There are very few arguments to be made that exercising is not good for your health.
Throw together some cardio, weight training, healthy eating and some consistency over a long period of time and you have a recipe for a long, healthy life. But as firefighters, there is something else at play.
A promise to the people you have sworn to protect.
A promise to the men and women that work side by side with you.
A promise to your family that you will do everything possible to come home after your shift.
Change And The Truth
There is not a person on the job, from the fire chief to the supply manager to the youngest rookie fresh out of class, that has a legitimate reason not to be actively working on being in good shape. People often make jokes about police officers and the donut shop. It is a common perception among the public, right or wrong, that police officers tend to be fat and out of shape. If we, as a fire service, are not careful, we will obtain that same dubious perception from the public as well.
Recently, the fact that the fire service is trending more and more towards obesity and that every year over half of line of duty deaths are from cardiac related incidents, was made known to the man that runs Cross-fit, Dave Castro. He was astonished, believing all members of the fire service were in great shape.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
A change is necessary in the culture of the fire service. The biggest impact can be made from the top of the pyramid, where physical fitness is addressed as a mandated issue on the level of the NFPA. But each and everyone of us can make an impact by taking our personal fitness; and if you are an officer, on your company’s fitness as seriously as we do our tactical preparedness.
Not having the fitness needed to pull a line up to the third floor of a fully involved apartment unit is never good. The fire extends to the attic and burns much more of the building than what it should have.
But what difference does it make?
So what if more of an insured building burns, who cares? Some people lose their belongings, it can all be replaced, right? But what about those things that can’t be replaced, ever?
What about the child you weren’t able to reach?
What about when your friend and fellow firefighter calls a MAYDAY and you just don’t have enough left in you to get him or her out in time?
Maybe none of these scenarios play out in your career. I sincerely hope they never do. But what if they do? There are no do overs. Are you willing to be the one that goes down and have to rely on the person next to you, that you know for a fact doesn’t workout, is weak and/or has terrible lung capacity, be the one that is going to pull you out?
In the end, our physical conditioning plays a huge role in keeping several promises that we make when we have that firefighter badge pinned on us.
Everyone has a boss.
Everyone should have someone holding us accountable for our physical condition. Not a single person should be exempt. Workouts don’t have to be this hardcore, crossfit style workout. Sometimes it has to start with a simple 20 minute walk at 2 mph on a treadmill. And that is ok.
In the end, it comes down to each one of us being willing to simply do work and keep our promises to those that depend on us.