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Can anyone tell me of some exercise/drill that will help me lower my Air  intake, it seems i cant catch my breath while doing F.F operations. Don't know if it is Adrenalin or my body is just not getting  enough air.......Can use some info/help on this as my chief wont let me participate in Operations till we figure what will help me out

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-Keith, instead of depending on a "second wind" kinda thing that you will hear mentioned and may or may not even happen and has no data to support such claims as restoring cognition and fine motor control, firefighters should learn the breathing techniques that are used by military special forces, snipers and police officers; it's called tactical breathing

-Unlike a "second wind" (see below) Tactical Breathing allows one to assert deliberate control over the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for involuntary elevation of the heart rate, increased respiration and a decrease in cognitive thought. Decreasing respiration frequency and depth obviously allows for a long use time of an scba. But it also has several additional benefits.

-Tactical breathing allows one to willfully engage the parasympathetic nervous system and deliberately slow and control respiration making breathing more efficient, deliberately and almost instantly decreasing the heart rate while improving cognitive reasoning through increased perfusion and oxygenation to the brain. 

-Tactical Breathing is a skill that allows for deliberate and immediate biomechanics control while a "second wind" is more of an adjustment period the human body goes through after exertion and which neither restores fine motor skill nor cognition.

-Tactical Breathing is simply a large inhalation thru the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds; exhale a controlled breath for 4 seconds and pause for another 4 seconds. Repeat the cycle until composure is regained, and breathing and heart rate are back under control. Many practitioners of Tactical Breathing also experience full/better peripheral vision and improved fine motor skill during high stress encounters as well as clear thinking. These features are biomechanically based facts resulting from proper controlled breathing which restores to pre stressor capacity proper tissue/muscle perfusion and brain oxygenation.

-I have been teaching this technique to rookie firefighters, with fantastic success reports from actual use (myself included), for several years now after learning the technique from Lt. Col. Grossman.

-The following is taken from

One of the most common breathing techniques for calming yourself down is Four Count Breathing, also referred to as Combat Breathing. Four Count breathing requires you to consciously regulate the amount of airflow your body is receiving over four second intervals. While it can be a difficult technique to master under extreme stress, the principle of the breathing is simple. Breathing is as follows:

  1. Slowly inhale a deep breath over 4 seconds.
  2. Hold the breath in for 4 seconds.
  3. Slowly exhale the breath out over 4 seconds.
  4. Hold the empty breath for 4 seconds.
  5. Repeat until your breathing is under control.

Use Four Count Breathing when you need to quickly get control of your breathing. It will take focus and control to maintain this rhythm. This technique may need to be used to silence any heavy and labored breathing that you may have developed from a long run carrying lots of gear. You may discover that an enemy is nearby and do not want to announce your presence or give away your position with the sounds of labored breathing.

Tactical Breathing will also help alleviate the affects adrenaline and stress

-Besides the previously mentioned tactical breathing techniques, you should seriously consider a visit with your doctor and an increase in cardio training. 

If it only happens when you're on air the answer is simply to get used to being on air. Mask up and spend some time on a treadmill, bike or better yet eliptical. The human body conforms to the demands made on it. Being on air will become the new normal and your consumption will drop. Like any other exercise, it won't happen over night but it will happen. Make a group activity of it or a competition. Time will pass unoticed and you'll see faster results if you have fun doing it. Most of doing anything is mental first then physical. Good luck.


Not knowing your age or physical fitness level it's hard to make any suggestions for correcting your problem?  You have to remember that firefighters are the "Olympic Athletes" that don't get the chance to properly warm up prior to an event (the fire, rescue call, etc.).  With that said, it is our responsibility to prepare for the un-scheduled event by participating in a regular exercise program that includes resistance, cardio-vascular and flexibility exercises.  Your local gym can be a great resource!  The trainers there can tailor a "job-related" program that will address the stresses related to our profession.  Especially those related to the first 5 to 10 minutes of a fire event when we are typically under manned and trying to do the work of two or more individuals.

Fire Engineering can also offer specific information for your above questions.  The issue is not new to the service.  Good luck Brother

Stay safe

Mike Clark

Instructor Emeritus

NH Fire Academy 

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