How to stay injury free
From a sports medicine and corrective exercise science perspective, focus on a few simple daily activities:
Stretch. Focus specifically on the hip flexors, pirformis, hamstrings, chest and latissimus muscles. Hold all the stretches for 60 seconds. Doing the stretches sporadically throughout the shift will make them more effective.
Do some fun exercises on duty. Bouncing a reaction ball or agility ball in the bay between calls is a fantastic way to incorporate agility, balance, direction change, and anaerobic conditioning into your daily routine. A Frisbee also makes a great toy and does the same thing as an agility ball. Jumping rope or walking between calls will drastically increase your fitness, help you lose weight, and make you feel better.
Spine stiffening. The amazingly simple act of stiffening your spine or bracing prior to lifting, moving, or transferring will drastically reduce your risk of injury. To learn this technique, place a broom stick or dowel rod on your back. Hold the top and bottom with each hand. Make sure that the back of your head, mid-back, and sacrum all contact the stick. With the three contact points maintained ,your feet shoulder-width apart, and toes straight, 'hinge' your hips backward and slightly bend your knees. Be sure your bottom moves back first and the knees bend second and only slightly. If you have done this correctly, your abdominal wall will have fired and contracted hard. Try to walk around while holding this position. It will amaze you how hard your abdominal wall and hips must contract. When you lift, move, or perform any job task, try to pre-fire your muscles just prior to the task. Endurance is the key to maintaining and mastering this technique. Reps do not matter, but time under tension does, so practice. The stick on your back is also a neutral posture, so to learning to work and exercise in neutral means your body is better prepared for the strange positions and tasks we are forced to work in.
For more health and fitness tips for responders, check out FR1 Columnist Bryan Fass' "First in Fitness" column.
- Firefighter Tips
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