As we all know, firefighters and EMTs are in the business of protecting and saving lives on a daily basis. But, too often we neglect our own bodies and ourselves in the process. Being a rescue or emergency specialist requires a certain amount of physical ability, especially when you consider what it takes to fight fire, rescue a victim from a burning building, extricate from an automobile, and so on. We also climb stairs, lift heavy equipment and patients. All of these factors plus more lead up to the fact that the risk of heart related illness for emergency personnel is over 50 percent. You know where this conversation is going — we need to “rescue ourselves first physically” before we even show up on the scene.
Having a body that is ready and works well will not only prevent you from injuring yourself, but will also make you better able to perform the necessary physical activities of the job.
No matter what your current fitness level is, how tall or short, large, thin you are, we all could achieve being a little stronger, more flexible, and more toned. Becoming more fit combined with the knowledge of how to lift and twist and stretch while preforming our duties at work go hand in hand. Having a body that is ready and works well will not only prevent you from injuring yourself, but will also make you better able to perform the necessary physical activities of the job.
Working out and physical exercise doesn’t have to be hard work all the time. It can be done at your own pace. Just remember, it’s an investment in your body and you WILL get out of it what you put into it.
The exercises I prefer to focus on are strength building and proper movement technique. To achieve this I suggest using simple lift, carry, and push and pull movements through light to moderate weight training, calisthenics and of course stretching.
In its simplest terms weight training is using resistance to strengthen and condition the musculoskeletal system, improving muscle tone and muscular endurance. From a physiological standpoint, the benefits of consistent strength training include increased muscle size and tone, muscle strength, and in tendon, bone and ligament strength. Lifting weights also improves psychological health as well; self-esteem, confidence, and of course self worth. The easiest way to say it is that weight training will build increased mental and physical stamina to better endure the stresses of the constant pressures of the emergency service world.
Another form of resistance training I like when you don’t have a gym or dumbbells available is “calisthenics training.” Calisthenics are exercises consisting of a variety of body motor movements, repetitive, and generally without equipment. So in essence, body-weight training. It is intended to increase muscle strength, overall fitness, and flexibility, through movements such as push or pulling oneself up, sitting up, lunging, bending, using one’s own body weight for resistance. Calisthenics can provide many benefits of strength and aerobic conditioning. In addition, it can improve psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination.
Another aspect of exercising that most people leave by the wayside is stretching. Stretching is as important to muscle conditioning as weight training for muscle development. The way I like to explain it is this; “Your muscle is like a balloon. The fastest and easiest way to blow it up is to stretch it out first. But instead of filling it with air, you are filling the muscle with blood, food, and oxygen to help muscle growth faster.” Improving your flexibility is a must for strength conditioning and muscular endurance. It will also reduce your risk of injury at the emergency scene.
If you are already in a steady fitness routine, that is awesome. But if you’re not and don’t know where or what to do to get started, try some of the exercises, calisthenics and stretches in the poster. These are all time-tested exercises and to this day, I myself, recommend and do these exercises on a daily basis. I’ve been exercising and weightlifting for the past 30 years, have a degree in health and fitness, I’m a full time firefighter/EMT and just turned 50 years old. I feel great and healthy and want nothing more than to help you do the same.