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Fit for duty: July 2015


June 25, 2015
By Sherry Dean

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Most of us indulge over the summer months in barbeques, ice cream and perhaps the occasional cold beer or margarita.

It’s simple math – calories in should equal calories out. Here are a few ideas to get you outside, help you keep fit and keep off those extra summer pounds.

Running/jogging/walking fast
Some of us are not great runners. If that is you, don’t worry. Start slowly, but work hard. Aim for a good half hour, but start with only 10 minutes and work your way up. Interval running and walking works well. Try running between one length of utility poles and walking the next; or run 30 seconds to one minute and walk the next. Repeat for as long as you can or for a specific distance.

The important part of hitting the pavement is to work hard for at least a portion of your run. Some people love to run and settle in to a comfortable pace. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but the goal is to become fit firefighters, and the pace at a fire is anything but casual. Hill training is awesome and will bring up your heart rate in no time.

For an extra challenge, try a 30/20/10 run. Warm up for five minutes then jog slowly for 30 seconds, brisk jog for 20 seconds and sprint for 10 seconds. Do this five times (five minutes) then do a two-minute recovery. Repeat another five times through. This workout only takes 17 minutes with a warm up, but you should definitely be feeling it by the end. Each interval should be a little harder than the previous due to less recovery time. If you can do only one five-minute round, add a minute the next time you try it, and keep adding. Don’t forget to cool down afterwards.

Stair training
This is a must for firefighters who have buildings in their jurisdictions that are more than six-storeys. Elevator keys have a way of not showing up when you need them the most, and carrying an extra 100 pounds up the stairs sucks at the best of times.

Weighted stair climbs are a great simulation. Rather than gearing up and suffering the sweat of wearing your snow suit in July, grab a weighted vest or well-made backpack and climb and climb and climb. Even adding just 50 pounds to your climb should make you work hard. The climb should be slow(ish). Don’t hesitate to use the hand rail. If you don’t have access to a highrise, walk the same flight of stairs up and down. Descend quickly and don’t rest at the bottom unless you really need to.

Non-weighted climbs are also a workout option, but should be done at a faster pace than weighted climbs. Try this evolution for a little variety.

Single steps: quick feet with as much speed as is safe. Don’t use the hand rails unless you have to.

Scissor stairs: use the bottom step only (or the bottom two if you are good). Place one foot on the landing and one on the first or second step. Switch feet simultaneously as quickly as possible for one minute. Rest 30 seconds and repeat. For keeners, do 100 of these.

Interval steps: powerfully run up three steps then step backward down two steps, but make sure both feet hit the each step on the way down. Both your right and left feet should be on the same step on the way down before proceeding to the next. Keep going until you get to the top.

Jump steps: jump two feet at the same time up two (or three) steps. Keep going until you reach the top. To make it more difficult, each time you jump up two, jump back one.

Two steps at a time: widen your feet to at least shoulder width and run up the flight every other step while pushing off on the right and left feet. This should move you laterally back and forth as you ascend.

Push-ups: do them off the bottom step. For variety you can do burpee push-ups (my favourite) or inverted push-ups by placing your hands on the landing and your feet on one of steps above you. You choose your difficulty. Do for 30 seconds to one minute and rest 30 seconds between sets.

In-and-out jumps: jump the first step with your feet together and the second with your feet at least shoulder width apart. Keep alternating until you reach the top.

Finish with single steps. Push yourself as hard as possible on this last set.

Each of these should be done at least twice on one full flight of stairs – 14 flights of stairs and two sets of push-ups. Half flights don’t count unless you double everything. Try to find an outdoor flight of stairs and enjoy the warm weather before winter makes its way back. Once you are done, cool down by stretching your quads, hamstrings and calves.

Now go enjoy some summer indulgence.


Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service. She has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training. deansherry@bellaliant.net

* Carousel photo by Franck AUDEBRAND


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