Health and Wellness

Well-rounded firefighters are more than strong. If the elevator doesn’t work and you don’t have the endurance to climb the 15 storeys, the fact you have the strength to smash in the door is irrelevant. Being able to sprint through two kilometres of woods to get to a brush fire is fruitless if you can’t carry the pump and supplies. There are many benefits of developing a combination of strength and endurance. You can and need to do both.
There is no doubt that fire fighting, weight training and endurance training are hard on our bodies. I have never heard anyone say the older they get, the easier it is to recover. Injury is a given when you lead an active lifestyle, but there are many ways to treat and work through an injury. One of the better approaches is to prevent injuries before they happen, but how do you do that?
When it comes to personal responsibility for health and wellness, most folks avoid the truth. It’s tough to admit that you are not doing the things you should be. To add insult to injury, through inactivity, you not only fall short on accountability, you most definitely put yourself at a higher risk of health problems.
Recently I read yet another article on HIIT, high intensity interval training. The author touted HIIT as the latest greatest. It is hardly that. HIIT has been around for decades, but science does continue to support the benefits and results of this type of training.
Fire fighting is a physical job, with its most valuable resource being capable manpower. Most fire departments require a test of physical fitness prior to employment, and may offer varying degrees of wellness programming for active members.
Our department has just completed a training program with our recruits. The program lasted three months, and a significant component was a daily physical workout at 7 a.m., rain or shine. Although the day’s training can be rigorous, the morning routines included runs, circuits, an obstacle course, yoga and mobility.
As I sit down to write this article, a lot of big things are happening in my life. My beautiful wife is 32 weeks pregnant and our home is under renovation. Throw in work, kids and activities and my deadline for this article has well passed (sorry to my very patient editors).
Now that fall is upon us and the cold winter months are right around the corner, this is my favourite time to spend free days in the kitchen creating some new recipes. I like to think of a new dish as a blank canvas; what can I do to make this canvas really pop? I have always prided my cooking on bold flavours, and I have learned over the years that spices are what bring the blank canvas to life.
Finally friends, summer is upon us. As Canadians, we patiently wait for these few cherished months to get outside, reacquaint ourselves with our neighbours and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. In the cooking world, summer means it’s time to roll out the grill. It is hard to beat the satisfaction of standing over your grill on a beautiful summer day. Needless to say, everyone loves a good barbecue.
For good reason, firefighters pay a considerable amount of attention to keeping equipment properly fuelled.  Trucks, saws, fans and generators are regularly and meticulously checked. We all know how a machine runs with the wrong fuel or not enough fuel. It is equally important that firefighters fuel their bodies properly every day.
I can hardly believe I have been sharing recipes, tips and cooking stories from life in the firehouse for more than six years. My first column spoke to the camaraderie and huge benefits that a platoon can experience from time spent together in the kitchen.
We have all heard the adage: a family that cooks together, stays together. As a firehouse chef for 16 years, an avid cook at home and a lover of all things food, I couldn’t agree more with this motto.There is something about meal time that brings people together. At home, meals are opportunities for family members to catch up with each other during busy days, to sit and talk without distraction and to reconnect. My wife Andrea and I value every opportunity and make it a priority to sit and enjoy meal time with our children. We love to cook together and we love to eat our creations together. This simple philosophy has built a strong and very happy family, and the reward is evident in our family’s bond. The same philosophy holds true in our fire houses. In the fire service, we pride ourselves on teamwork and unity, whether it is at an emergency scene, community event or in and around our stations. Eating and cooking is part of our firefighter culture and I have seen the immense team-building benefits that result from a platoon cooking together. When all hands are involved in the preparation of a meal, members can easily bond and feel as though they are part of a team. As with a family at home, taking the time to cook, eat and reconnect over a good meal will do your platoon a world of good.To get the biggest rewards out of cooking together you need to get your family or platoon present and involved in the kitchen, whether it is in the prep, chopping or dicing, standing by a pot stirring or mixing, or even on clean-up duty. My most-requested recipes at the fire house and at home all have one common ingredient: they are dishes that are made together. At my fire house perhaps the most-requested meal is my jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos (see recipe). This is one of my favourite meals to make and eat as well. What makes these tacos so special is, of course, the super flavourful crispy-coated fish, but now, after years of making this dish, everyone on my platoon has a hand in making a component. One member makes the pico de gallo, one makes the avocado lime crema, another makes the slaw and Sriracha aioli while a few of us coat and cook the fish. With everyone in the kitchen, we talk, laugh, joke and create something special together, and every member appreciates the process and the final product. My platoon cooks and eats together at every opportunity and I know this, in part, contributes to our strong team bond. At home the same benefits apply. During busy weeknights, my family keeps things simple, yet still takes the time to cook and eat together. Our recipe for mushroom and burrata lasagnette is well worth the minimal effort required. As I prepare the lasagnette, my wife is by my side helping to chop and prep a simple salad. Our children share our passion for cooking and are learning as I did as a boy, watching and helping my family cook. Even the smallest kitchen tasks, such as cracking eggs, measuring flour, mixing and stirring, are exciting and fun for children. Weekends and breakfast are perfect opportunities to create something special with the kids. My recipe for cheesecake pancakes is just right for young chefs in the family to lend a hand and make something they will love to eat.I encourage everyone to embrace the philosophy of families that cook together, stay together, both in your homes and fire houses. Soon the philosophy becomes habit and a way of life.Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario. He was recently featured in Food Network’s Chopped Canada.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   @StationHouseCCo Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos Mushroom and burrata lasagnette Mushroom and burrata lasagnette Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon   View the embedded image gallery online at: Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacosIngredients 1 kg (2 lbs) fresh haddock fillets or any mild whitefish 1 cup flour, seasoned with Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and Old Bay seasoning 2 eggs beaten 2 bags jalapeño kettle chips, crushed Canola or peanut oil Corn tortillas Spicy avocado lime crema Pico de gallo Sriracha aioli  - (See recipes at / health and wellness / nutrition) 1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded Instructions Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a large deep skillet to 350 F. Set up a breading station by having a bowl for each the seasoned flour, beaten eggs and crushed kettle chips. Dust the fish pieces lightly with seasoned flour. Then dip fish into beaten eggs, then toss in the crushed kettle chips pushing down on them to make them stick. Repeat the process with the remaining fish. When your oil is hot enough, fry fish for a couple of minutes per side or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towel and season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve heat the corn tortillas as per package directions. Spread the avocado lime crema on a tortilla and place fried fish on top. Add shredded cabbage and garnish with pico de gallo and Sriracha aioli. Enjoy! Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered baconIngredients 1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced 2 tbsp strawberry jam 2 tbsp maple syrup 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/4 cup buttermilk 1/4 cup vegetable oil + 1 tbsp for cooking 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda Pinch of kosher salt 2 cups chopped frozen cheesecake 1 tbsp butter Butter, confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream, for topping (optional) Maple peppered bacon (directions below) 1 large egg Instructions Mix the strawberries, jam and maple syrup in a small pot and simmer over low heat as you prepare the pancakes. Preheat the oven to 200 F. Pulse the flour, buttermilk, egg, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheesecake pieces, keeping them whole. Melt the butter and the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, pour about 1/4 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake. Cook until bubbly, about four minutes, then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown. Transfer pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Serve topped with the strawberry sauce, and top with butter, confectioners sugar or whipped cream. Maple peppered bacon: Position wire racks on two rimmed baking sheets. Lay one pound bacon in a single layer on the racks and bake seven minutes at 375 F. Brushing bacon with maple syrup and continue baking until caramelized, about 25 minutes, flipping, brushing with syrup and seasoning with pepper every five minutes. Let cool. Enjoy with the pancakes! Mushroom and burrata lasagnetteIngredients 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided 2 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing 1½ pounds mixed mushrooms (such as chanterelle, crimini, and oyster), cut into bite-size pieces Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper 1 large shallot, finely chopped ⅓ cup dry white wine 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves 1 cup ricotta ¼ cup heavy cream 1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped 6 fresh pasta sheets (about 7x5 inches) or 12 dried lasagna noodles 8 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick 1 cup finely grated Parmesan 6 large fresh basil leaves Instructions Preheat oven to 425 F. Heat two tablespoons of the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and starting to crisp, about eight to 10 minutes. Add shallots, wine, thyme and remaining one tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the skillet is dry, about five minutes. Scoop mushrooms into a bowl and set aside. Combine ricotta, cream and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Working in batches, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 30 seconds. (If using dried noodles, cook until al dente.) Transfer noodles to a large-rimmed baking sheet as you go, brushing with oil and overlapping as needed. Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture in a small coquette or ramekin and top with a pasta sheet (if using dried, use two noodles side by side). Spread a large spoonful of ricotta mixture over pasta, scatter some mushrooms over, then add a piece of burrata. Top evenly with some Parmesan and one basil leaf. Repeat layering process (starting with noodles and ending with basil) a few more times; finish with the last of the Parmesan and a grind or two of pepper. Cover lasagnette with foil and bake until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool at least five minutes before serving. Enjoy! Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario. He was recently featured in Food Network’s Chopped Canada.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   @StationHouseCCo
For firefighters, fitness and well-being is one of our top priorities. There are many reasons why a firefighter should take care of his or her well-being, including performance, survival, customer service and more. That being said, a top motivator should be injury prevention.
Phil Badanai is a fighter. At 44 years-old, he is a firefighter, military veteran, international athlete, a proud father and recent grandfather, overcoming a series of physical and mental health challenges along the way.
As a naturopathic doctor, I have been helping firefighters detox their bodies for 15 years. At my practice, I have introduced the use of far infrared sauna therapy to the detoxification program. In the last few months, I have been called upon by a number of fire departments to report on the medical evidence that supports the use of far infrared sauna therapy.
The smoke and debris have settled. Hot spots have been extinguished. The trucks are clean and back in service. The constant hum of the engines and the roar of the flames are starting to wear off, but your shoulders still ache from your pack. The call is over, but your mind races. You are unable to leave the day’s work behind. Inevitably, you take some of the incident home with you.  
Any quality fitness and wellness coach knows there is both an art and a science to guiding the wellness of others. The science is extensive and includes nutritional concepts or exercise physiology, but the art, that’s the human side.As important as the science is, the art entails possibly the most challenging elements of long-term wellness: adherence and compliance. Compliance is properly following the steps of a good wellness plan and adherence is sticking with it over time. These elements are absent either because the person is unaware he or she is making poor wellness choices, or, in most cases, the person knows what he or she should be doing, but is simply unable to see it through. In addition, those who are already fit may have an it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude about wellness deterioration. The reality is that life is an evolution with many hurdles and a decline can happen to many unsuspecting and well-intended firefighters. The difference between a lack of adherence and compliance for civilians and firefighters is the consequences. For firefighters, wellness affects performance and is truly life or death, impacting both their crews and their families.So how do firefighters improve or maintain adherence and compliance? First, we need to understand the depth of firefighter wellness, which is multifaceted and interwoven. Wellness includes fitness, nutrition, sleep, injury prevention, rest and recovery, stress management, flexibility, cardio and cancer prevention. Next, look at the aim and magnitude of personal effort, which is represented as motivation. There are both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to wellness. Intrinsic motivators come from within the individual and for a firefighter can be health, family, performance for crew, performance for customers, life safety and professionalism. Setting an example by modelling for newer firefighters while inspiring others can also motivate. Extrinsic motivators generally come from outside the individual and can include praise or financial rewards, which may not always be as realistic in the public sector. My advice to any firefighter is to make wellness a career-long personal expectation and commitment while continually developing positive and successful habits. You would, of course, keep up your medical or extrication skills, so why not everyday fitness and wellness?There are many possible strategies when it comes to adherence. A wellness plan, especially for firefighters, needs to be meaningful as well as balanced. An unhealthy level of rigidity can prevent long-term success, and dwelling on small setbacks is never helpful. One strategy is creating extrinsic motivators in the form of rewards, which should not always be food. Social support can also increase adherence. Create a team of advocates by speaking with those in your life about the importance of wellness for firefighters and your strategies. Pre-planning can be as important in firefighter wellness as it is in fire fighting. Plan workouts in advance, prepare food and fit sleep into your schedule. Documenting and journaling have been shown to improve adherence and play an active role in systematic progression. Firefighters should use fire-hall downtime effectively by exercising or enacting other wellness concepts at the appropriate level, and balance their wellness during off time; remember that being active is not the same as exercising. Developing a personal ethos can be a constant reminder of individual values, which are your choices that guide your day-to-day actions and influence decisions. Follow and embrace wellness initiatives in your municipality, whether they are employer driven or self-directed. Buy-in was the action step in my first column of this series in the April issue of Canadian Firefighter, which involved understanding the importance of different facets of firefighter wellness and performing a personal inventory on each. The action step for this column is considering compliance strategies as well as goal setting. Set timeframes for both short- and long-term goals, and be sure to look at the different facets of wellness beyond just aesthetics or fitness. It is important, however, not to set too many goals at once. Goals need to be written down and verbalized to a few friends, colleagues or family members in order to improve their effectiveness. In selecting goals make sure you are focused on the specific scope of each element and determine a metric for success; consider your role as a firefighter and as an individual and be sure the goals are reasonable. The greatest firefighting strategies are only effective if executed properly at the task level. The same applies to firefighter wellness; a plan is needed but equally important is that it is effectively followed and maintained. The difference is that a fire may be out in minutes or hours while the passion for firefighter wellness should burn for a whole career.Sean Kingswell is an experienced professional firefighter, personal trainer, fitness coach and the creator of the FIRESAFECADETS program.   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   @firesafecadets
In early February I took the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) train-the-trainer course in Mississauga, Ont., and it changed me, challenged me, and at the same time gave me hope. My own experiences with mental-health issues were precisely what attracted me to the course, and I was glad to have been chosen as one of the first 40 fire-service members in Ontario to be accepted into the program.

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