The fire service has a spark going around about firefighters getting into better physical condition to improve their health and on-the-job performance. Extrication is just like any discipline in the fire service because it requires the tool operator to flex, bend, and hold fairly heavy tools in awkward positions.
Over 50% of firefighter line of duty deaths are attributed to a sudden cardiac event. The number of line of duty deaths in the fire service have been on the decline over the past few years, but the percentage of firefighters dying from sudden cardiac death is fairly consistent year in and year out (NFPA, 2010).
Cardiac muscle is part of our bodies that needs to be kept in shape the most! Why so many line of duty deaths that are cardiac related? Part of the reason is the change needs to start with the firefighter! The interesting thing I found out is it is tough for a command level officer to get the rank and file excited about fitness and lifestyle changes. A few years back after a standard two story residential structure fire almost everyone of us were wiped out. My chief noticed this and started to a weight loss challenge to try to get guys to start working out and getting in shape. No one really took the idea and ran with it. The change in fitness needed to come from within the rank and file firefighters!
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Now fast-forward to a few months ago when one of my department’s inspectors was out doing a final with a new business when the inspector was asked by the new business owner about how the department’s firefighters are training to be ready for the J O B! The new business owner just happened to be Bob Budai, owner of Functional Strength Training/FunStrength Gym in Wixom, Michigan. Since his business is in Wixom and he likes to help people get in better physical condition he set up a night that six of the Wixom Firefighters meet up and we work through the TacFit program. Like many of the Cross fit style gyms out there FunStrength Gym is no different. It’s packed full talented instructors who even formed Team FST and won the “2012 TACFIT Fire Fighter 95-Day First Alarm Challenge”!
A few other firefighters and I decided to take our fitness one step farther. My department has a training ground with a large open space, burn building, and a four story training tower. A perfect place to set up a workout program with minimal startup costs. A local tire dealer donated several frontend loader tires and a couple jump boxes and kettle bells were purchased. The exercise equipment along with a few items from the department’s physical agility test provided a very intense workout program at the station.
So the question is have you started to make the lifestyle change and help the fire service reduce cardiac related line of duty deaths? If you are asking yourself where to start the question is simple, the Internet!
Christopher Brennan, founder of the Fire Service Warrior has a bunch of training classes, articles, and his book The Combat Position: Achieving Firefighter Readiness. Brennan has enlisted Lieutenant Brian Brush from Lakewood, Colorado to help him Forge Fire Service Excellence. I got a chance to meet Lt Brush at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s Stop, Drop, Rock ‘n’ Roll at FDIC.
TACFIT Firefighter was designed by firefighters Christian Carson and Ryan Provencher to provide a comprehensive health and fitness program to augment the occupational training of firefighters. All of their programs are based on the principles of Circular Strength Training, providing a holistic and health first approach.
Who cannot take the word of a Navy SEAL? For starters, Navy SEALS are example of peak physical condition that is why this next resource is so valuable! FitDeck is an inexpensive, the size of a deck of cards, and easy to use at home or anywhere. Former Navy SEAL Phil Black came up with the idea to create FitDeck after combining the fun of a card game he used to play in college with the rigors of his Navy SEAL training. Just in case you are wondering a little more about Black’s background, as usually, this former Navy SEAL has a packed resume that includes Yale University, Harvard Business School, U.S. Navy SEAL and Navy SEAL Instructor, former Goldman Sachs Investment Banker, Certified Personal Trainer, Firefighter, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, husband, and father of four boys.
FireFighter-Fit is an origination that has a strong Facebook page that posts workout videos, pictures, and provides motivation for firefighters to get started with an exercise program and keep going. Stop by and like their Facebook page.
The bottom line is we need to be in the best physical condition possible to perform at our peak. People’s lives are often on the line that could include ours if we do not prepare for all aspects of the job. Your extrication skills can only improve if you train hard on the fundamentals and advanced techniques. However, if you are not in the proper physical condition that could be the weakest link in your training.