailored workouts to suit the officers’ busy schedules and augment their police work. “We’re hoping to give them specific training and specific tools,” he said. “We hope that this helps them create some new habits.”

Gradually, officers are eased into a workout regimen. At the end of the program, they’ll compete in the Crystal City Twilighter, a 5K in Arlington, on July 21.

Trish Peva, who has worked at Water Street for a year, was responsible for getting the officers on board. Along with her daughters, who used area 7-Eleven stores as recruiting stations, they found a mixture of men and women to join and spread the word to other officers in their departments.

“I’ve been running races forever,” Peva said. “[Police] are always on the other side of the race course. And I always love to say hi to them, and thank you.” Peva added that although police officers don’t often participate in the races, they show as much dedication as the runners.

“Do you know how long they’re standing out there for a marathon to finish?” she said. “I want the public to see these people in a different way. Yeah, they do have a tough job.”

As much as Fit for Duty is intended to promote officer fitness, Water Street staff members and trainers hope the program and July race will also help break down stereotypes about police officers.

“There’s this conception that cops sit around and eat donuts all day,” Kostorowski said.

Tyrell Heaton, one of Water Street’s running coaches and a former state trooper, expects the officers’ participation in the race to help bring police and the local community closer together.

“It’s nice to actually talk to people out of uniform,” he said. “Then they humanize you, like, ‘Oh, you’re a real person,’ not standing all stiff with the badge.”

About a dozen officers came to the first training session. Against the backdrop of the sunny Potomac waterfront, the officers did walking lunges, heel raises and planks, in which they brace themselves on their toes and elbows in a push-up position.

“I’m to the point now where I’d like to get my weight down and get in shape,” D.C. officer Tiffany Wiggins said between sets. Wiggins admits she’s not too fond of running, but she says the other officers encourage her. “We can actually build a friendship here and take it out when we get in the streets,” she said.

During a session of planks, one of the officers broke form and collapsed, blaming her balance.

Kostorowski quickly responded: “Hey, that’s okay,” he said. “You’re going to get a little bit stronger, your balance is going to get a little bit better.”

For information about the Crystal City Twilighter, go to pacersevents.
com/race/crystal-city-twilighter-5k.

 
Read what others are saying