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Fit for Duty: October 2012

If you’re like me, you get bored quickly.

September 26, 2012 
By Sherry Dean

If you’re like me, you get bored quickly. Maybe that’s why we love fire fighting so much – every call is different from the last, and so it can be for your workouts. It really takes focus to make sure you are making the optimal effort. Changing your workout periodically is a great way to maintain an edge. Here is another circuit workout for you, but don’t hesitate to modify it to suit your needs.

Work up to one-minute-interval exercises with no rest between sets, but don’t be afraid to start with 30-second intervals with 10 seconds of rest between. Once you have completed the 10 stations, take a one-minute rest and start again. Three rounds through is excellent effort! Four rounds  – fabulous!

Sand/water walk
Fill two five-gallon buckets with sand or water and go for a walk. If the buckets are too heavy empty out some sand or water. Challenge yourself with stepping over benches or stair climbing.

Core chops
Holding one of your sand/water buckets, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Move the weight from right to left at shoulder or chest height. To vary this movement, lift the bucket straight up and down (keep your arms as straight as possible) or pass it all around your body, changing direction. This is a great exercise for core control. Be sure to use a weight you can manage, but one that still challenges your stability.


Burpees (my favourite)
From a standing position, squat down to put your hands on the ground. Step or jump back so your legs are straight out. Step or jump back in to your hands, then stand straight up again. To vary the exercise, add a jump up as you return to a standing position, add a push-up at the bottom or add a pull-up (you’ll need a chin-up bar) from the standing position. For the superstar variation, add them all!

Dead lifts
From a standing position with weights (use what you have – equipment, hose rolls, short buckets, etc.) in your hands and arms at your sides, squat as low as safely possible and return to standing position.

Ladder run/crawl backs
Draw a ladder on the floor or use a purchased agility ladder. There are many variations of running a ladder, but right foot in, left foot in, right foot out, left foot out for each box is a good one. Feel free to change it up. Once you have moved to the top of the ladder, get down on your hands and feet. Keep your arms straight and body in a straight plank position (like the start of a push-up), then return to the beginning of the ladder moving backwards on your hands and feet.

Hanging leg-ups
While you are hanging from a bar (use an aerial or door frame) lift your knees as high as you can and return them down. The straighter your legs and the higher you raise your knees, the better. Add a weight between your knees for extra challenge.

Jump squats
This is simple and effective: keep your legs shoulder width apart, squat down and jump into the air. When you land, think about being cat-like and not making any noise; this helps to absorb impact. If you find this difficult, then start easy – barely take your feet off the ground. As you improve, reach for the stars.

Mountain climbers
Start in plank position with your arms fully extended and your body straight. Keep your glutes low without arching your back. Alternating right and left legs, bring your knees up toward your chin and return. Once you’ve mastered the centre movement, lift your knees out to the side and towards your ears, then return. Try to keep this exercise fast moving. To vary, balance your hands on one (centred) or two (a little wider than shoulder width) medicine balls or basketballs.

If you have a chin-up bar, do some chin-ups or wide-grip pull-ups. When you modify your grip, it changes where you target your back. Remember – change is excellent. If you don’t have a chin-up bar, lie across a bench or over an exercise ball facing toward the ceiling. Reach above your head and lift/pull a weight (use what you have available) from over your head to above your chest. Keep your arms straight or move your elbows slightly outward. This movement uses the chest and back, but try to focus on pulling the weight over using your lats.

One-minute cardio
You choose the method, but work hard. Once your minute is finished, you get to rest for a minute. If you are tired and can’t complete the full minute, don’t stop moving. Slow things down, recover, jump back in when you can and then finish the minute. You want to be tired at the end of one minute. Then, do two more rounds!

Stay safe, work hard and keep fit!

Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service and a volunteer captain with the Blockhouse & District Fire Department. She is an NFPA level 1 instructor with hazmat technician and special rescue certifications. Sherry has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training including the Scott FireFit Challenge, competitive bodybuilding, team sports and personal training. Contact her at

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