A firefighters' resolve for the new year

While many self-improvement resolutions perish from neglect or outright disdain, here's one we must keep near and dear

Here comes 2017. Yes, another year of hope, optimism and fresh starts. Football is gearing up for its grand finale, hockey is in full swing and right now everyone’s favorite baseball team is undefeated.

And despite the newness of the new year, we’re at the point where, like most football teams, many well-intended New Year’s resolutions are packed away in the “wait until next year” closet.

I’ve done some research on this; there is a moving van load of statistics on resolutions. There are statistics on how many Americans make resolutions, how long they last, the percentages of how many people fail and so forth.

Among the most frequent resolutions on all the lists I saw were lose weight and either work out more or eat healthier.

In our business, that is something that we all (including myself) need to really look at. Heart disease is a major issue in the fire service and it is directly tied to diet and exercise.

Now before you scoff and click over to YouTube kitten videos, I’m not advertising the Will-X-Sanity-90 Workout DVD that comes with an autographed poster of me in workout legwarmers and a headband. I’m neither a physical trainer nor a weight-loss doctor — just look at me.

However, I do have a lot of experience in eating.

Well, if you insist

The holidays at a fire station are killer for anybody trying to maintain a decent body weight. It is a nonstop tour of the sweet and savory food worlds.

We always have to have the usual holiday staples of pies, cakes, Christmas cookies and fudges. I haven’t even gotten to the main courses.

Strangely, the public doesn’t help at this time of the year. I am routinely at two stations and the doorbell constantly rings with citizens loaded down with holiday goodie donations. One day right before Christmas, the doorbell rang three times in an hour.

It is truly the epic spot between a rock and a hard place. I am humbled that people pause during their everyday busy lives to think of us on the holidays and take the time to bake and deliver us cookies.  

It would be a PR nightmare if we started telling people, “No, sorry we aren’t interested.” I defy anyone to take a plate of chocolate chip cookies from a little old lady who has tottered to the door and tells you with a wink, “They’re still warm” and not eat one. You have to.

Now we have to go about the business of undoing all this, and let me tell you, it’s not easy. Eating right in a fire station is not easy. It can be done but it’s a challenge. 

My office air vent is a direct conduit for whatever is being cooked in the firehouse. So I smell bacon and sausage every morning as I pour my uber-healthy breakfast cereal. Have I said this wasn’t easy?

Feel the burn

Have you ever noticed how the thinnest people can eat the most? Seriously, I worked with a guy years ago whose waist was about the size of one of my thighs.

He ate a breakfast as soon as he got to work every morning. Then when we assembled for breakfast after the morning truck checks, he ate breakfast with us. He ate lunch, dinner and the dinner leftovers as a late-night snack. 

He remained thin as a rail.

When I drive by a fast food joint, I must either turn off the air conditioner or roll up the windows — because if I smell it, I will gain five pounds.

Next comes trying to work off the pounds. There are a variety of ways to do this. You have the aerobic people who run, do stair masters, cycle and such.

I used to really enjoy running and even ran in some 5K races. However, I’ve been served a written cease-and-desist order from my bones and joints on the subject of running.

I was never marathon material. I mostly walk now. I’m not at the mall with Velcro lacing shoes yet, but it’s coming.

You also have the straight weight lifters who can bench a locomotive. And now we have the cross fitters who do all sorts of painful-looking things.

It takes a village

As I said, I’m not a trainer, but common sense would dictate that you do whatever works for you and what you like to do. That helps.

It also helps to have others involved. For me, it helps with motivation. It’s not that I’m lazy, but I tend to do more with others pushing me.

I’ve seen some places do these group competitive workout type things. I was once staying in a hotel near an FDNY station. When the apparatus returned from a run, the life savers lined up at the watch office and did pull ups.

I have also heard of firefighters doing pushups when returning from an alarm that wasn’t a working fire. There is evidence that the sudden rush of adrenaline when not worked off can be harmful.

Something I have started recently is job-oriented workouts. I call it the Becky workout for the co-worker who showed me this. I don an SCBA and do 10 pushups, and then I whack a large tire with a sledge 20 times.

Who would have ever thought there would be a market for used tractor tires?

After that, I trudge to the top of the drill tower and hoist a roll of hose by rope, plod back down the stairs and start over until I run out of air. It is good exercise and job-related, plus I stay comfortable breathing air through the mask.

We’ve only scratched the surface here. The IAFF even has a healthy menu planner you can check out.

Whatever you do, do something. I would like everybody reading to this to read next January’s column. That’s a resolution worth keeping.

Let me hear from you.

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