Positive Pressure Keeps You Fit for Life

I'm sure that most people in the today's fire service would agree; it's vital for a firefighter maintain an adequate level of fitness throughout his or her career. Simply passing a one-time entrance exam is not enough.

When getting ready for a CPAT or other entry-level test, there's usually plenty of willpower and drive available to keep you training hard. But, the months and years pass and we all know how motivation has a way of gradually fading over time.

But punishing yourself with guilt and anger when you temporarily fall off the fitness wagon is a sure-fire way to sabotage any exercise or weight loss program. So is attempting to do too much too soon. Gradual changes that spark a positive reaction, a reward if you will, can create effortless and long lasting adjustments to your daily routine that will produce dramatic results. No guilt, no punishment, no berating yourself for a missed workout or having a little desert.

More simply put, with a routine that incorporates some form of positive reinforcement, you can train yourself to workout more efficiently and with less resistance while making it easier to stick to a healthy diet. If approached correctly, the speed at which you'll progress will astonish.

You'll also need to know what, for your level of fitness and current goals, constitutes a perfect workout. Don't just dive in blindly, save hours and hours of wasted effort by zeroing in on exactly what you need do to get in shape. When approached correctly, you'll be surprised how little time it takes. For a great workout, click here (www.firefightersworkout.com).

You must get past one small obstacle. The naturally occurring positive reinforcement (a fit and healthy body) that's associated with exercise has a built in delay before the reinforcing event actually occurs. It may take some weeks or months to see real physical changes, and by that time you might have already lost some of your motivation to keep going. The fitness industry banks on the fact that most people will pay for a yearly membership, but due to lack of motivation never get past the first month or two.

If the reward arrived immediately everyone would stick with the program and wind up incredibly fit. You do a set and BAM, you're body snaps into super shape. Skip a meal, and PRESTO, your butt shrinks three inches. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. The positive reinforcement or reward that does occur is delayed, and some form of substitute reward needs to be artificially inserted in one of three ways.

Immediate Reinforcement

The concept is simple. With every set, or at various intervals during a cardio workout, praise yourself for a job well done. But before any real praise can occur, you need to develop a mindset that permits effective positive reinforcement through self-praise.

When you enter the gym or jump on the treadmill leave all negativity about your exercise program behind. No matter what shape you're in, you'll be better off after you complete this session; one step closer to the body you want. Sit quietly for a minute or two, take a few long, deep breaths and think about what you'll be doing over the next twenty or thirty minutes. See yourself successfully going through the motions of your workout with perfect form and attention to detail, thereby pulling the most from each move.

Develop one or two key praise words that you'll use when your set or segment of a cardio workout is completed. Immediately at the point, say the selected word either softly or to yourself. A simple atta-boy or good-girl, works nicely. You could also use great set, yes, or any other word or phrase that appeals to you. Just be sure to say it with genuine enthusiasm or it will have little effect.

Scheduled Reinforcement

Many diet and exercise programs already have scheduled rewards built right in. For example, a diet plan that allows you to eat whatever you want one day each week (nothing more than a weekly reward) falls into this category. This also applies to the desert you allow yourself after a particularly grueling workout.

Give yourself days away from your exercise program. Again, depending upon goals and level of fitness, rest at least 2 to 4 days each week. This is a powerful reward to a job well done. Schedule a massage. Walk 18 holes of gold instead of doing cardio. Take in a show or go out to a fine restaurant; all ways to pay your body back with play for all the work it's done. Be sure to connect the two events in your mind. Make a conscious effort to associate the fun with payback for the work you've accomplished.

Random Reinforcement

Every once in a while give in to your urges. Occasionally, and only because you've been so on the money with your program, give yourself a bonus. Remember, this has to be a spontaneous event or it falls into the category of a scheduled reward. Every now and then, after a particularly productive period, you can do something really cool for yourself. Just don't overdue it, as this will not only sabotage your program, but water down the impact of this highly effective unscheduled reward. The key here is to not only associate the play (reward) with the work (workout), but to learn moderation.

And please, let us not forget about the built-in rewards. It may take few weeks or months to actually happen, but if you use the methods I've described above to stay the course, you'll get to keep a trim, strong and healthy body for the rest of your life. So stay positive!

FDNY captain, Michael Stefano is the author of the Firefighter's Workout Book. Captain Mike also creates custom workouts for both firefighters and civilians alike. To learn more, visit his website at: www.firefightersworkout.com