Stereotypes exist for every profession and every job. The "sleazy" used car salesman, the "snooty" waiter and the "awkward" programmer are all examples of the cultural clichés that we often find ourselves applying to people without a second thought.
The stereotype of the overweight, lazy police officer who's "never around when you need him" is one of the most enduring in American culture. Being "on the job" as a police officer means carrying an extra 15-20 pounds on duty. Running with a ballistic vest and a belt full of swinging gear means that cops have to be in fantastic shape. That said, some officers do get out of shape as their years pile up. Although all departments differ in their operational tempo, police work is often a largely sedentary job, involving long hours of vehicle patrol or paperwork, performed at a desk. To complicate things, police work revolving shifts. To work a graveyard or swing shift means that any food options for meal breaks are going to be limited to fast food or 24-hour places that don't always serve up the most nutritious meals. As a wise police lieutenant once told me, "a doughnut will kill you faster than a bullet."
Fitness, no matter what your profession, is a choice. For police officers, it can mean the choice between going home at the end of a watch or not. Stereotypes, too, are a choice. How we think of people and how we see them affect how we treat them and how they, in turn, treat us.
The NYPD officer you're about to see challenges the stereotypes you might have about cops.
Meet NYPD Officer Michael Counihan.
The 31-year-old has been with NYPD for eight years, patrolling the Bronx's 52nd Precinct, where his 5-foot-9, 210-pound physique attracts more attention than his uniform.
In fact, Counihan's fitness has attracted global attention via his Instagram account — aptly named NoDonutsHere – which now boasts more than 20,000 followers.
In a recent interview with the New York Post, Officer Counihan talked about the motivation behind his Instagram.
"It’s to break the negative stereotypes against cops, that they are chubby and overweight and eat doughnuts," he says, "I wanted to build a platform to inspire first responders to be in shape.”
If his muscles aren't enough to convince you, his lifts speak for themselves: a formidable 405-pound bench press, 675-pound dead lift and 636-pound squat are just some of what he is capable of as he trains five days a week for two hours at a time.
The Post reports that his arms are so big that he wears extra-large shirts that must be tailored to accommodate his much smaller waist.
He obviously does not skip leg day.
At first, Counihan's Instagram earned him some teasing from his colleagues. "They started poking fun and cracking jokes," he told The Post. "Guys would say, 'Your shirt is too small' or 'You're on steroids.' That kind of stuff. But now they support me. What keeps me doing it is the comments that I get from my followers. I found out that I motivate and inspire people."
He's also willing to literally flex his muscle on the street, as shown when this citizen challenged him ... to a push-up competition.
Fifty push-ups later, Counihan emerged triumphant. "Yeah, I pretty much blew him away," he toldThe Post.
It's not all just about time in the gym, though. Counihan pays close attention to his diet as well.
"I eat a lot of chicken, beef and asparagus," he says, describing his diet to The Post. "Everything goes on the grill. I usually drink water, but I will have an occasional beer."