Mid-Atlantic Rescue Systems, Inc.

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Make the most of the Gym… “Train Your Brain – Train Your Body”

These days I am seeing more and more Gyms in the Fire Stations I visit. It’s no secret that physical fitness plays an important role in the Fire Service. Yes, I have touched on this subject numerous times in the past, but I feel it’s a message worth repeating. Physical fitness is an essential firefighting tool. As such, just like the apparatus and other firefighting tools in the firehouse, gym equipment requires proper training/instruction to use it both safely and effectively.

As we are all aware, training sessions (and drills) take place in the Firehouse all the time. Subsequently, it makes perfect sense to treat physical fitness training like any other training. Train your Brain – Train your Body. Knowledge is a powerful thing, and training your body to put that academic training into action can be just as powerful and therefore vital. So, thankfully more and more members of the Fire Service are getting into the Gym. But is everyone comfortable with what to do once they get in there?

Once you outfit the gym, begin by seeing that all participants receive medical clearance from a licensed physician. Next have a Fitness Professional provide your members/personnel with the information and “hands on” training they need to make the most of your physical fitness equipment. It is recommended that the Fitness Professional assess the current fitness level of each member. This can be done by obtaining a medical history and by administering a series of simple tests to evaluate such things as weight, body fat percentage, strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance etc.

The information obtained in the assessment can then be used by the Fitness Professional to design and administer an individualized (written) exercise plan. It not only provides valid information to design an appropriate program, it also serves as baseline data with which to measure change (progress) by comparing the results to those of future assessments. This simplifies program modification.

If you choose to forgo the much recommended Program design - At the very least all members should attend an orientation and be ‘qualified’ on each piece of equipment in the Gym. Such information includes, but is not limited to, how to adjust the machine to accommodate the size of the exerciser, how to adjust the intensity level of the machine, and of course proper technique for using the machine. From a liability standpoint this also serves to insure that the users are aware of the manufacturer’s safety recommendations.

In addition to Fitness Assessment, Personalized Program Design and Orientation, there are a number of ways to give your Physical Fitness Program some valuable support. Here are some suggestions as to how to take your Physical Fitness Program to the next level.

NEWSLETTER - Add a Fitness Section to your Newsletter. If you don’t already have a Newsletter, put together some Fitness Facts and distribute it monthly.

WEBSITE - devote a section on your website to Fitness. If possible make it interactive so that personnel have a place to go and exchange information.

MEETINGS, CLASSES AND DRILLS - Occasionally, why not begin scheduled meetings with a group warm-up and stretch or at the very least a short presentation on Physical Fitness and its importance in the Fire Service? It can be as simple as providing a single fact/statistic or tip. You already have a group assembled; make it an opportunity to get information out or a message across.

BULLETIN BOARD – Post Fitness Tips, exercise suggestions or interesting statistics to keep Fitness in the forefront of the minds of your members/personnel. You can use humor/cartoons or go the more serious route with Firefighter Death and Injury reports.

WORKSHOPS – schedule a workshop provided by a Fitness Professional where members can gain Fitness and Wellness knowledge as well as practical experience.

WEEKLY GROUP WORKOUTS – schedule weekly workouts – even if it is just an outdoor walk with or without Gear.

NUTRITIONAL COUNSELING – proper nutrition is a key component to any Fitness/Wellness program. Schedule a session with a Registered Dietician to provide important usable information to help your members/personnel understand and adopt good dietary habits.

SMOKING CESSATION – quitting smoking is one of the single most important steps an individual can take to avoid premature death due to cardiovascular disease. Since Heart attacks are the leading cause of premature death in The Fire Service, why not offer a smoking cessation program?

”Train Your Brain – Train Your Body” – Stay Safe!

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LORI HODGKINSONSenior Correspondent

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