Fitness Behind The Badge
By: Chief John Kachanuk, Havana Fire Department

Fitness Behind the Badge

As a Fire Chief of a small Midwest community, and also as a fan of fitness, I have become increasingly aware of the growing waist band of our public servants. One such person who fits into this category happens to be a very good friend of mine as well as the Chief of Police.

I have known Kevin since we were in high school. During this time, we were mere acquaintances and did not interact socially. In 1985 at the age of 22, Kevin became a police officer graduating out of the academy at a fit 6’0”, 205 lb... When I was hired as a part-time firefighter in 1990, I had the opportunity to work second shift with Kevin because the fire and police departments share the same building and office space.

Anyway, Kevin gained a significant amount of weight in the five years graduating from the academy. He weighed in around the 250 -260 lb. range and pretty much simply ate whatever he wanted. There was no obvious sign of conscience thought of daily calorie and cholesterol intake during this period of his career. However, a brief time later several things happened that would affect our future both in our career and in our state of physical health.

I accepted a full time position with the fire department which in turn changed my schedule to the day shift. This change gave me the opportunity to really take advantage of the small weight room we have in the back of the department upstairs in the bay area. Several years later, Kevin was promoted to Chief of Police and shortly there after I was promoted to Chief. We were in our early to mid thirty’s.

Now I have pretty much tried to maintain a healthy diet to some extent. After my workouts I would eat my lunch, and many times Kevin would share his lunch hour with me. It is then that I observed that Kevin was a big eater. Most of his lunches were bigger than my lunches and suppers put together, and I am not exaggerating. Routinely he would tell me how he would eat so much at supper that all he could do was move from the table into his lazy-boy and sleep.

Day after day as I would come down from the weight room, I was greeted with “ I don’t know why your killing yourself by working out so hard?” To which I would answer, “You should try it sometime.” The common response would be “Never, I’m fat and happy.” His weight was 288.

It was also at this time, that his wife Kelly began a strict diet and exercise program. She changed her eating habits and diet around full circle and dropped a lot of weight. She ran everyday, rain or shine, and her improvement both physically and emotionally was unbelievable. But, Kevin still held fast to the “I’m not going to do it “attitude, even though his wife had underwent an amazing transformation right before his own eyes.

Kevin and I have had many conversations about fitness in the past. I have told him, time and time again that it was his responsibility to be fit. I would preach to him that at any given time he may have to use his physical and mental fitness to get himself out of a jam as an enforcer of the law. I would get highly irritated when he would tell me that if he ever had to chase somebody down, they would most like get away or he that would use his squad car to chase them, or that he would simply call for back up. This apathetic attitude he took was frustrating and inexcusable as a man in his position.

I had all but given up on Kevin until last year when he had visited the Doctor for a physical. Now I have known him long enough to know that something the Dr. said during that examination scared him, but he never would tell me details of the Doctors visit, other than he had to have a stress test and his cholesterol was very high. As a result of this appointment, Kevin made the choice to change the state of his health and make a commitment to become physically fit. In January of 2003, Kevin began to change his diet. He also started a walking program with his wife. Eventually, his wife, Kelly, convinced him to try running,. Kevin kept me advised of this progression into running.

****Author’s note:
Kevin did not know I chose him for my second article. His comments are as follows: "Any success is contributed to his wife and God. Also he noted that he still eats pizza and chocolate cake in moderation, not as often and not as much. His favorite snack is still a chocolate bar covered with peanut butter."

Early on he described it with the words a “snails pace”. Every night he walked, and every night he ran a little further. His goal was one mile without stopping. Soon after that it was one and one half miles, and his weight began to drop rapidly. With his wife’s encouragement, and his dedication he made it to two miles and then finally three miles, shattering his personal goal of one mile. In addition, Kevin’s eating habits dramatically changed as well as his physical appearance. That entire summer was dedicated to eating better and to cardiovascular training.

He went from a size 48 to a size 40 pant in a little passage of time. In September of 2003, he admitted he felt good enough to try four miles without stopping. At this time, his weight was an unbelievable 210 lb., and his goal was to weigh in at 200 by December. I am delighted to say that he finally accomplished the 4 mile run. Though he cursed every step after 3 miles, he realized a valuable lesson, that is if you believe in yourself and never quit, you can accomplish anything. You can do it.

Kevin’s diet went from the most unhealthy fatty food items you could possible eat, to healthy low fat foods including a lot of fruit, chicken and the like. No fancy diets or pills in this story, just plain hard work and determination led to success.
It has now been a full year since he began his health regiment. He met his goal of 195 pounds in December of 2003. He accomplished this goal by simply doing three things: One, changing his mind set and believing that he can do it. Two, a dramatic change in his eating habits and Three , getting up and finally doing something physical.

Today he wears a size 36 pant, and he continues to run on a treadmill while we await the warmer temperatures of Spring to come our way. Most people who have not seen him in a while are in awe of what he has accomplished. Some believe that he will go back to his old habits and put the weight back on. As a person who has spent 18 years of working out, I tend to know when someone has made the mental turn, and Kevin has shown that the turn has been made. He has even added light circuit weight training to his cardio routine. He did all this after he turned 40.

Our conversation at lunch now consists of how far we have run or how many sit-ups were performed, sharing recipes and our common goal in life, living a long and health one. Kevin just celebrated his 41st birthday. He now looks forward to having many more and continuing his new found health life style, and the new found respect he has for himself.


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