FITNESS & NUTRITIONStaying Ready as a Firefighter

Staying Ready as a Firefighter

By: Aaron (ZAM) Zamzow

Firefighters, EMTs and Medics are fire rescue athletes. We need to fuel our bodies just like we do our trucks and equipment.

How to be physically ready for duty

At the beginning of each shift, we as firefighters, EMTs and medics meticulously go through and check our gear to make sure that it is ready for the challenges of the day. Our equipment must be functioning properly, and our rigs must be fueled and ready to go. The question that I also want you to think about is whether your physical equipment – brain, body, and muscles are ready to go? 

Are you fit? Are you fueled? Here are three quick and easy things that fit firefighters can do at the beginning of the shift that will help ensure they are “fit for duty.”


Around most firehouses (and offices) the day and the shift starts with some coffee.  We all need a pick-me-up from time to time but before you reach for that second cup, have some water. Water is the center of all metabolic processes, the more hydrated you are the better your performance. Progressive dehydration from exercise (or fire ground operations) impairs performance, mental capacity, perception of effort and can be life-threatening. With as little as a 2% body water shortage, the ability to perform a high intensity activity can be greatly impaired. Translate that onto the fire ground could mean death or injury to you or a crew member because your performance is greatly reduced. Try to drink at least 64 ounces a day, more if you are highly active or it’s hot out.

Foam Roll  

Foam rolling is a quick and easy way to combat the sprains and strains of the job. A foam roller is a piece of compressed foam of various lengths that you can use to massage muscles. The idea here is that you roll your body weight along the foam roller, massaging through restrictions (adhesions) that may occur in your muscles (especially those of the back) and thus causing the nerves and muscles to relax and loosen.   There is no universal agreement on when to roll, how often to roll, or how long to roll, but generally, techniques are used both before and after a workout (or shift in this case).  Personally, I try to use the foam roller anytime my muscles (especially my back) feel tight and sore. 

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Eat like an athlete 

Firefighters, EMTs and Medics are fire rescue athletes. We need to fuel our bodies just like we do our trucks and equipment.  Try to consume whole REAL (no artificial sweeteners and preservatives) foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar, such as lean protein sources (lean beef, chicken, fish, and whey protein), fruits and vegetables (oranges, apples, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, peppers, asparagus, carrots, nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts), and whole grains.  Prepare healthy meals and keep the processed cakes and cookies out of the kitchen and your body.  

Add these three things to your “Daily Checkoff Sheet.”  They will not ensure that you are physically ready for all the demands of the job, but they will help.  We need to approach every shift like the professional occupational athletes we are!

Try to do these “checkoffs” every day, your body and career will thank you!

Stay safe and Get FRF!

Photo by Andrew Gaines on Unsplash