By David J. Soler
(Excerpt from The Introduction of The Firefighter Functional Fitness Book)
The Problem: “An Unfair Hand”
The deck of cards is stacked against firefighters and their health. When we took the firefighter oath, we never knew that our life expectancy would automatically be reduced by the hazards that confront us. Take your pick: heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, inhalation hazards, dehydration, overexertion, heat stress, sleep deprivation and disorders, traumatic and thermal injuries, psychological and emotional stress, PTSD, infectious disease, physical assault… On and on, the list of hazards and “career side effects” continues with almost no end in sight.
When I signed up to be a firefighter, I knew it was an inherently dangerous job. However, I didn’t realize that dying as a result of active firefighting (i.e. – burns, structural collapse, running out of air, etc.) is such a small statistic compared to all of the other hazards and life-altering side effects of the job. I only know one firefighter that died from a “mayday” on the fire ground on my watch. On the other hand, I personally know numerous(way too many) fellow firefighters and fire service mentors who have died from heart attacks and cancer before age 55. The statistics show that my experience is the accurate portrayal of what a firefighter will experience during a 20 to 30-year career.
I have interviewed many firefighters who have experienced the pain of losing fellow brother/sister firefighters. I find it imperative to bring this message to you with the Federal siren roaring and the air horns blasting.
We have an emergency here! Realistically, you are more likely to experience pain and loss from the firefighter “career side effects” than you will from a fire ground mayday incident. Now, we must still continue to diligently train on strategies, tactics, and firefighter safety to prevent a mayday from occurring on a fire ground. We are doing good at keeping that number relatively low by improving fire ground safety. Let’s keep that up. However, the fire service as a whole (and at the individual level) must place greater emphasis on improving firefighter health and fitness if we are to mitigate the cardiovascular health epidemic.
Changes and Challenges We Face Off The Fireground
Most of us don’t realize that there have been drastic changes to the foods we eat: mass food production, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), chemicals, stress, etc. These changes adversely impact today’s firefighters in a way that wasn’t an issue 30 years ago. Studies and research have demonstrated that the poultry and beef that we eat today is very different from that which the previous generation of firefighters ate. In the standard American diet (S.A.D. for short), we now have an overabundance of processed foods, fast foods, sugar, etc. that all cause negative health effects that didn’t exist 100 years ago. These are just some of the examples of the many changes and challenges that we face off the fire ground, as today’s bravest.
There are no two ways about it, we firefighters must make health, fitness & nutrition, a fundamental part of our “firefighter toolbox.” To pave a road to career success, adopt health and fitness tools early to develop the habits and disciplines of healthy firefighters. Let us live by these great fitness principles, and then pass it on to the future of the fire service. Let us lead by example in all things, especially by being healthy and fit firefighters. When it is finally time to hang up our helmets at the end of our careers, we will leave legacies worth following.
I know this is easier said than done. I know it’s usually easier to grab a bag of potato chips, a donut, or a soda (which are chemically-altered to stimulate our brains and be addictive). We could continue to eat these unhealthy foods, but we’re firefighters. We are made tough and can handle the tough things in life. We hold ourselves to a higher standard, and society honors us for that.
No more excuses. The standard has been raised. Now let us rise to meet the standard!
Firefighter Functional Fitness is Born
Let me introduce Dan Kerrigan and Jim Moss–passionate advocates for firefighter health and fitness. As I have gotten to know them and how they live, I can say that they are realistic, and they are tough. They live the principles found in this book, and that is what I admire about them. Many times, Jim has gotten off a phone call with me to make sure he gets his “workout in.” He has had personal tragedy and seen first-hand the results of a loved one dying too soon because of poor health and fitness habits. Being the student of great firefighters and success principles that I am, I personally wanted to learn from Jim on his motivation and discipline for his health and fitness. As I learned his methodology, I saw some great disciplines and truths that can positively impact the fire service. This is why I wanted him to produce a resource based on what works for him and for other firefighters to live healthy and fit lifestyles.
Then Jim tells me that I need to meet Dan Kerrigan. So, I meet Dan and instantly see his passion for firefighter health and fitness. As I have gotten to know Dan, I see his dedication to maintaining his health and fitness. At almost age 50, he has the body of a 20-year old. Dan and Jim partnered up to do some teaching on health and fitness that I had the chance to review. I knew they could bring a lot of value to the fire service in terms of their health and fitness knowledge, passion, and lifestyles. I knew that we, as up-and-coming firefighters, need better resources that are designed for firefighters on health and fitness. So it was a no-brainer to work with Dan and Jim to bring you Firefighter Functional Fitness.
The Methods & Methodology
At Firefighter Toolbox, we provide you with the essentials of becoming a better firefighter and leader–with no fluff. We don’t have time for the fluff. Well, Dan Kerrigan and Jim Moss bring you the essentials of firefighter fitness with Firefighter Functional Fitness! With an easy-to-read format, it provides the knowledge and habits needed to optimally perform on the fire ground, throughout our careers, and into retirement. It brings you their methods and methodology that is uniquely designed for the firefighting profession.
Firefighter Functional Fitness will address exactly what you need to get your fitness going (or continue the journey) in the right direction. Dan and Jim will keep you on the right path to reaching your God-given physical ability to perform on the fire ground and beyond.
Every Day Is Training Day
Remember: every day is training day. Every day is an opportunity to build ourselves into better firefighters and leaders. Now, with Firefighter Functional Fitness, we can build ourselves into lean, healthy, firefighting machines. We need the mental tools, the physical tools (health and fitness), and the equipment to do this job. Firefighter Functional Fitness is the essential guide to physical success for the job.
Keep up the good work and make sure to leave the fire service better than you found it. May God bless you and protect you as you continue to serve others.
David J. Soler
Author of Firefighter Preplan: The Ultimate Guidebook for Thriving as a Firefighter
Publisher of Firefighter Toolbox
iTunes Top-Rated Podcast Host – The Firefighter Toolbox Podcast
About Firefighter Toolbox
Firefighter Toolbox is on a mission to build better firefighters and leaders by providing the mental tools needed for firefighters to reach their God-given abilities. The fire service is ever-evolving and we, as firefighters, are always facing new dangers within the profession. Learn more at FirefighterToolbox.com.