Firefighter Fitness, Training, Out of Shape - CRACKYL Magazine
By Aaron Zamzow

One of the biggest mistakes we make with our fitness goals is that we set “monstrous” goals that are extremely hard to obtain. 

You do not know exactly when it happened but one day you look down toward your feet and they are not there. Instead of seeing shoes, you see this mound of clothing covering 20 to 30 pounds of fat that you have acquired over the last few years. Along with the excess skin and bodyfat you also now realize you are out of shape and lack the energy you used to. 

It is a humbling day; you suddenly realize you may be “that person” on your crew that everybody worries about. You are not alone with this realization. Look around your department. On average, most first responders gain 2-5 lbs. a year. As the years accumulate, you change your uniform size and keep thinking that you are gaining muscle not fat. 

The good news is that there is always time to make positive changes and improve your health and fitness. 

Look in the mirror 

This is a very humbling and eye-opening thing to do. But, to make positive change you need to first understand where you are starting from. This is the step where you stop saying you are “big-boned” and that muscle weighs more than fat. I recommend getting your body composition calculated and going to the doctor to do your annual physical. You can then use these numbers and information as your starting point. 

Set your goal 

Now that you know where you are “truly” at, it’s time to start looking ahead. Set a realistic goal. One of the biggest mistakes we make with our fitness goals is that we set “monstrous” goals that are extremely hard to obtain. 

Set a goal to:

  • Work out 12 times in the next month (minimum of 30 minutes each time)
  • Eat vegetables with each meal (4 meals a day)
  • Drink at least 80 ounces of water a day

You can also set some weight/ fat loss goals. I recommend to only try to lose 1-3 lbs per week. This is a safe and obtainable range. Another great goal is to use your clothes as a goal. There may be a pair of pants or a uniform shirt that does not fit; I find this a great motivator. 

Set a goal for 30, 60 and 90 days. Start with small goals and work them into larger ones. This is a long-term process; small, positive changes can make a huge difference over time.

Create a plan

On a fire or rescue scene, we create a plan of attack to accomplish the task. You need to do the same thing with your fitness. There are some great resources available regarding fitness programming there are also some not-so great ones. Make sure that your program includes components that improve mobility, core strength and cardiovascular fitness. Aim to workout at least 3x per week. As you continue to improve your fitness and make progress you can eventually move to four or five sessions. Start slow and make progress every day.

Do the work 

Now is time for action. You have a goal and a plan, get moving and do the work

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Positive.

Aaron Zamzow has over 15 years of firefighting experience as an on-call paid firefighter in Golden Valley, Minnesota and is currently a career Firefighter/ EMT and Training Officer in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the owner of Fire Rescue Fitness, a company that creates workout programs and fitness articles that focus on getting Fire Rescue Athletes “fit for duty.” Aaron holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health and wellness, is a NSCA-Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, an IAFF/IAFC Peer Fitness Trainer and a Precision Nutrition level 1 coach. He has also, worked in the fitness industry for over 25 years and has experience working with the general population as well as athletes from the NBA, NFL and NHL. He is the author of The Ultimate Fire Rescue Athlete Workout and other fitness programs catered toward Fire Rescue Athletes and has recently been published in Firehouse, Fire Rescue Magazine, Firefighter Nation and in numerous other fire publications (Lexipol, Target Solutions, Size-up Magazine). He has appeared on numerous podcasts and television programs and presents to Fire Departments all over the country. He is on a mission to help 100,000 firefighters EMTs and medics get “fit for duty.”

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