Wellness
Written by Elias Markou
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.
Written by Nick Halmasy
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.  
Written by Sean Kingswell
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
Written by Jennifer Grigg
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.
Written by Sean Kingswell
A structure fire. Adrenaline-filled fire crews work the irons and power tools as their SCBAs supply much-needed air. Hand lamps provide a dim glow as the light reflects off the blinding, acrid smoke. Over deafening noises, radios attempt to keep crews in constant contact. A centrifugal pump whines as it pushes water through a hoseline and out the open nozzle. Diligent personnel and their important tools work in unison until their properly applied extinguishing agent attains the benchmark, “loss stopped.”  
Written by Elias Markou
Have you ever tested the amount of heavy metal you have in your body? Do you know which toxic elements are stored deep inside your tissues? These are very important questions all people should ask themselves, but it’s even more important that firefighters do so.
Written by Elias Markou
Did you know that cabbage is the new kale, and that broccoli is back in style? I wanted to kick off the new year with a fun discussion about vegetables. Many of you woke up on Jan. 2 and probably made a few weight-loss and diet resolutions. If we have this discussion on dieting a few weeks from now, I won’t be surprised to find a few of you have already moved on to sugar and muffins. I want to expand this discussion about food into an inspirational talk about the power of vegetables. Don’t think of this shift to vegetables as another weight-loss diet; rather, look at it as the right way to eat as the human species. I can already hear the moans and groans. If you’ve ever questioned the power of what we choose to put in our bodies daily, then you need to read on. I just might make a believer out of you.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I haven’t had to (and God willing, won’t ever have to) deal with a breast-cancer scare, or any other kind of cancer scare for that matter.
Written by Arjuna George
This column is dedicated to my mom, who passed away recently after a short battle with cancer.
Written by Elias Markou
Almost 30 years ago, October’s breast-cancer awareness movement helped bring cancer prevention into the mainstream.
Written by Debbie Higgins
Cancer is a sensitive subject. Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Debbie Higgins spoke with breast-cancer survivors Rayanne Dubkov, Donna Johnson and Monica Rosmarin, who agreed to share their stories of strength and perseverance, love, and loss.
Written by Jay Shaw
Have you ever wanted to climb to the top of a skyscraper and shout out your message, scream at the moon, or yell at the top of your lungs?
Written by Carol-Lynn Chambers
Firefighter and photographer Kim Fitzsimmons said the best accessories a girl can have are confidence and a Halligan.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
In January of this year, Bell Canada actively promoted the use of social networking to raise awareness and funding for mental health initiatives and raised almost $5.5 million
Written by James Careless
The day of the Sunrise Propane explosion in Toronto in August 2008, Acting District Chief Bob Leek delivered an all-terrain vehicle to onsite colleagues and stayed to help with the evacuation of thousands of residents of the north Toronto neighbourhood where the incident occurred.
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