The Firefighter Recruit Orientation Manual has this to say about the academy: “In addition to the academic curriculum, there is an extensive and strenuous physical fitness component. The combined activities require complete dedication of time, energy, and attention to ensure success.”
Being 50 years old, I was primarily concerned about that phrase “extensive and strenuous physical fitness component!” To prepare for the physical aspects of the academy, I focused on three priorities: losing some weight, doing lots of walking/running to build cardiovascular endurance, and lifting weights and running stairs to build strength. When I asked firefighters about how best to prepare for the physical aspect of the academy, I frequently heard the answer, “Run stairs!”
Since August 4, I have clocked over 400 miles walking and running on the treadmill, in stairwells, and on Saint Paul city park paths. I’ve taken extensive bicycling tours of Saint Paul (what a great park system of bike paths!); and I’ve spent dozens of hours lifting weights. In the process, I've lost 35 pounds.
People have asked about my weight loss program. I combined the exercises above with a diet program that really seemed to work well for me: Weight Watchers. Several years ago, a co-worker introduced me to system, and I used that pretty extensively since August 1st this year. The system is pretty simple to follow, and essentially taught me about portion control and how to eat a balanced diet. I highly recommend it if you want to lose weight sensibly. There are a variety of websites with additional information, and I found this site be a very useful: http://quiddity.cc/rachel/diet/wwfoods.htm
Weight Watchers worked for the first 25 - 30 pounds, but then I hit a wall. I switched to simply counting calories after that: calculating my caloric intake and calories burned through exercise and my base metabolic rate. I found an excellent website that made all that easy. Check out this link if you really want to lose weight "scientifically:" http://www.caloriesperhour.com/
In the process of getting in shape, I brought my blood pressure back to normal, dropped 80 points off my cholesterol, and increased my endurance and strength significantly. I still don’t feel completely ready for the physical challenge of the academy, but I am ready to see what “Day One” brings. I know I should have run more stairs!
The academy starts tomorrow, and I am eager to begin! Please feel free to join me here on the web log as we go “On Scene” for Day 1 of the Saint Paul Fire Academy!