Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Focus on Fitness 2012: The fitness commitment

By Brian Humphrey   

Features Fitness Health and Wellness

Most of the guys I work with as a volunteer firefighter in Haldimand County have no interest in becoming full-time firefighters.

Most of the guys I work with as a volunteer firefighter in Haldimand County have no interest in becoming full-time firefighters. They love what I love about the job – the camaraderie, the sense of shared duty, the notion of being called when needed into a critical service that responds for kilometres around this mostly rural region in southwestern Ontario.

Like them, I give 100 per cent on every call that comes in across my pager. And I hope to always stay a volunteer firefighter with my solid team in Jarvis, Ont. But I have a dream to be a full-time firefighter in a large city. And every day, and in everything I do, I work to achieve my dream. On duty in the fire hall, that means being a leader in any way I can and showing the guys that I have the skills to one day lead a crew as a captain or a chief. Physical fitness is a key part of that leadership by example.

I own and operate a fitness studio, so I try to get some of the guys in my fire hall to turn their heads around in terms of their health and fitness habits. They can be a tough crowd, but the guys say my message radiates from me. “You’re not showing up with a tight T-shirt telling us what to do,” they say. “It’s contagious.”

The combination of exercise and fire fighting works well as an outlet. As is the case for many of you, I can go from having dinner with my wife, to my pager going off, to pulling people out of a car wreck 10 minutes later, and then back home afterwards to decompress. Exercise helps as an outlet for the mind just as much as for the body. Blowing off steam helps keeps the mind focused, but also the natural endorphins that are released through exercise support the brain in a positive way. Some calls are hard to cope with and can stay with you forever. Exercise is a healthy release and stabilizer.


I am fortunate to be in a business that allows me to be active every day of my life. I train hard to better myself five days a week. My studio is designed with functional equipment that challenges my cardio, strength, balance and all-around fitness. I also use a public staircase to strength train in full bunker gear (this is a great option – and an affordable one – if you can find a staircase like this in your community).

About that staircase. A few years ago I started leading my fitness clients on drills on the Chedoke stairs – the 289 steps on the Hamilton escarpment are a common training spot for firefighters. One night I looked around and there were about 50 people doing the drill and I thought that perhaps I could take this personal challenge on the stairs to greater heights and give something back to my community.

And so the Climb for Cancer was born. Now in its sixth year, the annual climb has raised more than $230,000 and climbers have scaled the equivalent height of Mount Everest 100 times over. The proceeds are all donated to the Juavinski Cancer Centre, a leading cancer treatment facility in Hamilton, Ont.

One of the biggest challenges as a volunteer firefighter is life balance – the organization that is needed to schedule work, family, training at the hall, community events and staying in shape.

When working with my clients and motivating our team at the fire hall I suggest that people look at their lifestyles and determine how to make small changes that will make a huge difference. Similar to our training schedules, if fitness isn’t planned, it probably won’t happen.

You have to make exercise a part of your everyday routine, whether its waking up a little bit earlier to get in that workout or going for a walk or run on your lunch break.

Including your family in on your activities helps. Being active with your family is as simple as a swim, a bike ride or a walk after dinner. Both your family and your job depend on your health.

Motivation comes from building a routine and seeing and feeling those incremental changes that allow you to perform to the best of your ability. Staying motivated is knowing you have given your all.


Brian Humphrey lives in Jarvis, Ont., with his wife and two dogs. He was born and raised in Hamilton, Ont., and is a certified personal trainer who owns and operates a private fitness studio called Studio on Frid. Humphrey is the founder and director of an annual cancer fundraiser called Climb for Cancer that has raised more than $230,000 for cancer research. He is a 2nd-class volunteer firefighter in Jarvis with the Haldimand County Fire Department. Humphrey graduated from the Texas Engineering Extension Services (TEEX) recruit fire academy in College Station, Texas, in 2009. He was named trainer of the year in 2007 in the Hamilton Spectator’s reader’ choice awards and philanthropist of the year in 2010 for his work the Climb for Cancer by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Contact him at

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