Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fit for duty: Finding your motivation

By Sherry Dean   

Features editors pick fitness Sherry Dean

Photo: jcomp / Freepik

Chances are if you are reading this column you either like fitness or like the sound of fitness. What makes one group different from the other? Action. As simple as that sounds, it is the great divide. There are exceptions to every rule and most of us will have moments when we struggle to get off the sofa, yet something eventually inspires us to do so.

A recent conversation with a colleague, who has been an Olympic level coach and has spent years training elite athletes, circled around mental toughness in training. He has worked with gifted athletes who never push as hard as other less talented athletes and who ultimately don’t perform as well. We agreed this is similar for firefighters. There are those who will work a fire until they vomit and those who will do just about anything to avoid work regardless of how big and strong their potential. The mental toughness it takes to work hard enough to throw up at a fire most likely transfers into other facets of life, including training. Whether that training is physical fitness or fire fighting training, he or she is putting in the needed effort to perform well.

Sometimes the missing element can be confidence. Self-doubt, apprehension, and reluctance are difficult to overcome. Especially in the competitive world of fire fighting type As. Comparing strength or speed to others can leave some folks feeling as if they can’t keep up, so they never try. If this is you, setting realistic, small goals is a good approach. Your efforts will pay off. As your strength, speed or cardio improves, so will your confidence.

Another aspect that holds us back is not liking the hard work. There is no getting around the fact that pushing your limits to improve and maintain your fitness for fire fighting is difficult work. For those folks, you have to ask why they chose fire fighting as it’s inherently difficult work. I’ve often heard people say it’s hard to get a workout started, but seldom do they say it wasn’t worth it when it’s over. That is the biggest incentive to get up and move when you’d like nothing better than to stay put. Remembering how good it feels to achieve completion is something worth writing down and looking at when you need inspiration.


A general lack of motivation and stress can also stifle activity. Hostile work environments, bad calls, relationship difficulties or financial issues can all lead to idleness. Being motivated is not something that simply happens for everyone. It is something you have to make a mental note to create. Exercise and fitness are not only about your body; for many of us, it is also about what happens in our mind. There is great value in finding a supportive workout partner to urge you on and help get you moving when you are struggling alone. You will likely be able to return the favour.

Road blocks will exist for most people at some point in time when it comes to fitness. No matter what it is that holds you back from being active on a regular basis, making a conscious mental note to take a step, and then another, is one of the best ways to progress. Your progress will be your motivator.

Time to dig in and make a commitment to do this work out. Work hard. Be safe.

5 rounds for time

  • 5 – Strict pull ups
  • 10 – Man-makers (A pushup holding dumbbells, single arm row R/L in pushup plank position, jump feet toward hand and move into a squat position bringing dumbbells to shoulder, stand and press both dumbbells overhead, repeat x 10)
  • 20 – Butterfly sit-ups (lay with legs bent and bottom of feet touching together, sit-up until your shoulders pass your hip crease, repeat x 20)
  • 50 – Air squats
  • 400m – Run

Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency. She has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training . Sherry can be reached at

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