Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Features Fitness Health and Wellness
FitSmart: July 2011

One of the most common fitness obstacles the average person faces is finding the time to adequately train. This is just as true for volunteer (or part-time or paid, on-call firefighters) as it is for busy, working parents or 80-hour-a-week CEOs. Essentially, most part-time firefighters try to balance two dedicated careers with family life and everything that comes with busy lives ruled by BlackBerrys and iPhones. Too often, the workout is entirely cut out of a busy day. Many readers have expressed interest in learning how to stay fit on a tight timeline. I’m here to tell you that it is possible to do so. I truly believe that in spite of a busy lifestyle you can achieve the fitness level you desire.

July 7, 2011
By Brad Lawrence

Topics

One of the most common fitness obstacles the average person faces is finding the time to adequately train. This is just as true for volunteer (or part-time or paid, on-call firefighters) as it is for busy, working parents or 80-hour-a-week CEOs. Essentially, most part-time firefighters try to balance two dedicated careers with family life and everything that comes with busy lives ruled by BlackBerrys and iPhones. Too often, the workout is entirely cut out of a busy day. Many readers have expressed interest in learning how to stay fit on a tight timeline. I’m here to tell you that it is possible to do so. I truly believe that in spite of a busy lifestyle you can achieve the fitness level you desire.

First, ask yourself how much time you can realistically dedicate to training. I know you’re busy, that’s why you’re reading . . . but if fitness is a priority, you will find time for it, just as every fit person does. I’m not asking you to set aside an hour a day, seven days a week – that’s an unrealistic commitment for many of us. But I’m positive everyone can scrape up a few hours throughout the week.

Training: To improve your fitness level, you need an hour of physical activity four days a week, or every second day. That’s not unrealistic. Schedule yourself four mornings, evenings, lunch hours, or whatever you can pull off. Make time for it and try it for two weeks. By then you’ll have made progress, and I’ll bet you won’t want to go back to sporadic workouts. Four workouts are enough if you push yourself. Here are some tips to help you make the most of what little time you can dedicate to exercise, and help you realize that you really do have plenty of time to succeed.

  • Design a training plan that incorporates weight training and cardio in the same session, and stick to it. Exercise at a fast pace with heavier loads (muscle failure anywhere from 6-10 reps), and short rest intervals (30 seconds is perfect).
  • Train for 45 to 55 minutes, and train with a purpose. My workouts rarely exceed one hour. Your workouts should be short because you shouldn’t be able to maintain your pace for more than an hour. If you can, your workout needs to become more metabolic.
  • Balance your workout by training non-competing muscle groups in the same session, called a superset. Non-competing muscle groups can be trained in succession because the two exercises you perform back to back do not include the same muscles. For instance, combine a chest press with pull-ups, or a barbell row as a back exercise. This type of superset will allow your chest to rest while you train your back and keep your heart rate elevated. This gives you a huge advantage over resting on a bench and waiting for your chest to recover, and you’re also completing two exercises in the time it would normally take to complete one. If you tire and need a longer rest period, take it after your superset, not during. Here’s an example of a brief chest/back split with supersets included:
  1. Dumbbell chest press, three sets, repeat six to 10 times until failure.
  2. Pull-ups, three sets, repeat until failure.
  3. Dumbbell chest fly, three sets, repeat eight to 12 times.
  4. Barbell row, three sets, repeat six to 10 times.
  5. Push-ups, three sets, repeat until failure.
  6. Cable lat row, three sets, repeat eight to 12 times.
  7. This may be more than enough volume for you, or you may choose to add more. Either way, try this example or one of your own. Keep an eye on the clock and adjust, add or subtract accordingly. Apply these principles to each muscle group.

Ease out of the weight-training machines and move on to tougher training methods. The guy at the gym who does one exercise at a time, and sits on a machine for a three-minute rest between every set isn’t getting fitter. The guy getting fitter is moving from free weights, to cables, to a squat cage and back to free weights. Get up and get moving; walk with a purpose and break a sweat.

Advertisment

Nutrition: If you’re familiar with my column, you know that I stress proper nutrition. If you’re pressed for time and can’t train most days of the week, nutrition is more important than anything. The less you train, the more you need proper nutrition. By now, you should have a decent idea of how to make a balanced meal: proper portion sizing, and proper timing for your carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These balanced meals are important when you have time. But when you don’t, try one of these snacks that require little to no time to prepare (most of which you can take with you when you are on the go).

  • Protein shakes are a perfect quick fix. Choose a low-carb whey variety with a high percentage of protein.
  • Handful of nuts (almonds, etc.).
  • Cottage cheese and yogurt blend. Cottage cheese (dry curd is best as it contains no sodium) is nearly as perfect as a grilled chicken breast. Mix it with your favourite low-sugar yogurt for a snack you can prepare ahead of time and take with you.

Protein bars can be great on the go, but be very careful choosing them. Some of these are basically candy bars with added protein. Pay attention to the label and choose a low-carb, low-sugar variety.

Make your health and fitness a priority, even if you are pressed for time. Train hard when you get the opportunity, and don’t waste your hard work on a terrible diet. With a little planning and effort, you’ll achieve your desired fitness goals. Train and fuel your body with a purpose, and watch your body transform.


Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department and a certified personal trainer who specializes in training and nutrition for emergency responders. E-mail Brad at bradmlawrence@gmail.com


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*