HAWORTH, N.J. -- Grabbing food on the road would be the easy option for Haworth Police Sergeant Gianluca Ragone.
But maintaining a bodybuilder's physique takes work.
For Ragone, that work means preparing meals to get him through a day, early-morning cardio and late-night weight training after a long tour of duty.
Ragone's efforts have already paid off, placing him fourth at his first bodybuilding competition in Elmwood Park.
While Ragone isn't currently preparing for another competition, he's maintained a healthy lifestyle and is reaping the benefits as he fights crime in Haworth.
"Whatever situation comes that day, whether it's a domestic in progress or someone trying to flee from you,” said Ragone, "I have the confidence knowing that I'm going to go home at the end of the day."
But Ragone knows that keeping a bodybuilder’s lean physique year-round is nearly impossible, which is why for now, he’s just enjoying the journey.
The sergeant has been playing sports for as long as he can remember. He was on the football team at Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes before playing for Villanova on an athletic scholarship.
But it wasn't until Ragone started changing his diet after college that the magic started to happen.
"When I was playing football, it wasn’t about looking good, but more about how much weight you could lift," said Ragone, who trains at Powerhouse Gym in Mahwah.
"I figured out it's all about diet."
He spent several years nailing down his nutrition until one day, while working out at the gym, someone asked if he was preparing for a bodybuilding show.
He wasn't... but he decided was going to.
Ragone met with a coach soon after -- and ended up placing fourth at his first bodybuilding show the following year in Elmwood Park.
He's continued training and has maintained his physique well. But it took a ton of sacrifices that he brought with him to work.
If he wanted to eat, he’d have to go back to headquarters and microwave a container full of tilapia and greens.
“You’d chow that down before getting back on the road,” he said. “My chief was totally okay with it.”
He couldn’t unwind afterward with his buddies. Instead, it was back to the gym for weight training.
"It's basically impossible to balance a social life and compete," he said. "That's what deterred me from competing again in the first place."
But even if he's not strictly counting calories, keeping in shape has its benefits at work for Ragone.
The radio could be silent all day but a call can come in at the drop of a hat -- and no matter what, Ragone is prepared.
"Half the battle in police work is your presence," the sergeant said.
"Someone could be prepared to fight you or run, but they might take one look at an officer who's squared away and decided that today wasn't the day to put up a fight."
Ragone says he's in better shape at 31 than he was at 21. And for those looking to get to the same place, he says this:
"It doesn't take a week or a month to get in great shape, so don't get discouraged when that doesn't happen.
"It takes years of concentration to get where you want to be. Stay focused, and results will come. Don't give up."
Ragona thanks his coach Guy Delcorso for his guidance and motivation.
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