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Syl Lemelin, BPE, MSc, CEP
Syl Lemelin is a University of Manitoba graduate who completed his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in 1992, and his Master of Science degree in Biomechanics in 1995. He has been with Royal Canadian Mounted Police since 1996 as a Division Fitness & Lifestyle Advisor for “D” Division (Manitoba) and “V” Division (Nunavut) since 2004.
Based in Winnipeg, Lemelin works with 1,230 police officers, and 450 support employees who are located in 112 different locations across Manitoba and Nunavut. His mandate is to manage and administer occupational physical abilities testing on both incumbents and recruits, and develop fitness plans for all police officers and support staff. In addition, he manages fitness facilities, and develops resources and initiatives to promote and facilitate fitness for duty and workplace wellness.
1. What tactical population do you currently work with?Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is a federal police force that provides services to provinces and territories serving communities across the country. My role is to provide services to “D” Division (Manitoba) & “V” Division (Nunavut). I work with 1,230 police officers abd 450 support staff. 2. How did you get started in the TSAC (Tactical Strength and Conditioning) field?In 1996, the RCMP decided to make fitness, health, and wellness a priority for their members by hiring 12 Division Fitness andLifestyle Advisors. I was one of the lucky few who got hired into this unique role. Prior to that, I was working in the private sector running my own business in personal fitness training. . 3. What resources do you utilize for continuing education? Are there any sources you would recommend staying away from?I typically attend conferences such as the NSCA’s National Conference, TSAC Conference, and the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology Annual Scientific Conference. I also attend local seminars, read trade journals, and assess the latest trends and fads on the internet. I think it is crucial that one validates the source from which they are getting their information. This is especially true when doing searches on the internet. So I tend to be a little more cautious when reading information from a particular site. Often the information is presented as an opinion, and not well grounded in science. 4. If you where hiring someone in your field, what would you look for?Straight away, I would look for someone who has Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology or Exercise Science. Secondly, the RCMP requires that our evaluators be Certified Exercise Physiologist. In short, you do not get in the door unless you have a degree in exercise science and advanced certification. . 5. Please describe the regular duties included in your position?The two main priorities of the RCMP Fitness Program are: 1) Occupational Physical Abilities Testing; and 2) Fitness & Lifestyle Promotion. I am responsible for managing the three occupational physical abilities tests that we use to assess our tactical population in “D” & “V” Division. These are the general duty Physical Ability Requirement Evaluation (PARE), Police Dog Section Physical Ability Requirement Evaluation (PDS PARE), and Emergency Response Team Physical Ability Requirement Evaluation, (ERT PARE). Part of the management of the PAREs also includes preparing our tactical athletes for these evaluations. The second priority, fitness and lifestyle promotion, involves developing programs and resources for all employees that promote fitness and facilitate the adoption of healthy lifestyle practices. This is achieved through one-on-one consultations, group presentations on various fitness and lifestyle topics, managing and designing work site fitness facilities, developing fitness challenges, and using key communication strategies. 6. What are the two most important things you have learned; that you wish you knew when you were starting your career?Change in a large organization takes time. Gathering statistics/information right from the start is important. This is crucial in demonstrating the effectiveness of a program. 7. What recommendations would you give someone who is looking to start a career in TSAC?I think it’s important to get an understanding of the population with whom you are working with. The organizations that TSAC specialists serve are highly specialized with challenges unique to their work environments and cultures. It’s absolutely crucial that one understands what their realities and needs in terms of workload, shiftwork, deployments, and other pressures that might interfere with their health and tactical fitness. 8. What do you believe are the top three physical requirements for this population that must be addressed in a proper TSAC program?This population requires an appropriate level of fitness that enables them to meet the physical aspects of their job, which translates to: 1) having sufficient control of their body mass in space (strength); 2) ability to tolerate a maximal work output such as a chase and fight (anaerobic capacity); and 3) the ability to sustain a prolonged work effort over an extended period of time, or the ability to recover quickly from repeated bouts of physical work (aerobic fitness). This population needs to demonstrate a proficiency in all domains. 9. What steps do you go through when writing a program for the population you work with? Most of my programming occurs via email requests as the majority of our police officers work in communities outside of the HQ area. Preliminary assessment includes: 1) health screening which includes the PAR-Q+, as well as identify past/present injuries or health concerns; 2) goal setting; 3) time available they have to commit to training (frequency and duration); and 4) type of equipment available at their disposal. 10. What are some critical factors in getting tactical athletes to buy into a strength and conditioning program?Building rapport and trust with this population goes a long way. Once rapport is established, they tend to be more receptive and more likely to buy into a strength and conditioning program. It also takes some considerable time to change old habits (lifestyle or training) so it’s important to have a good communication/marketing strategy that educates and motivates people to change and try new training methods.