When you picture a firefighter, you probably think of a really fit dude. But that stereotype may not apply these days. That’s because somewhere between 75 to 90 percent of veteran firefighters are overweight or obese, and most firehouses don’t maintain a fitness standard, according to a recent New York Times story.
All of which is a potentially serious problem. “When we have an actual fire, we go from being at a resting heart rate to getting a huge adrenaline spike,” says Lieutenant Rob “Pip” Piparo of the New Brunswick New Jersey Fire Department.
This sends the average firefighter’s heart racing. If he’s not in shape, he’s at high risk for cardiac arrest—when your heart abruptly beats out of rhythm, causing it to stop pumping blood to your body.
In fact, cardiac arrest is the leading casualty for firefighters, according to a study at Skidmore College.
“For firefighters to perform safely and effectively in a blaze, we have to be at an elite level of fitness,” says Piparo.
Enter 555 Firefighter Fitness, Inc. Founded two years ago by Captain Larry Manasco of the Fort Worth Texas Fire Department, this group—which also includes Piparo and Ewa Hlebowicz of the Barnard New York Fire Department—aims to reduce on-duty fatalities in the fire service by helping firefighters get in peak condition by providing them with free daily workouts via 555 Firefighter Fitness website.
All three are certified personal trainers or CrossFit instructors who design workouts that train firefighters for the fitness they need during an emergency.
“On the fire ground, you’re utilizing your whole body whether you’re crawling, climbing, pushing or pulling,” says Piparo.
And don’t forget, you’re also wearing 70-pounds of gear, which gets heavier as the water soaks into it.
Of course, training to be fire-battle ready could benefit just about anyone. And 555’s motivational tactics can work for anyone, too.
“The whole thought process is that every rep is for that person who lost their life,” says Piparo.
Want to give your sweat session more meaning? Try out this Honor workout. It’s dedicated to Keithroy Maynard, who worked in Engine Company 33 in the East Village in New York, which lost six other firefighters on 9/11.
His twin brother, Kevin Maynard, now also a firefighter himself, reached out to 555Fitness to be a part of making the workout.
He said that when Keithroy moved to Manhattan, he knew there would be lots of stairs he’d have to maneuver. To prepare, he started running stairs while wearing a weighted vest. And with that, you’ll quickly see the inspiration for this routine.
Directions Put on a 30-pound weighted vest and do the exercises in circuit fashion. (No weighted vest? No problem—you can still honor Maynard by doing this workout using only your bodyweight.)
Do all your reps of the first exercise, then immediately move onto the next exercise. Continue through the exercises until you finish all your reps of the final exercise. That’s one round. Rest as needed, then repeat the circuit, performing five total rounds.
Stepups Place your right foot on a step or bench that’s about knee height. Push down through your heel and straighten your leg, and then return to the starting position. See more…