During her “break” between workouts, Anaheim PD Officer Merisa Leatherman put herself into a handstand against the gym wall at CrossFit CrownTown in Corona and started pushing herself up and down as her 3-year-old son, Drew, sat playing close by.
Leatherman, who has been training and competing in CrossFit since October 2011, took first in the female division at last year’s inaugural Guns ’N Hoses Fitness Competition, benefiting the Anaheim Police Survivors’ and Scholarship Fund, which assists immediate families of officers injured or killed in the line of duty, offers scholarships to high school seniors entering college and memorializes Anaheim officers killed in the line of duty.
A lifelong athlete, Leatherman – a picture of muscular athleticism – likes to keep active particularly for her job as a police officer, where she may need to engage in physical altercations with suspects, most often males.
“Being a female police officer, you’re usually going to be fighting a guy who is stronger,” she says. “This has definitely kept me in the best shape for my job.”
Perhaps because of this desire by some public safety officers to keep in shape for their job, there seems to be a growing group of members of law enforcement practicing CrossFit – an intense fitness program including movements from weightlifting, running, rowing and other sports. And it’s one of the reasons Emilee Bodiford, fundraising coordinator for the Anaheim Police Association, thought CrossFit would work well as part of a fundraising event for law enforcement.
“Some cities have softball or hockey games and others have boxing matches, so I tried to think of something that would get a lot of involvement from Southern California,” says Bodiford. “I knew nothing about CrossFit at the time but I knew it was extremely popular with police, fire and military.”
She got in touch with Lisa Duong, then-new owner of Anaheim CrossFit West, who then came onboard to coordinate exercises for the competition as well as donate the equipment that is used.
“We try our best to make it difficult but doable,” says Duong. “We try to program things that aren’t too dangerous or too extreme. It’s definitely doable for your average CrossFitter. … We made sure we went through it ourselves before we made other people do it.”
The competition is comprised of police, fire, military (26 different public safety agencies are represented) and a civilian division that work in two-person, same-gender teams.
“A lot of it is based on working with your partner, because if you don’t communicate, you’re not going to do very well,” says Duong.
The number of participants this year is 120, up from 96 last year (both sellouts). The venue this year is larger – at the Downtown Anaheim Center Street Promenade – to accommodate more people.
“Last year we raised over $20,000 and 100 percent of that went to the S&S Fund,” says Bodiford. “We are on track to beat that this year.”
In the meantime, Leatherman and others in public safety have been training hard for Guns ’N Hoses. Anaheim PD’s Lt. Lorenzo Glenn was working out at the same gym with Leatherman on a recent Friday morning between work shifts.
“It tests everything – your body, your emotion, your spirit,” says Glenn after completing a seriously intense workout involving squats, lifting a weighted bar overhead and performing a relative of pushups (Burpees). “It’s not only your lifting, it’s your cardio, endurance, and it tests your mental strength as well.”
Leatherman says that CrossFit is a mind-over-matter endeavor.
“This sport is probably more mentally tough than physically tough,” she says. “If you can convince your mind you can push past the pain…It’s when you push past those moments that you get stronger.”
Guns ’N Hoses Fitness Competition
The event is free and open to the public at the Downtown Anaheim Center Street Promenade. The competition runs from 8:30 a.m. until around 3 p.m. Saturday, April 2. There will be vendors set up on the street, merchandise for sale, a raffle, SWAT, K-9, a fire truck, OC Lawgirls performing, and Cops 4 Kids offering children’s activities. Caffe Primo is hosting spectators, families and athletes starting at 9 a.m. with brunch, endless mimosas and happy hour extended all day and they are donating 10 percent of their sales back to the S&S Fund.