The 3 Fs of Firefighter Conditioning: Part 5

In the conclusion of this series describing fitness, fat loss and function, Rich Meyer details how to cover your bases.


It’s 3 A.M. The bells sound and in a flash you’re on the rig and out of the firehouse. You finish putting on your airpack, listening to the radio, and begin sizing up the scene in your head. The last thing on your mind right now is whether you’re fit for the fight...


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It’s 3 A.M. The bells sound and in a flash you’re on the rig and out of the firehouse. You finish putting on your airpack, listening to the radio, and begin sizing up the scene in your head. The last thing on your mind right now is whether you’re fit for the fight you’re about to encounter. Are you thinking about how much weight you had on the bench press last night? Are you thinking about how you should have been working out before? Probably not.

This series of articles has given you a pre-training assessment to establish baseline levels and help you clearly define your physical fitness goals. We’ve also given you programs to improve your fitness, fat loss and function. In this fifth and final installment, we will review the “3 Fs†of firefighter conditioning – fitness, fat loss and function – and give you an idea as to how you can integrate all of these programs into one time-efficient program to cover all of your bases.

To demonstrate how this program works, we are working with several firefighters in New Jersey who have seen excellent results after as few as seven sessions. We can see a difference in how they handle the exercises, but they see the difference in performing their fireground tasks, recovering between tasks and air consumption. One firefighter lost nearly eight pounds with just two sessions per week.

Reviewing the “3 Fsâ€

Fitness, often defined as a feeling of good health, is the part of our system that pertains to your health, energy levels and cardiovascular system. The benefits of a fitness program include reduction of blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat, anxiety and chances of a heart attack. Being fit means your endurance will allow you to recover quickly and maintain your work efficiency for your entire shift. Circuit training is the best way to increase your fitness level using total-body workouts and higher repetitions per each set of each exercise.

Fat loss is the second of the “3 Fs†and often the hardest to battle. Stress, poor eating habits and lack of exercise all contribute to higher body fat levels, which are linked to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Some issues regarding fat loss are discipline to eat the right foods at the right time, peer pressure, support from colleagues and family, and plateaus reached after periods of time.

The five parts to your fat-loss plan are proper nutrient intake, strength training, cardiovascular exercise, supplementation and professional assistance. To lose body fat, you must burn off more calories from exercise than you take in from food. By reducing your caloric intake no more than 500 calories below your maintenance level and adding consistent, progressive exercise to your life, you will see fat-loss changes over time. Remember that if you lose too much fat too quickly, your body will rebound and put on the same amount or even more just as quickly. Other recommendations for fat loss include eating breakfast, drinking more water, eating four to six meals per day, and avoiding refined carbohydrates like white pasta, white rice and cookies.

Functional training can help prevent injuries and improve performance of firefighting tasks. Your body is one of the most useful tools you carry when you arrive on scene. In order for your tools to operate properly, they must be sharp and trained properly. Your body is no exception. The greatest transfer of effect from the gym to the fireground occurs when you mimic fireground activities in your exercise program. An example of this is dragging a weighted sled some distance to simulate dragging hoselines. Other examples are crawling in various patterns and climbing stairs with dumbbells to simulate a multi-story situation.

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