It’s a yearly thing that I notice in my gym; right around this time of year, the stations seem to be busier, the cardio room is more crowded, and the wife can never seem to find an open elliptical machine. “What gives?” I always ponder, as I turn away from yet another several-deep line in front of a station. Then it hits me, just like it always does.
Ohhh. New Years resolutions.
I applaud everyone who wants to get “back on track,” as lots of them say. It’s an excellent goal, and I’m happy to help in any way I can. But sadly, I see far too many new, eager faces who disappear sometime around February—replaced by the familiar, down-to-business exchanges and curt smiles of the regulars as we trade benches and barbells.
“Are you finished with this?”
“Sure, it’s all yours.”
Our is a physical job, and as such the need for fitness was drilled into us from Day One. Hell, even before that—we needed to pass a physical agility test just to be considered for recruit school.
Of course, being put through the paces of a fire academy is one thing.
At least nobody forces us to do crazy shit any more, like dragging truck tires all over the place.
I doubt there was a single comrade from class 358 who didn’t leave that (&@$#ing) Tower in some of the best shape of our lives. But we all know what happens afterward.
Not working out for several hours every morning for five days/week
Three humongous meals/shift, usually of heavy comfort food
BFFs (no, not Best Friends Forever; the other one, Big Fat Firefighters.)
We’re all guilty of it. I personally packed on about 15-17 lbs in less than six months out of the Academy. It happens! But the good news is that it can be reversed, I promise.
It’s not just for looking good. Like I said, ours is a very physical job. Lifting, pulling, crawling, dragging… it’s a good idea to keep up with some form of regular exercise, either at work or outside of it. It’s a benefit not just to you, but also to your coworkers (who may need your help in the worst of circumstances) as well as your family (who of course want you safe and healthy for many years to come).
Is anyone in your respective departments trying to establish a more concrete fitness program? I know of a few firehouses over my way that have done their own version of “The Biggest Loser,” and I’ve heard of others whose crews all make a pact to work out together during their shift. These and many other ideas are all over the web: a quick search for “firefighter fitness” yields over a million results. Kettlebell workouts, simple weight training programs, military cross-training, CrossFit for Public Safety… the list is endless. I was working a trade a while back and on one run, the officer slid the pole just absolutely soaked in sweat. I asked him what the hell he had been doing upstairs, and it turns out he was in the middle of ExtremeFitness’s Insanity Workout. (The name, by the way, is in no way misleading. It’s painful, and you’re a bad mofo if you can make it through all sixty days.)
Amazon.com has plenty of results, too. If you’re more of a book fan, you’ll find plenty of manuals and healthy eating regimens aimed at public safety employees (the food issue, however, is a subject for another post entirely.) For the longest time, one of my favorite resources was a no-nonsense, fact-filled book aimed at police/fire called “Fit for Duty.”
Whether it’s for New Years or not, it’s never too late to put forth some effort into being in better shape. Some guys at work stay in shape, some guys don’t. You can’t change everyone, but the first month of the year is as good a time as any to make a decision for yourself.
Buy a bicycle. Go for a short jog. Even just start walking a few miles per day, a few days a week (you’d be surprised at how quickly your body can respond to just a slight rise in your activity level. If you have a dog, he’ll love it, too.)
Be one of those people who doesn’t fall off the wagon! And maybe I’ll see you around the gym… all the way through December.