Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fit for Duty: Mixing workout disciplines

Sherry Dean   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness editors pick

Mixing or meshing various types of fitness regimes and approaches can be very beneficial to overall health and wellness. Rules are made to be broken ‘if’ it makes good sense. There are direct benefits in change, but there should also be some consideration for overall progress. Knowing what to choose from and how to mesh everything can be a bit confusing. These are some general guidelines to consider. 

Bodies are incredibly smart and inherently efficient. Our bodies will adapt to familiar movements and attempt to find ways to be more economical. Energy output will attempt to conserve unless there is conscious effort put into maintaining work load. Changing things up in your workout forces your body to work harder. It’s like playing a sport for the first time in a season or coming back to work out after injury. Your body is sore. You find body parts you forgot you had. Over the next while you get less sore as your body gets used to the work load. You are getting more fit and more efficient in your movements. Although that is a good thing, progress is made when we are pushing ourselves further rather than simply coasting along.

Having a balance is good for everyone, but it is especially true for firefighters. We all know someone who lifts weights and is a monster as far as muscularity and overall strength, but their cardiovascular ability is not great. The inverse is also true, someone who can run like the wind but lacks good overall strength. Firefighting requires a balance of both strength and cardio. Injury prevention requires us to have good mobility. 

Combining disciplines 


With good balance in mind, your overall goals should dictate how you move through various disciplines. Strength, cardio and mobility should all be present in some capacity for a good overall fitness approach.

Good cardio, poor strength: You are active playing a sport two or three times per week and your cardio is already very good. Focus your workouts on strength training adding some yoga or mobility once a week.

Good strength, poor cardio: You have good strength because you work doing physical labour, but your cardio is not great. HIIT training or a focused cardio regime with yoga or mobility once a week will provide better balance. 

Good cardio, good strength, poor mobility: Mobility is one of the areas a lot of people don’t focus on. It often happens mobility is the first thing we drop when we are crunched for time. No warm up, no cool down and touching your toes is a memory of the past. Two or three days of yoga or mobility and adding five minutes of warm up/cool down time to each workout will improve your fitness. Yoga is an excellent workout and there are multiple disciplines in this field for you to choose from.

The thing to remember is that all three aspects of fitness are present in each of these examples. Your job, your sport for fun and your official work out time all work together to provide your current fitness level. 

The time frame you use to centre any fitness approach can be short or long. If you are simply bored and need a change it’s okay to jump back and forth between disciplines. When jumping between disciplines don’t expect any specific area of fitness to improve (although it may very well) but do expect better overall health and fitness. Expecting to make good gains takes a commitment of time. Six weeks to three months of targeted, specific workouts are needed to make significant gains in any of the strength, cardio or mobility areas. A better bench press, a quicker mile and even touching you toes again are all possible with the right training program. 

The best possible reason for mixing up your training methods may be to simply  keep yourself interested and challenged. What works for one person may not work as well for another. We all have different genetics and lifestyles. But keep doing something. If you feel like its not working, change it up. You don’t lose out in the end.  

Work Out

5 minute warm-up 

  • 10 Y, T, W shoulder movement – 5 lbs or no weight 
  • 10 inch worms 
  • 10 each leg walking lunge with right and left twist
  • 10 swings each leg
  • 10 face down scorpions

Strength – chest and triceps 

  • 2 warm up sets bench
  • 4 sets flat bench increasing weight (DB or Barbell) – Reps 12, 10, 8, 6
  • 4 sets incline bench increasing weight (DB or Barbell, opposite of bench) – Reps 12, 10, 8, 6
  • 4 sets flies  – Reps 12 to 15
  • 3 sets triceps push downs increasing weight – Reps 12, 10, 8
  • 3 sets Lying triceps extension increasing weight – Reps 12, 10, 8
  • 3 sets triceps kickbacks – Reps 12 to 15

Cardio — 12 to 15 minutes, treadmill, rower or bike

  • 2 minute warm up 
  • 30 to 40 second sprint
  • 20 to 30 second recovery speed

Repeat each minute for 10 to 13 minutes

Cool Down — Mobility 7 to 10 mins 

  • High reach forward lean and slight inward twist each arm against a wall or doorway – 30 sec to 1 minute 
  • Left hand to right ear, right hand behind back pull head toward shoulder – 30 sec to 1 min repeat other side
  • Arm overhead triceps stretch – 30 sec to 1 minute each arm
  • Behind the back forearm/elbow hold – 30 sec to 1 min once only. 
  • Standing or lying figure 4 – 30 sec to 1 minute each leg

Stay fit, well and safe. 

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

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