Kinesiology and Health Studies graduate Kyle Arndt once had designs on a career in physiotherapy but once he got a taste of fitness training RCMP personnel in Saskatchewan’s north, he knew he’d found his forever job.
As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, most of us tend to hunker down for long winter nights, binge-watching favourite shows while indulging in unhealthy snacks. Exercise routines also tend to suffer when it takes time to layer up just to head out the door.
For RCMP officers in remote areas of northern Saskatchewan, winter brings its own challenges – especially when being in peak physical and mental condition is so important.
Enter Kyle Arndt BKin’20, Northern Saskatchewan RCMP “F” Division’s Fitness and Health Promotion Advisor.
“New officers tend to leave the Academy in peak condition, but then they start their careers and it can be challenging to maintain that same level of fitness,” says the affable and fit 25-year-old U of R Kinesiology alum, with specialized credentials as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CSEP-CEP).
“Officers are human too, and that means the lure of the couch is just as tempting as it is for the rest of us,” he says.
“While life in the remote north is beautiful with abundant nature, there’s often little to no access to a grocery store with fresh fruits and vegetables. When you add shift work, tough calls, interrupted sleep, and up to 60-hour work weeks, your overall fitness levels can drop,” he adds.
One of the roles of the Fitness and Health Promotion unit is to provide many RCMP detachments with their own exercise rooms to make it convenient to schedule regular exercise.
“We do our best to ensure officers have the space and the programs they need to stay fit,” Arndt says. “It’s my unit’s job to ensure officers are healthy throughout their careers.”
Arndt is based in Prince Albert and is one of four specialized exercise physiologists from across Saskatchewan – the most of any province or territory in Canada. The program was first developed in Saskatchewan in 1997, and features 17 fitness trainers across Canada, with two in Regina, one in Saskatoon, and one in PA. Arndt credits his boss, Fiona Vincent, with having the foresight to create Arndt’s position in the north and provide equal access to fitness coaching across the province.
“She’s been pretty amazing, and really believes in the work we do, putting the health and welfare of all officers at the forefront so they can perform their duties to the best of their abilities,” Arndt says.
First out of the blocks
Arndt grew up in Moose Jaw excelling in the world of sports. He could skate and play golf by the age of two or three. By the time he reached high school at A.E. Peacock Collegiate, he won track-and-field provincials with gold in the 800 metres and silver in the 1500 metres.
At 5’8” tall, Arndt wasn’t the biggest player on his team, but his skills as a football running back were legendary. He ran plays
behind the quarterback and doubled as a kicker, winning the coveted all-time sports points leader for the Moose Jaw High School Football League.
“I’m pretty proud of those records,” he says thoughtfully. “It was really hard to give up the game, but due to some injuries, I decided my focus should be on school. My dad was a high school teacher for 30 years and coached me in football and track. He’s my best friend and encouraged me to find other ways to be involved in sports.”
So Arndt took Kinesiology at the U of R, and graduated with the University Prize awarded to the student who graduates with the highest average in their degree. Arndt originally had plans to become a physiotherapist, but after some clinical experience, felt that career choice wasn’t a great fit.
“I realized you had to touch people all day long,” he laughs. “But like my dad, I loved the mental aspect of coaching and mentoring others. So that’s where I landed.”
Arndt is also very close with his grandpa, Vern Arndt, who spent seven years in the military police and 27 years with the Regina Police Service.
“At 86, he’s still in amazing shape and we bow hunt and hike together. He’s been collecting a pension now from Regina Police longer than he’s worked there – and that says something. For most people, their health declines when they age, and some don’t live long after retirement. I want to change that with the RCMP.”
His unit’s motto is: Fit for Duty, Healthy for Life. “If I can help members live similarly to my Grandpa after their career ends, that would be a huge success in my eyes.”
Getting into the game
Arndt is a great conversationalist and talks candidly about his love for fitness and his admiration and respect for the officers he serves.
“The work they do is not easy, especially when confronted with weapons-related situations. Responding to a gunman or someone yielding a knife can be tense. It requires having all your wits about you and your physical capacities at the ready. That’s where I come in,” says Arndt, who believes body, mind, and spirit are all connected, and it begins with a body that’s in tip-top condition.
To maintain that peak conditioning, Arndt meets officers on their turf, driving hours to La Loche, Patuanak, or Hudson’s Bay, designing work-out programs and ergonomic programs tailor-made for each officer.
“One size definitely does not fit all,” he says. “Maybe someone likes the gym, but it’s not for everyone. Often I’ll meet officers who prefer to get outside. So I’ll devise a plan that includes walking, hiking or snow-shoeing. Maybe they’re recovering from a physical injury or PTSD. Everyone is treated as an individual and that means each program varies in scope and intensity.”
Arndt says sport is a greater equalizer. “We’ll hold fitness challenges amongst neighbouring detachments. These team-building events keep morale high and give officers something to look forward to in the dark of winter.”
With 32 detachments in the north, and 16 satellite community detachments, Arndt’s territory is massive. He’s a firm believer in fully integrating with the communities he serves, from attending local gatherings and recruiting events, to using sport as a means of building bridges with school children – seen as potential future RCMP applicants.
“Most people’s view of the north may be from what they may hear about in the news, but that’s not the whole story,” he says.
“We’re building partnerships with some of the communities we serve, and we’ve found that fitness activities at these community events really get people of all ages engaged. We try to demonstrate the physical requirements needed for a career in the force, as well as the importance of being a team player.”
Arndt speaks highly of his good friend, RCMP Constable Jarod Reid, whom he met while working in the La Loche Detachment.
“Jarod was able to get former Saskatchewan Rush player Jeff Shattler – an Ojibwe athlete who’s a big deal in the lacrosse scene – to come to La Loche and get the kids playing this traditional sport. He worked with Sask Sport to get equipment in the hands of these kids and that’s made a huge difference,” says Arndt.
“We’re trying to make kids aware that they shouldn’t fear the RCMP, and fitness is a great way to do that. Sport connects us all and plays a big part in Truth and Reconciliation.”
While Jarod has now been transferred to the Melfort Detachment, he has nothing but praise for Arndt, his work in the north, and the impact Arndt has had on his own life.
“I suffered two concussions in a short period of time,” the 25-year-old officer begins, careful to focus on his recovery rather than the circumstances surrounding those injuries.
"Arndt was my ‘go to’ throughout that time. I was on administrative leave, and when I came back to active duty, I had to slowly get back in shape. He designed a special program for me that helped build my body back up and get my mind back as well.”
Reid couldn’t imagine working in the north without Arndt’s unwavering support.
“I don’t know where the force would be without Arndt,” he says passionately.
“He’s really good at his job, he’s got a huge heart, and he’s always there to listen. This job can be taxing, and when you need to get back in shape, you often don’t know where to begin.
But Arndt makes it easy so you’re not intimated. If you need a break, he gets it. And when that negative self-talk is your own worst enemy, he helps you mentally get back in the game.”
Reid admits he’s not a fan of running cardio, so Arndt came up with a plan that worked.
“He attached a heavy backpack to my back and I did long walks on an incline. He’s able to work with your likes and dislikes to help you meet your goals. The amount of people he’s helped is huge. I’m so proud to call him a friend.”
Growing the game
At one point, Arndt was contemplating expanding his fitness career by heading to Western University in London, Ont. to complete his masters, but he believes he’s found his life’s purpose with the RCMP in the north.
“It makes me feel good knowing the members I work with are thriving,” he smiles. “I get to work with different populations in the force such as our Emergency Response Team – which is like training high-performance athletes. I also get to work with general duty officers coming back from injuries or working on their personal fitness or weight-loss goals. It’s always a new challenge.”
While still in his mid-20s, Arndt sees a longer-term future in the north. He met his girlfriend, Lauryn Andrew, at an event in Buffalo Narrows where she was teaching Red Cross swimming lessons. Sparks flew and the rest is history. Andrew is currently completing her undergrad at the U of R, but the two meet up often, excited for their future.
“We both love the north, and the opportunities to enjoy nature and make a difference,” Arndt smiles, adding: “I truly believe the greatest wealth we can achieve is our health, and I live that every day. I love my job and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”