Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fit for Duty: Getting back to the pre-pandemic you

October 4, 2021
By Sherry Dean

Maintaining healthy body weight can be a very difficult thing, especially on this side of the pandemic. Now that we are on the (hopefully) other side, a lot of us are trying to get back to where we were in early 2020. Finding the motivation to recommit can be daunting if you have degrading fitness due to limited facility access. How and where to start can be the hardest part of the journey. There are a few principals that may help to get you started in choosing a balance of good food and exercise choices.

Shopping lists
Your shopping list is a great place to start. Whole foods are key to better nutrition and generally are also lower in calories. Whole foods can be categorized as foods that are either not processed at all, or processed minimally. Predominately, it’s food that is in its natural unaltered state. This means your food will have less sugar, salt, additives, and preservatives. Not to over simplify, but if it comes pre-packaged it probably isn’t a whole food. 

Thinking about food as a lifestyle choice rather than a diet moves people away from struggling with weight fluctuation when drastic changes in food happen. Shopping primarily around the outside of your grocery store and not up and down the aisle will lend itself to a cart full of whole foods. Balancing quantities of vegetables and fruit, grains, meat/fish/poultry and minimally processed dairy such as milk, yogurt and block cheese) is important. There are a multitude of diets out there, such as keto, vegan, or paleo. No matter which kind of diet plan you have, whole foods are still good choices in any type of lifestyle eating. Potatoes, not bagged French fries or chips. Chicken breast, not chicken nuggets. Quinoa, not white flour pasta. These are all examples of healthier whole foods over processed ones. 

Portion control
Eating too much of anything, even if it’s nutritionally sound, will not help in maintaining healthy body weight. It’s a fact. Many eat way more calories than they need. Restaurant sized servings are characteristically excessive. It may sound odd, but some plate sizes can be enormous. Taking a smaller dish helps to limit over portioning your food. Shave off ‘some’ of the volume you are putting on your plate. Ten per cent less food isn’t a big deal, but shaving that 10 per cent off of excess body weight is a pretty good trade off. 


Something active every day
Rest days from your workout regime do not have to be couch surfing. Having an activity like hiking, kayaking, walking the dog, riding your bike with the kids or playing a sport are excellent ways to burn calories and not constitute a workout. Activity doesn’t have to feel like work when you are doing something you enjoy. Park farther away from the entry door. Take the stairs and not the elevator. Be creative with your supplemental activities. Do five minutes of cardio before and after your workout. It is only five minutes right? Do 10 push-ups or five burpees or 30 jumping jacks during every commercial break. It all adds up. 

Keep it simple
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive facilities or programs. YouTube is chock full of great and motivational routines of all types. The simple things laying around your station can satisfy the needed intensity for working hard. Body weight workouts or cardio intense workouts are great workouts with little or no equipment. There are stairs everywhere even if it’s the same flight over and over (and over) again.

Calories in, calories out may be over simplifying things, but there is still merit in understanding balance. There are medical conditions and factors that affect weight and weight gain. Having the right type of lifestyle, diet and activity level that is best suited for you personally is important. As firefighters, not committing to overall healthy living will contribute to causes of disease and fatality. Following the principals listed here will still benefit you toward healthy living. 

Simple (not easy)
Work Out 


  • 2-minute light cardio 
  • 10 inchworms
  • 10 leg swings – Right/Left
  • 10 rotating trunk lunges – Right/Left
  • 10 arms circles – Front/Back
  • 50m bear walk
  • 10 broad jumps 


Focus on the jog/run/substitute bike 

  • 200m jog/run
  • 20 air squats or jump squats 
  • 10 pushups or thrusters (light to medium weight range for all thrusters)
  • 5 pull-ups or burpees 

Repeat 4 times 

  • 400m jog/run
  • 20 air squats or jump squats 
  • 10 push-ups or thrusters
  • 5 pull-ups or burpees 

Repeat twice 

  • 800m jog/run
  • 20 air squats or jump squats 
  • 10 push-ups or thrusters
  • 5 pull-ups or burpees 
  • 200m jog/run
  • 20 air squats or jump squats 
  • 10 push-ups or thrusters
  • 5 pull-ups or burpees 

Repeat twice

  • 200m sprint

Cool down (right side, then left)

  • Quad – Lunge stretch (rear heel lifted). Rear hip pushed forward. Hold 30 sec to 1 min 
  • Calf – Don’t move your feet, partially straighten front leg. Press rear heel to ground. Hold 30 secs to 1 min
  • Hamstring – Don’t move your feet, push your glutes back over your rear foot. Lift front toes. Hold 30 secs to 1 min
  • Shoulders – Lay prone with your arm extended straight to the side. Lift your opposite shoulder off the ground as much as possible. Hold 30 secs to 1 min
  • Cat/cow or down dog to up dog x 5

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

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