What are you doing to improve your health and fitness on the job?

By Lt. Michael Swiman – Wake Forest (NC) Fire Department
For LION Connects

Lt. Michael Swiman of the Wake Forest Fire Department

What are you doing to improve your health and fitness at work? With more departments implementing NFPA standards on health and safety, it is up to you to make sure you stay ahead of the game. Today’s departments offer basic workout equipment and many even require their personnel to do some form of physical training (PT) while on shift. How are you maximizing your workout efforts? We all have a an idea or basic plan of what we want to do when performing PT, but are you stuck in a rut or have you plateau?

First and foremost is proper nutrition. WE ARE WHAT WE EAT! Are you and your crew experts on the local restaurants and can recite the menu from memory, or do you make an effort to cook a healthy meal? I know that the toughest decision made at the station is what the meals for the day are and it gets harder to make those choices when you are in a multi company station. The most basic way to ensure proper nutrition is portion control, staying away from battered and fried foods (which seem to be a staple here in the south) and incorporating fruits and vegetables in your meals and throughout the day. Try to eat 5 small meals instead of 3 big meals. This will make you feel better throughout the day and eliminate the need to gorge out during dinner. Thirsty? We should be drinking anywhere from 3 to 4 liters of water daily and cut down on the sugary drinks.

People ask me all the time, what supplements do I take? My answer to that is, it varies from each individual needs. I recommend my personal training clients take a multivitamin to fill in the gaps in their nutritional needs. Obviously there are numerous other supplements you can purchase when you walk into a store. Do your homework and research. Ask the store employee, your personal health care provider, or a fitness professional on any supplements you are thinking of taking.

For some, the sound of hearing the iron bang against each other, or the feel of a long run fulfills their desire for exercise. To maximize your training, you need to incorporate both into your workouts.  It does not matter how strong you are if your cardio-respiratory system cannot keep up, and vice-versa. I’m not saying you need to go train for a marathon, or lift to compete on stage at the Mr. Olympia. Basic well constructed circuit training can cover these needs. Take the workout outside and do a CrossFit workout, or use a professionally produced workout program such as P90X or Insanity. Encourage some competition within the different companies or shifts at your department, by doing a job related agility course or a something similar.

Lastly there are plenty of resources out there to help setting up a fitness program. In just about every fire service trade magazine, there are plenty of articles dealing with health and fitness written by some of the most knowledgeable and competitive people today. Several leading organizations such as NFPA, NVFC, and IAFF can provide a basic outline or guidance in putting a program together. Also look outside the department for guidance. Many gyms will assist you and the department developing programs or even allow you to use the facilities and a free or minimal charge.

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