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A Fitness Transformation

Many have shared their personal fitness journeys here over the past few months, so I thought it would be appropriate to share mine as well. We all have started in different places and begun for different reasons, but our end goal is all the same. To improve our functional fitness and to be become the best firefighter we can possibly be.

I have been on and off the fitness wagon for years. I realize that being in shape is not only important for my health but also an extremely important part of being a firefighter. I would hit the gym for a few weeks or months at time and then suddenly life seemed to get in the way and I would find myself like so many going less and then not at all.

One day in January of this past year I woke up and honestly had just had enough. I had watched the scale creep up over the prior months (there must be something wrong with it!) and suddenly it was reading a little over two hundred pounds. Most would say "what's wrong with that?", but for me it was heavy...very heavy. I would wake up in the morning and I would hurt, I had no energy and looking back on it now I just didn't feel good. I was borderline hypertensive, and I had a nagging acid reflux problem that forced me to take prescription medication daily.

So, I had all of these problems before me but the question I had to ask myself was what was I going to do about them? I began research on how I was going to fix this problem, and not temporarily I knew it had to be for good. Just going to the gym and doing a little of this and a little of that was not going to cut it any longer. I had long known that boxers are in fantastic shape. I spent long hours researching boxing and figured that it would work well being a firefighter. I hit the web, found a reputable gym close to home and made the call.  Soon after, I participated in a free class. When I arrived I noticed the difference immediately. There were no weight machines, just a few dumbbells. No row after row of treadmills or elliptical machines; in their place were jump ropes. There was a row of heavy bags and an array of speed bags. Wow, was this was going to be different.

I knew I was not in the best of shape and was not sure quite what to expect. As class began and progressed I realized what I had long known: This was not going to be easy and to be quite honest, I ran out of gas quickly. Somehow I made it through though, and I noticed a few things:

  • Everyone there was nice!
  • There were no typical "gym attitudes".
  • Everyone participating in the class inspired and motivated each other to make it through.


I had convinced myself that a boxing gym was going to be an intimidating place and it was actually quite the opposite. I was soaked with sweat for the first time in a long time and I felt ALIVE!

I found myself taking classes three times a week for the next few weeks. What I came to realize was although they were great workouts, they did not concentrate on actual boxing technique. The classes were designed to just make you work. Speaking to one of the instructors after a class, he explained to me that they were available for one-on-one workouts. I figured if I was going to do this, I was going to actually learn exactly why boxing is called the "sweet science".


That is the day I credit with myself starting this journey of learning this great sport. Some view it as barbaric; however, you have to realize that you can get in the best shape of your life and never have to step foot in a ring. You don't necessarily have to be a boxer, but training like one it is a great idea and it applies directly to a firefighter’s functional fitness in many ways!

I have learned footwork, the art of the jab, conditioning exercises, speed bag work, heavy bag work, the jump rope, punch combinations, angles and so much more. I have not only developed a huge respect for someone that participates in this sport but have come to realize why so many absolutely love it!


Reflecting back I have come to realize just how good this conditioning is to improve firefighter functional fitness.


  • It builds endurance, quickness, and makes you light on your feet
  • It builds lean functional muscle strength,
  • It increases your flexibility
  • It makes you think as you are working. Boxing is as much of a sport for the mind as it is for the body, and thinking while you are working is such an important trait for a firefighter.
  • It is also fun!


Over the last eight months, coupled with revamping my eating habits (that is a subject for another article):

  • I have lost close to 25 pounds
  • My blood pressure has dropped significantly
  • I no longer take acid reflux medication daily
  • My energy has increased ten-fold
  • I have a new found mental clarity
  • I wake up in the morning feeling great


If you find yourself in the situation I was in, I urge you to do something about it and to start today!  No one is going to do it for you; you need to do it for you and your family. In the upcoming weeks and months I will be sharing with you through blog posts and videos some of the exercises I have learned, why they are good for you as a firefighter, and how they can be done anywhere at virtually any time with little to no equipment. Let your journey to a new you begin today!

If you have any questions, or would like more information on how to begin a boxing conditioning program please feel free to contact me.

This article was written by The First Twenty Firefighter Functional Training Panel member Fire Chief Robert Fling of Dix Hills Fire Department, Long Island, NY.

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