Ready for HIRE: Criminal justice, personal trainer programs team for fitness

Outside a classroom in the Central Campus Automotive and Career Center, San Jacinto College students are practicing skills for law enforcement careers.

A traffic stop simulation? Crime scene evidence preservation? Guess again.

Teaming with future personal trainers, these criminal justice students are practicing lunges and squats.

“Back straight, not arched. Quads parallel to the floor.”

Launched in fall 2021, the HIRE initiative (Hire-ability Improvement = Realistic Employment) prepares criminal justice students to ace their job interviews and succeed in their careers.

Creating a win-win

According to criminal justice professor John White, many criminal justice students don’t have a fitness background.

Fitness teamwork
Lunges: "Quads parallel to the floor."

Not only have many law enforcement students never run 1.5 miles or more, but they have never taken a push-up or sit-up assessment either—a hiring process standard in the field. Physical fitness topped the list of skills needed.

“We don’t want students to do all the academic work only to show up at an agency not knowing where they stand on this portion of the hiring process,” White said.

HIRE has been a win-win for Central Campus criminal justice and South Campus personal trainer programs. While criminal justice students improve their physical readiness to apply for jobs, personal trainer students practice assessing and designing fitness programs for clients.

“This cross-discipline approach is creating collaboration and interaction that is fun and interesting, while allowing students to gain some very technical knowledge,” White said.

Getting the ball rolling

Physical education professor Trenton Denton welcomed the HIRE challenge—creating weight room, functional, and body weight training programs specific to law enforcement needs.

“The law enforcement profession has unique physical challenges related to periods of sedentary activity coupled with extreme tactical actions,” he said.

Kettlebell wood chop
Kettlebell wood chop

Denton researched law enforcement agencies’ requirements, then visited the Central Campus to explain fitness assessments. Later, criminal justice students and faculty visited the South Campus, where personal trainer students assessed their current fitness level.

The trainers-in-training noted blood pressure, body measurements, and weight and ran them through the three-minute step, push-ups, and more.

In November, both programs reviewed individual assessment results and conditioning recommendations together. The standard plan included 1-3 miles of walking, jogging, or running at least three times a week, along with muscular endurance exercises before high-intensity training.

Armed with equipment like kettlebells, sandbags, and medicine balls, personal trainer students coached their criminal justice peers in deadlifts, Russian twists, and other exercises.

Reaching goals

For aspiring personal trainer Hethir Loomis, the collaboration has given her a head start on her career plan of working five years as a trainer, then opening her own gym.

“It’s my first official client,” Loomis said. “I’m approaching it as if I was in the real world. It’s the same information as I would give someone in the gym, and for them, it’s free training.”

After graduating, criminal justice student Sanh Luu will apply for a police department. So far, his most frequent workout has been lifting his 20-pound niece. But that is changing, thanks to the new fitness plan he received.

“I want to carry more weight … run faster,” Luu said, noting his smaller frame. “That’s what I’m trying to build—muscular strength. I’ve been waiting for the report for what I need to do. Now I will schedule the time to reach the goal.”

Expanding teamwork

In spring 2022, personal trainer students will reassess their clients and create more detailed conditioning programs. White envisions the HIRE collaboration leading to teamwork with other San Jac programs too—like engineering design graphics for computer-aided drafting training for crime scene diagrams.

“It is exciting to see this come to fruition and hopefully become a mainstay for our departments,” he said.

Besides encouraging teamwork and creating more hands-on learning opportunities, what else does White hope to see? Well, just in time for New Year’s resolutions, he received his own customized fitness plan.

“Basically, I need to do yoga for flexibility and balance, increase my cardio training, and do more sit-ups and pushups regularly,” he said. “So on my main goal, for the sit and reach, I would like to go from a zero to a ‘plus 1 inch or 2’ by March 2022.”