When it comes to exercise, most firefighters have no trouble kicking off a new program. Motivation is usually peaked by a personal experience such as in the inability to perform at a good job, or the news of a fellow firefighter that succumbs to an on-the-job heart attack, or even a health warning from your own physician. What usually results is a great start followed quickly by workout- burnout.
In the gym, consistency is the only true formula for success. When you start furiously and then hit the wall due to an overexertion injury or pure lack of interest, you're doing the exact opposite of what gets the best results. Instead, a slow start with a steady climb and eventual leveling off is what's called for. For a great start-up workout, click here.
Manage Your Motivation
The body is a mere pawn. It obeys orders and gives feedback to the brain. When you first start training, all you can think about is the steps you'll take to get in shape. Cool equipment, the promise of a new body, how you feel the day after a good workout, all these thoughts serve to reinforce your willingness to workout when you first get started. How can you sustain this healthy level of commitment that's necessary to overcome the unrelenting resistance of a tired and overworked body?
To simply go with the ever-popular catch phrase, "Just do it," doesn't cut the mustard. When every fiber of your being screams, "Lay down on the couch!" How do you know when it's best to rest, and when it's better to keep pushing past that feeling of fatigue?
Pushing Past Fatigue
Quite possibly, "Just say no," might be the slogan of the day. It's also possible to be too tired to exercise, and for that day, plopping on the couch might be the right choice. Generally speaking, a heavy feeling in the legs and arms, and extreme fatigue are signs you need to back off before you add another physical burden into your daily schedule of fighting fires.
If you don't fully energize within five or ten minutes of starting to exercise, cut it short or skip the workout altogether. Catch up on your rest and resume your program on your next available day. If you've just finished a particularly demanding tour, it's okay to skip a day. Any type of illness should also be cause for concern, and possible reason to sideline you for the day.
A lighter version of your normal routine might be appropriate for those days that you can't get going, but be sure to get back on track as soon as possible. If symptoms of extreme fatigue persist for more than a few days, get checked out by your physician.
Prioritize health and fitness in your life and the time factor will fall into place on its own. Remember that you're important enough to ALWAYS find 20 or 30 minutes, two or three times per week to devote to exercise. That's as little as one hour each week! A few pieces of basic equipment around the house, or in the firehouse can eliminate travel time (usually double that of actual workout time), and this will help you better manage your time.
So be slow to start. Do some research on what works. Over the long haul, a program that progressively (and safely) pushes you a little further each workout is what will produce the most dramatic results.
Avoid Workout Burnout - 10 Quick Tips
*Loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, irritability, lack of progress, insomnia or recurring injury and illness are sure signs you're over training.
Michael Stefano is a 20-year veteran of New York City Fire Department, currently serving in the rank of captain, as well as author of The Firefighter's Workout Book, and creator of the Firefighter's Workout video. Stefano, an ACE certified fitness instructor, has been developing exercise programs for the firefighters he's worked with and the general public for the past nineteen years. His workout routines and articles have been featured on such Internet giants as AOL, Yahoo, eDiets, MSN and iVillage. Captain Mike is also available as a fitness consultant for fire departments throughout the United States.