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5-5-5 Firefighter Fitness: What's your "why"?

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September 01, 2016 | NATIONAL ROBERT "PIP" PIPARO, Correspondent
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.

What's your "why"? It seems like an odd question for a fire service newspaper to be asking, however; when it comes to fitness in the fire service, I feel it's the key question that we should all be asking ourselves and each other.

Fitness in the fire service has been, and continues to be, a shelved issue. It's continually put on the back-burner by firefighters, chiefs and department administrators. At times when it does come to the foreground, the true "why" of it is lost in products, plans and paperwork.

So, what's your "why"? It seems almost offensive or wrong to ask this to emergency service providers, because our "why" begins the day that we place our hand on the bible, swearing an oath to protect the lives and property of the citizens we serve. That, my friends, is a monumental task in itself, and one that puts both our bodies and minds at risk to host medical issues every single day.

This article could end here, with me giving you three simple steps to follow: become a firefighter, swear an oath, and make fitness a priority. But year-after-year, the lead killer of firefighters is from cardiac-related disease and year-after-year, nothing changes to fix it. We keep moving on, forgetting the "why," and pretending like everything is okay. Are we lying to ourselves? Or are we just too afraid to put in the required work, which in the end, will only make us better at doing what it is we claim to love.

When we hear the word "fitness," we are constantly bombarded with the "how-to's," which go hand-in-hand with the "ultimate weight loss products," that are usually featured on infomercials, in gyms, and now even in our own service. Let me give you some insight that I'm sure many of you are already aware of. There is no "one" specific product, or fitness discipline, that will make you become a healthier firefighter. Countless departments have spent tens-of-thousands-of-dollars on high-end gym equipment, expensive trainers, and on gimmick products and programs, but they rarely see positive results because they never gave their people the "why."

Our fitness levels need to be near a professional athlete's level. No one reading this can deny the fact that the job we perform at a fire is not physically demanding, and in addition to the physical demands, we are asked to perform it under conditions deemed as extremely dangerous. Is your "why" starting to creep into your mind yet? Because it should be! Over the years, we have wasted our time making fire service fitness complicated, when it really doesn't have to be!

Here I am, asking you to think of your "why," when I haven't even given mine yet. Sort of hypocritical, right?! My first "why" is my family. My wife and my sons are my life, and I could never imagine leaving them early simply because I refused to commit 30-45 minutes each day to making myself healthier. My other "why" is for my co-workers, my crew, and all the men and women I pledged an oath to protect every single day. My last "why" is my 5-5-5 Firefighter Fitness family, who day-in and day-out, have found their "why" and are living the "Train Hard Do Work" lifestyle that 5-5-5 Fitness encompasses.

By this point, you should all have a glimpse of what your "why" is, along with a promise to yourselves to start making some positive changes. But I know it's not that simple, and it would be wrong of me to just leave you here to do it all alone. What's simply amazing, thanks to technology, is that there are over 70,000 other firefighters just like you, who follow 5-5-5 Fitness and are ready and waiting to support you along your fitness journey. You're never alone when it comes to fitness, just like you're never alone when fighting fires!

Check back in future issues for more fitness tips from Pip.

About Robert "Pip" Piparo:

Robert, better known as "Pip," is currently a Lieutenant with the City of New Brunswick Fire Department, located in New Brunswick, N.J., and has been there for 12-years. Pip has been a part of 5-5-5 Fitness for three-years.

About 5-5-5 Fitness:

5-5-5 Fitness is a non-profit organization, founded by motivated firefighters with one specific mission: to reduce cardiac related firefighter line-of-duty deaths. Each and every day, they stay true to their mission by providing workouts free of charge and also by providing free fitness equipment to fire departments, nationwide. What started as an idea has grown into a call for change within the emergency services field. They have chosen to not accept the "it's because we have always done it that way" mentality, but instead have chosen to stand up and lead the charge for change.

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ROBERT "PIP" PIPAROCorrespondent

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