Friday, June 9, 2017

Make fitness “me time”

Physical fitness becomes a part of who you are because of your efforts and the mindset you overcome to reach your goals. You battle your mind when it tells your body to stop and you have to tell yourself to push through to keep going and not quit.

“Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done,” firefighter fitness groups say.

I apply that statement to my daily hour-long high intensity workouts because if I can push my mind to keep going when instead I could easily stop to take a break, then I can push myself to keep going when it counts.

That’s why I apply that concept to the fire service, in training and on the fire ground. The protective gear and SCBA that firefighters wear are heavy and adds a strain onto your body. It’s important to train in full protective gear to practice like you play. This is helpful to build up your stamina because of the extra weight added and because the design of the gear traps in your body heat. One of the killers of firefighters is from overexertion. Sudden cardiac death continues to be the leading cause of on-duty firefighter fatalities in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The best statement I heard about exercising is to be selfish about your about physical fitness. That time in the gym can become your “me time.”

You can either make time to exercise, or make excuses. One is rewarding and the other is easy. With a shorter attention span, being pressed for time and living on a budget, it can be difficult to put your time, money or effort into your fitness. You don’t have to run on the treadmill, you can run on the street or trails. You don’t need fancy expensive equipment when you could use your body weight as your gym, or in the firehouse use the equipment for functional fitness.

While fitness is an important aspect in the fire service for everyone – officer or firefighter, I feel that as a female firefighter I have to work twice as hard on my physical strength. Man or woman, you quickly learn what your physical limitations are and you have to work hard to overcome those limitations or adapt to them.

One of the ways to overcome your limitations is to perform the duties of moving a charged hoseline or placing ladders against the building and performing those jobs in full protective gear and SCBA. You can also add firefighting functional fitness to your routine, such as movements using a kettle bell, dragging a dummy, doing a farmers carry with any amount of weight, doing a tire flip and pushing or pulling a weighted sled. I started doing these movements to work out and train hard because of my self-pride as a first-generation firefighter and because I represent my fire company. We all work hard for our own reasons.

Ginger Rae Dunbar pushes a sled with 140 pounds on it for functional fitness. 


One of my fire school instructors had a way of keeping the female firefighters on par with the male firefighters because he saw us equally as firefighters. We were not excused from any physical activity, and we didn’t want to be either. I liked that about him and all of the instructors because they expected everyone to perform on the same level with the idea that you’re all a part of the same crew. You want your partner to be able to perform, just as he or she expects the same from you and relies on you. That philosophy motivated me to keep up with my own physical training routine.

“You can never train too hard for a job that could kill you,” firefighter functional fitness groups say on social media.

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