Written by Sherry Dean
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.
Written by Sherry Dean
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?
Written by Sherry Dean
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.
Written by Sherry Dean
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.
Written by Sean Kingswell
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.
Written by Sherry Dean
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.
Written by Sherry Dean
Firefighters’ legs carry them everywhere and do an overwhelming amount of work on fire grounds. Anyone who has hauled larger-diameter hose any distance or climbed any number of stairs is familiar with the burn in the legs and lungs. Having good leg strength and fitness is a huge help to maintaining movement at work. Watch out for the many myths and misconceptions about leg workouts, which can get in the way of improving.Activating your support muscle groups is essential to a well-performed leg exercise. Always practise good form, which will eventually become a natural movement with far lower risk of injury. 

As with everything we do, our cores fire first. Fitness progress is difficult without a strong core as a foundation. If your back bothers you when you do leg movements it can mean poor core strength or poor positioning. While improving core strength is straightforward, improving form can be a little more difficult or frustrating. It is crucial you do not increase the weight you lift before you overcome the obstacle. 

Begin every exercise by maintaining a neutral spine (rounding your back increases the likelihood of injury) – this means activating your core and glutes, as well as tracking your knees properly during the entire movement. Some people start with excellent form, but lose control as they move through an exercise, especially when lifting something heavy. If you find yourself rounding your back at the bottom of a squat, lower the weight and/or limit the range of motion until you are able to perform the exercise properly. 

When it comes to knee angles, the biggest myth is that you should not go below 90 degrees. Knees are designed to go beyond 90 degrees, and studies show there can be far more stress on knees and hips at lower angles than at higher angles. Do you bend your knees more than 90 degrees on the fire ground? Yes. So doesn’t it make sense to work in a safe environment beyond 90 degrees to ensure better form and strength when you are in a riskier situation? 

The important thing to remember is to work within your capabilities and practice. If you have a pre-existing condition you must work around it safely, but try not to use it as an excuse not to improve. As always, speaking with your physician is a good start, just remember to say you are a firefighter, not a desk worker. You should be prepared for physical work with risk. 

First, warm up – three to five minutes of your choice, but get warm. 

Next, do three to five rounds with one-minute intervals for each movement. If you need to rest during any exercise, rest only long enough to get going again. It’s better to keep moving at a slower pace rather than to stop, but if you have to stop, don’t worry, just get right back in as soon as possible. 
  • Run – 200 metres (approximately one minute). Adjust the distance accordingly. If you are not a runner substitute with cardio movement such as skipping, stair climbing (quickly), jumping jacks or running on the spot.
  • Air squats – Keep feet shoulder width apart and aim to get the crease of your hip below your knees. Activate your glutes and keep your knees pushed to the outside. Keep your weight on your heels. Add a light weight or jump to increase intensity. If you jump, soft, cat-like landings only.
  • Side speed skating – Start with your weight on your left leg, lunge hop in the opposite direction, landing on your right leg and bringing the original leg swinging in behind as far as is comfortable (left foot swings in behind right leg and out to right side). Continue side-to-side movement maintaining a low, stable position, which keeps legs activated during the whole exercise.
  • Run – 200 metres.
  • Alternate jumping lunges – Start with one leg in front of the other, knees bent and hands on hips. Jump in the air and switch legs, lowering back knee to just above the ground. Repeat. To increase intensity, raise arms over head and jump a little higher or more quickly.
  • Step/jump-ups (box jumps) – Use hi-vol, stairs or a box. Step from the ground and fully extend hips at the top. Increase intensity by height, weight and speed. Try using one leg for 30 seconds and switching for the last 30 seconds.
  • Run – 200 metres.
  • Deadlift – A minute can be a long time, so use a fairly light weight. Water jugs and hoses work fine. Start with feet shoulder width apart, a neutral spine is imperative (no rounding) and shins as vertical as possible. Activate your glutes and keep knees pressed outward as you did with your squat. Stand and return to starting position.
  • Glute bridge – Lay on your back with one leg bent and one straight. Squeeze your glutes and press your foot on the floor, forcing the body into a raised straight bridge. Return to the ground, but don’t relax fully. Repeat one side for 30 seconds and switch legs.
  • Run 200 metres.

Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency. She has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Written by Sherry Dean

All firefighters should be physically ready for duty. Most departments, career and volunteer, require recruits to pass a physical test. This column is directed at those who are preparing for recruitment, but the content also applies to firefighters who wish to remain prepared for the physical demands of their jobs.

Written by Sherry Dean
Anyone who has spent any amount of time working out has experienced boredom or lack of motivation. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. The good news is that we benefit from variety. Your body is very smart and adapts by finding easier ways to complete routine tasks. Mixing things up is ultimately an advantage and should improve your results.
Written by Sherry Dean
How do I start lifting weights? What are the best exercises to learn? How do I know if I am doing things properly? These are questions that everyone who works out had to learn at one time. Some folks had a friend or professional help them at the beginning, but for many people a strength program is daunting and frustrating, and often leads to quitting.
Written by Brad Lawrence
The fire hall and the fitness centre both provide opportunities to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. As with the fire hall, the water cooler in the gym is where I find myself continuously learning each and every day. I’m always interested to see what other trainers are trying, not just with their clients’ programs, but also with their personal programs. The latest buzz in the fitness world is on exercise tempo. Knowledge of tempo training has been around for decades, but it has become more prevalent lately in structured training programs.
Written by Sherry Dean
Most of us indulge over the summer months in barbeques, ice cream and perhaps the occasional cold beer or margarita.
Written by Brad Lawrence
Even as an individual with a heavy training-based background, I’ve always been a firm believer that the majority of fitness success comes through the kitchen. Training discipline and nutritional discipline may be different beasts, but it’s tough to make significant gains without a certain level of compliance in both.
Written by Brad Lawrence
It is no secret that a firefighter’s line of work is hard on the body. Most firefighters work hard, train hard, and play hard as well. The sheer physicality of the lifestyle many of us in the fire service choose is rewarding, but also brings aches and pains. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the general population will experience back problems at some point in their lives, and you can bet the number among firefighters is even higher. There are, however, effective ways to dodge those debilitating aches and pains.
Written by Sherry Dean
I recently taught a basic rapid-intervention course to a group of seasoned firefighters. The consensus was that rapid-intervention team (RIT) techniques are very physical; even the smallest firefighters are awkward and heavy in full gear. Whether you are initiating self-rescue techniques, dragging in needed equipment or hauling out a downed firefighter, you need to be fit to be effective at RIT rescue.
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