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Take a Look in the Mirror

I was recently sitting in the doctor’s office after completing my annual physical.  As a Fire Chief, this is a moment that I had worked diligently towards the last 14 months.  This painstaking process would ensure that every member of my department received an NFPA 1582 compliant annual physical as well as the full implementation of a comprehensive health and wellness program in my organization. 

The annual physicals are complimented by:

  • Health assessments
  • Fully equipped gyms and equipment in all stations,
  • Dedicated workout times,
  • Annual physical assessment testing (PAT),
  • Mental and behavior health assistance, quarterly educational courses for all members,
  • Return to work clearance including functional capacity examinations (FCE),
  • A re-write of all job descriptions to ensure physical fitness and wellness components as well as essential job functions inclusion at every level. 

Sitting in this office meant “mission accomplished” – at the end of a long 14 months and this was reality coming true.  I was realizing the fruits of my labor, and I knew that my personnel had one of the elite health and wellness programs in the fire service at their fingertips.  My personnel had expressed their gratitude for the opportunity and support while many others expressed their concern and worry over aspects of the program.  Individual nervousness was to be understood because the fire service fears the unknown; however, support for the program was consistent and overwhelming especially when they completed the new Physical agility test for the first time. 

I had done exactly what my personnel wanted and more importantly needed in today’s fire service.  I realize all too well that they are the most important resource that we have, and we have to take care of them in every way; especially their health and wellness.

So as I sat their waiting on the doctor to brief me with my results, why was I nervous?  Why could I feel my pulse racing and know that my blood pressure was high? 

Because I knew the results without even hearing them. 

I knew that over the last two years I had been developing poor habits and behaviors that were unhealthy.  I had looked in the mirror that morning and I knew what the Doctor was going to tell me.  Nothing alarming: I was putting on weight, eating poorly and drinking alcohol too often.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you already have a passion for what we do and our fitness and well-being are without compromise.  However, how about those members in our department that do not have the same fitness aspirations?  This is the group who we should focus our efforts upon if we are truly going to make a difference in our profession.  They have also looked into the mirror. 

They know. 

But in many cases, fear of the unknown (and more commonly fear of the known) stand in their way.  What are you doing to help these members, these brothers, in your department or better yet, the fire service?

Moderation is Key

After the doctor finished, I knew what I had to do.  The truth can hurt but it can also be very revealing.  In my case the solution is easy: moderation.  Moderation in our life helps us to achieve what we want regardless of our personal physical fitness and wellness goals.  But we have to know where we are to know where we need to go.  Setting fitness goals and living a lifestyle of moderation is key in avoiding “burnout” and regression. 


We all know our weaknesses – we do not need a doctor to tell us that we have put on too much weight in the last year, we need to watch what we eat, we need reduce consumption of alcoholic beverages, and we need to take care of our bodies because we are not getting any younger.  Help your brothers and sisters; take a look in the mirror and answer the questions:

  1. Are you happy with what you see? 
  2. Do you want to change the way you look and feel? 
  3. Do you want to see your kids and grandkids grow up?
  4. Do you want to enjoy the retirement that you have been working so hard for?

If you answered yes to these questions, do what needs to be done for yourself, your family, and the brothers and sisters that you serve beside.  Focus on the quality of life and the life you want to lead.  Time is limited, and in our profession it is even shorter. 

Take a look in the mirror, and solve the problems that you see in front of you.

This article was written by Firefighter Functional Training Panel Member Fire Chief Jake Rhoades of Kingman Fire Department, AZ.

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