By Martha Chapman
It’s not uncommon for firefighters to have a second gig – in fact that’s one of the attractions of the career. But it’s not always common to find a firefighter with two careers that truly overlap and complement each other. And one who feels equally passionate about both.
When Maureen (“call me Mo”) Stoecklein spoke to CRACKYL about a life that combines her two great passions, firefighting and nutrition, she was in the quiet bay of the fire station in Canton Township, Mich. Mo reflected on a life where work and personal interests merge.
“I was born in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, and have spent most of my life here in Michigan. As the middle of three kids – I’m the girl between two boys – I was always encouraged by my parents to be an achiever, and they raised us with a can-do attitude.”
Sports, fitness and strength training have always been a big part of her life, including volleyball and softball at Madonna University. Mo has also completed an ironman distance triathlon and, as she puts it, “a bunch” of marathons.
After three years as a dietician, at age 28 she decided she wanted a more physical job. Mo was drawn to firefighting by the fact that it involves teamwork and, like nutrition counselling, is a helping profession.
But her interest in nutrition never went away. In 2013, Mo started working as a consulting dietician at Barwis, a training facility for Olympic, professional and amateur athletes. “From there I began working with the owner of the New York Mets, Jeff Wilpon, helping with his personal nutrition goals.” So when the Mets were looking for a team dietician, Mo was the perfect choice. She went on to work with them from 2017 to 2000 – requiring some serious schedule juggling with her firefighter shifts.
“I would fly to wherever they were playing – so it was a lot of traveling. I had to shift my focus when dealing with the players, because I wasn’t used to working with clients who are looking for top performance over only, say, a 10 year career. As firefighters, we must keep in top physical shape for 25 years or so.” The players’ youth and occasional (and relatable) cravings for chicken fingers and chips were some of the challenges she learned to deal with.
When COVID locked down the Clubhouse, limiting who could go in, Mo decided she just couldn’t continue doing both jobs. But she remembers her time with the Mets as an interesting dynamic with lots of lessons. (Not to mention it was “really, really cool.”)
Firefighters have their own obstacles when it comes to eating properly. Mo cites lack of sleep and high levels of stress as two main challenges. “In an ideal world, everyone would be open to receiving nutritional information, whether they’re an injured athlete or anyone dealing with pain.” Mo is concerned that firefighters don’t always reach out for help – much less realize how important it is to do so. “But they typically are disinclined to admit fallibility and have to agree to do it on their own terms.” At the firehall, as the schedule and run volumes permit, Mo leads her teammates on each shift in a functional fitness training session and a yoga/stretching session.
And what about your diet? “If there’s one thing you can do to improve your nutrition, I’d say: eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. We get so focused on fats or carbs or all the diets out there, but just more fruits and vegetables are so good for you.” Portion control, she says, is another important consideration.
“As for me, I really do keep tabs on what I eat. Let’s face it, five slices of pizza will make me feel sluggish.” So breakfast might be overnight oats, lunch a veggie omelet and half an avocado with a slice of whole grain toast, and dinner a lean protein with tons of veggies and some rice or quinoa. “I’m a purposeful grazer, and snack on fruit, Greek yogurt, peanut butter or maybe cottage cheese.” Her big weakness, she confesses, is sweets – especially chocolate. “I don’t eat it often but I also don’t deprive myself if I want something sweet. Dark chocolate is good for you, right?” she laughs.
Mo’s healthy lifestyle interests neatly dovetail with those of her husband, Fire Chief Chris. They met when he was a firefighter, which, as she says with a smile, makes for a good love story. “What do we talk about at home? Not work!” The couple keeps busy with Chris’s kids Evan (18), Alaina (16) and Anthony (13); and both Mo and Chris support a motorcycle-riding charity called the Axeman, a group of firefighters who raise funds for child burn victims, including supporting a summer camp.
Along the way, Mo has even been featured as one of just four American women in a Brawny Paper Towel International Women’s Day Campaign commercial, sharing her credo that
Clearly a thoughtful and organized planner, Mo is keeping an eye on her future. “In June 2022 I will be retiring from the department – and just about turning 50. I’d like to have my own consulting business working especially with police and firefighters, and incorporating all aspects of wellness.” Even before COVID, Mo was doing presentations with a physical therapist and a yoga instructor, and eventually plans to get back to that. “And we’ll be making time for trips to Florida – the Keys or South Florida. Coming from Michigan, we really love getting away from winter!”
To view a photo of Mo working out with her teammates, and see the inspiring Brawny Paper Towel commercial featuring her, please visit this here here. Read Mo’s article on nutrition in this issue of CRACKYL on page 40.