Survival of the Fittest
Firefighting is one of the most strenuous career options one can undertake, and requires the highest level of fitness, muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. Being a firefighter requires you to perform a vast array of activities such as scaling up the ladders while carrying heavy tools, pulling ceilings, working in super-heated environments and so on. Firefighters, like athletes, must train hard to operate at peak performance.
Unlike other professions, firefighters often need to work at odd hours and in extreme situations. The extremely bulky protective ensemble that they wear, further adds to their agony. They also do not have the luxury to rest when handling an emergency situation, and sometimes need to work for hours at a stretch.
To cope up with such difficult working conditions and brutal demands of their jobs, firefighters need to be extremely fit and healthy. 29% of all firefighter injuries this year will be because of lack of fitness!
What kind of Fitness Routine should Firefighters Adopt?
Exercises that involve multiple joint movements and different muscle groups are seen as most effective for firefighters. For running, climbing and other such activities, your joints need to be extremely strong and flexible. Also when your muscles are well-exercised, it becomes easier to carry heavy equipments and perform other activities that require strength.
Core stability workouts including twisting and back extension exercises can prove quite effective in maintaining abdominal and lower back strength. Aerobic exercises are also advised to maintain flexibility and vigor.
The exercise regime for firefighters should be focused towards three main areas –
Cardio-respiratory Endurance – Aerobic training or cardio exercises are the backbone of a firefighter’s workout regime. Given that these people perform vigorous physical activity in areas filled with smoke and toxic gases, it is extremely important to perform exercises that allow the lungs to store and provide more oxygen to the heart and other parts of the body. Cardiovascular exercises also assist in better blood circulation.
Ideally your cardio workouts should meet the basic criteria of frequency, intensity, duration and type. Some of the best exercises in this section are jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics and of course training hard on the CYBEX Arc Trainer.
Flexibility – As mentioned earlier, flexibility is a critical factor if you want to maintain the highest level of productivity. Flexibility exercises allow your tight muscles, tendons and joints to stretch and open up, allowing better movement. These exercises enhance your range of motion and are great for keeping your muscles and joints in good shape.
Exercises such as leg raise, abs and chest stretches, stretching with resistance bands etc are all powerful ways to release any tension and strain from your body. Regular practice can improve your range of movement, open up your muscles and joints, instill a sense of balance and decrease injury rates.
Muscular Fitness – Muscular fitness refers to the overall health, strength and endurance capacity of your muscles. For firefighters, having adequate strength and endurance is crucial and this can only be achieved with proper training and regular exercise. Muscular fitness generally involves weight training, through which your muscles become stronger and larger, and your nervous system functions more efficiently.
Following a proper muscular fitness routine will allow you to carry out your duties more effectively and also leave you feeling de-stressed and more focused.
Firefighters need to be well-equipped, skilled, extremely active and fit for the demands of their job – and this can only be achieved with a combination of proper nutrition, healthy lifestyle and an appropriate amount of exercise.
Coordinator for Health and Wellness
Perry Joint Fire District