How firefighters can get back into a health mindset

Simple steps to refocus on exercise and nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Marc Bashoor

It’s time to get our heads back into the game of fitness.

During this COVID-19 crisis, we've been wrapped up in this cocoon. A lot of the gyms closed, and some people were able to do things at their homes in the garages or maybe had a room at the at the house or even equipment that the fire station to keep up the fitness routine. But a lot of folks have put both fitness and nutrition to the side during the crisis.

It's time for firefighters to start coming out of that cocoon and get their heads back into the game of fitness and nutrition. And if it wasn't before, it needs to be now. It needs to be part of who we are and what we do.

Keep in mind that not every body reacts the same way to a fitness program or a nutrition program. So what works for you might not work for your partner or for the rest of your crew. You've got to find what it is that works for you and make that part of your regimen.

Firefighter fitness first

You don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on either equipment or gym memberships to be able to do the things that I'm talking about. When we talk about functional fitness from a perspective of what firefighters do, there are plenty of things right around your station, whether ladders, sledgehammers, ropes – all the things that we use every day that you already have at your disposal that you can think about ways to use in fitness programs.

When we talk about fitness, we're talking about the entire body – the core, chest, extremities, all the things that go along to fitness. It's not one exercise or one muscle group. It's all of it that works together, and you need to spend that entire week working through those groups every week. It's not a one-and-done process.

Let’s also talk about cardio. From an exercise perspective, think HIIT: high-intensity interval training. HITT is very similar to a lot of what we do in the fire service – a burst of energy and then we stop, another burst of energy, and then we stop. If you're looking at a way to get

cardio started and thinking about how you can work that in, HIIT is a good opportunity. Don't don't start full force into that, though; you need to work yourself up into those programs, one day at a time, start slow, get yourself going, and get to a point where you'll notice those gains in your body and you'll notice those losses in your body.

Nutrition now

When we talk about nutrition, we’re looking at better proteins, which help with muscle building,

fewer carbohydrates, more water and more electrolytes, and less alcohol and less sugars. The alcohol, the sugars, the carbonation – those are all bad things for bloating in your in your system. And it certainly needs to be about a better eating and less eating.

There are certain things you can do to trick yourself. A lot of folks tell me, "The plate's in front of me, I'm gonna eat everything that's on my plate. My grandmother told me, always eat everything that's on my plate." I get that, but I also get that sometimes you need to trick your body into OK, it's time to stop. Some of those things are the first time you feel full, push that plate away.

Here’s a trick: If you're out eating, once you're at that point and you're done, put some trash on the plate. Once there's trash on that plate, I don't know too many folks that are going eat off of that plate. Again, it's just about tricking your mind into thinking, "OK, it's time to stop."

At the end of the day, your crew and the communities you serve depend on you being in the best shape possible to help yourself and to help them when the time comes. 

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