One of the first things Officer Rob Capezio learned in the police academy was that a strong, fit body is crucial to meeting the demands of the job. It’s a lesson that stuck with him. From that moment on, fitness was core to his daily routine.
But when, after five years on the force, he left Pittsburgh and big-city life behind to move to a home in Pennsylvania’s smaller, more family-friendly Cranberry Township, he was also forced to leave behind the sprawling, well-equipped police gym where he’d put on all his muscle. What he found at the Cranberry Township PD instead was one small, bare-bones weight room.
“When I first started in Cranberry, all we had was a treadmill, an elliptical, a cable crossover machine, and an old weight bench with dumbbells,” says Capezio.
But it wouldn’t stay that way for long: Capezio initiated a ground-up transformation of the space, working slowly and gradually, and renovating as budgets permitted. A chance meeting with Tom Dowd, co-owner of all-natural supplement company Performance Inspired (with headquarters in Cranberry), gave the growing gym even more support. “Tom’s been a huge asset to the force,” says Capezio. “He’s offered samples and backing we might not otherwise have available.”
Today, Cranberry’s onetime minimal gym is a full-fledged, well-equipped training space where close to 90% of Capezio’s fellow officers bust big iron.
The average bench gain made by Cranberry Township police officers was 60lbs; they ramped up their average squat by 100lbs; and boosted their average deadlift by 150lbs. Here’s how it all came together.
How did you partner with the chief to help build up the weight room?
We just started tossing around ideas. I’d say: “Hey, this piece of equipment is kind of subpar.” The stuff we had wasn’t functional, so I told him I wanted to start upgrading it. He was all for it and said that if I came to him with good equipment options and recommendations, we’d look at making it happen.
How many other officers were using the gym when you got there?
Consistently? I’d say probably fewer than five. A lot of guys were doing the normal “three sets of 10” kind of workout—there wasn’t much focus on getting stronger. I wanted them to progress, to have the mindset that every time you go to the gym, you walk out having done a little bit more than the time before.
How has the department’s relationship with Performance Inspired helped out with the gym?
I put the products in our locker room and made all the guys aware of them—it’s been a really positive experience. It’s inspired guys who haven’t worked out in years to start getting back in the gym. Tom [Dowd, PI’s CEO] has also helped out by getting us workout shirts, gym towels—little things that really make the gym better.
You’ve been on the force for more than a decade. Why has fitness remained such an important part of your work?
When I got hired, I was 24 years old, and most of the people I dealt with were in their late teens or early 20s. Today, I’m 39, and they’re still in their late teens or 20s, you know? But most important, we owe it to ourselves and to the people who live and work in our community, to stay in shape. We need to take it seriously because when they call us, we need to be able to handle the situation.
Besides getting new equipment for the department’s gym, Officer Capezio and Chief Kevin Meyer teamed up to spearhead a voluntary fitness program incorporating strength and cardio assessments, with a focus on wellness.
“Now we have rewards,” says Capezio, “so if you hit a certain number of points, you earn time off,” he says. The program also gives officers credit for fitness activities outside of the department, like participating in a Tough Mudder, running a marathon, or competing in a bike race, as well as joining wellness programs like tobacco cessation.
Capezio—and the entire department—hope the program will set the standard for other police departments throughout the country.
“We’re trying to get the word out on a huge level—to say, ‘Hey, look, the administration and the department were able to work together and come to a great resolution. If we can do it, you can.’”
How you can get in on the action
“Together with my business partners, film actor, producer, and businessman Mark Wahlberg and Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, we created Performance Inspired to make all-natural, high-performance sports nutrition products with no synthetic ingredients,” says Tom Dowd, Co-Founder and CEO. “Our inspiration was to help others live a healthy, more active lifestyle while also giving back to communities. For us, Cranberry’s Elite Police FIT program was the perfect vehicle for using our products to benefit this great community, and we think of it as a model. We encourage other police, fire, and first responder departments to write us at [email protected] and start getting your own team in better shape.”
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