When I was hired by the first Department that I worked for I had 28% body fat, barely ran, and was 23 years old. I knew when I had my first physical, something had to change. Once I had completed recruit school, that change had been made, I had begun a regular workout regimen. I had been challenged to my limts during those weeks and I became physiclaly and mentally tougher, but never did I think that I would do some of the things I have done since then.
As I began working out regularly, I saw the benefits of it as I began to feel better, eat (at times) better, and of course the important part for so many, look better. I began weight training and running regularly and saw my abilities as a fire fighter increase exponentially. When I was hired by my present department, I was pushed even closer to my limits, but now it wasn't a struggle, it was fun. Then I really messed up, I entered a race. This is where my working out took a turn, I began to have goals for each day, not just going to the gym and aimlessly lifting. Since that point I have run numerous 5K's, 10K's and I have even completed 5 half marathons and 2 full marathons. I think I have finally found my limit, I think 26.2 is it for me, but for some reason in the back of my head I want to do an ironman. Time will only tell.
Another goal of all of this working out is to survive through retirement. Too many firefighters sit around the firehouse and continuously say "Man I hope I make it to retirement". This is a great goal, but lets push our own limits and say instead: "I hope I survive through retirement". I will have worked 25 years whe I can retire and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let my wife have all of the fun with that retirement money. We all know that every one of us is at an elevated risk for cancers of all kinds, arthritis, sleeping disordersetc. based on the wear and tear a career in the fire service has on a person. Do we just think that if we eat, sleep, and watch TV for 25 years that god with grace us with an extra few years? Yeah sure guys who run and workout all the time die at 45 or 50 but give yourself a chance.
I spoke with a physiologist at a PPE symposium and he made a statement regarding those who say "Why work out so and so died at 45 and he worked out every day". He told me that if you are in better cardiovascular shape then your body requires less oxygen to function, so if you have a heart attack than you stand a much better chance of survival with full recovery. Sometimes no matter how good of shape you are in, it is your time, but why not prepare yourself to survive such an event. The tremendous stress that our work enviroment places us under places us in so many risk categories, so why not prepare yourself to combat those inherent risks?
I recommend that each of you read the Indianapolis Physiology study done by Indiana University and the IFD. Some of the findings are terrifying. The IFD embedded researchers with firefighters for shifts at a time and monitored their bodies before, during, and after calls. If you haven't read it click on the link below and read at least the highlights of it.
Our goal everyday we go to work should be to survive through retirement not just to it. Physically prepare yourself by doing something involving physical fitness every shift, to prepare yourself for the inherent challenges of our job. Walk on the treadmill, walk the block around the station....something to make you a better public servant to the citizens you serve. Doing this will allow you to travel with you family and enjoy one of the best benefits of our job....Retirement. Until the next time, stay safe and stay trained.