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Would You Want You Rescuing You?


The day we take the oath, we lose the right to be out of shape and overweight.  We must show up in good physical condition to fulfill the oath we swore.  Donning our SCBA prior to entering a structure fire is not an option, and neither is being fit for duty.

We have one of the most physically demanding jobs in the world. The decisions we make and actions we take have very real consequences. On each and every call we are working to increase the chances of survival for our citizens.  This mission is fueled through our physical preparation.

The gear we wear and tools we carry typically exceed 100 pounds.  Our gear traps our heat preventing cooling and restricts our range of motion, creating additional physical demands unlike most any other profession.  We enter hostile environments with zero visibility and ceiling temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees. We lose water throughout our body rapidly to include our vascular space, compromising our body’s ability to oxygenate our brain, heart and muscles.  In other words, when our vital organs demand the most oxygen, physiologically, we usually provide even less than normal.  

So, I’ll be blunt.

We must respect the demands of the job and physically train in line with these demands.  Our fitness training program must focus on the energy systems and movements we will encounter on the fireground.  Participating in a functional fitness program will help us fulfill our mission.

Functional Fitness is a term used to describe exercises and movements that mimic the real-life tasks we are required to carry out as firefighters.  It is not about exercising to become good at exercising, nor is it about personal physique.  It is about training for optimal fireground performance.

Many of us come from athletic backgrounds, high school, college, and for some, professional sports.  But we can’t continue to train like we did then, because today the mission is different, and the stakes much higher.  

For us, it is not about a winning score; it is about life.

The fire service is moving in the direction to support the mission of having healthy and physically conditioned firefighters. The resources available today are much greater than in the past.  We are now seeing firefighter fitness presented at national conferences. Books have been written to address firefighter functional fitness.  There are social media sites dedicated to providing insight and mindset motivation.  

It is our responsibility to use them!  

It is our responsibility to show up physically prepared and to hold ourselves accountable to the oath we swore by being brutally honest with ourselves.  

So, ask yourself this:

Would you want you rescuing you?  Be honest when you answer, and take the steps necessary to ensure that your answer is a resounding YES.

John Spera is a career firefighter/paramedic, certified strength and conditioning coach and the founder of Fit to Fight Fire. He is responsible for the health, wellness and fitness of his department. His primary focus is increasing firefighter durability and performance through physical conditioning.

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