Firefighters are constantly pushed to the limit – both on the job and in training. Their fitness, as well as their mental and physical endurance, need to be at the highest level at all times. This is something that firefighter Bec Meachin knows well.
Bec has been working in the fire service for four years now, helping to lead and teach on a Fire and Police Programme with the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service alongside her regular responsibilities as a firefighter, and also acting as a Women in the Fire Service’s rep. She has very recently begun a position with the Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service as a Wholetime Firefighter Training Instructor.
Alongside these achievements, Bec has participated in a number of firefighter endurance events, including the Cheshire Firefighter Challenge (the first regional British Firefighter Challenge), the Lorus Stairs Run earlier this year and last year’s British Firefighter Challenge in Watford. As a member of the HAIX Footwear sponsored Team GB she also supported UK Sales Manager Simon Ash on the HAIX stand.
Bec is constantly striving to ensure her fitness is the best it can be, and is passionate about getting other firefighters to do the same. Here, she offers her advice for getting ‘firefighting fit’.
“I have a set workout when I’m close to an endurance challenge, performing it once or twice a week, but it’s great to do at any time to improve your fitness and keep pushing yourself. I do the routine in full firefighter kit – weighted vest or BA (Breathing Apparatus) set optional, but recommended if you really want to push yourself.
- Warm up: I always start with 10 minutes of stretching and warming up to prevent injury and ensure my muscles are limber. I work all parts of my body – especially my legs, since they take the brunt of the workout.
- Farmers Carry: With one dumbbell in each hand, walk forwards and engage your core for about 25 metres. Repeat 6 times. I do this with 10kg dumbbells, but you can adjust to whatever feels comfortable of challenging.
- Sled Drag: Using a sled, tyre or equivalent with a rope hooked around it, drag the sled behind you. You can also use a harness if you prefer. Yours arm should be straight down and by your sides. I use a small tyre with a 20kg weight plate on top, with a rope attached, pulling it 20m x 1 rep.
- Sledgehammer Tyre Hit: This is quite straightforward – take a sledgehammer and hit a tyre with it, making sure to watch your form carefully as you go. It’s vital to get a good grip on it and hold it as straight as possible, so take your time to make sure you do rather than rushing into it.
- Run out a length of 70mm hose (or equivalent – you could use a rope) and make it up again: Making up hose doesn’t sound that tricky, but trying to do it with a BA set on your back makes it so much harder. It constantly hits the bottom of my helmet, and can make it harder to see what I’m doing. Getting a technique you’re quick at is important here. There’s no right or wrong, just don’t change your technique at the last minute just because you saw someone else doing it quickly!
- Dummy Drag: Take a dummy and drag it backwards for a set distance, ensuring you’re holding it properly (your arms looped under each of the dummy’s arms) and not dragging it by a limb. Remember, this is meant to simulate rescuing a real life person – you have to be careful how you move them. I use a 70kg dummy for this exercise. I’ve been fooled by training with a lighter one and simply dragging it further, but nothing prepares you better than dragging the actual weight. That’s why I think it is better to go heavier. This can often be the most challenging event in a firefighter endurance challenge and it always takes places right at the end, when competitors are at their most tired.
Repeat the above three times. Don’t forget to stretch and cool down afterwards!
Other top tips:
- Mix things up – If I don’t vary my routines, I get a little bored and then I might not bother training at all. With the workout above, I will alter the weights and switch the reps to keep things interesting. I’d advise anyone and everyone to the do same.
- Compound movements are equally as important – While I’ll perform this routine or similar closer to a challenge for one or two days a week, I’ll spend my other training sessions that week working on compound movements: benches, squats and deadlines. They work all the key muscle groups and they’re fun too. I’ll also use a Stairmaster for my cardio, wearing full fire kit.
- Plan ahead – Each week I have a planner on my fridge and I write what workouts I’ll do for that week. It keeps me motivated. You can also use it as a way to ‘tick off’ workouts when you’ve completed them – also very motivational, especially when you’re getting started with training.
- Train with gloves on – A lot of the firefighter endurance challenges require you to wear firefighting gloves and they do make it so much harder. Don’t leave it to the last minute to practice with gloves, as you’ll have a big shock! Get them wet too before you start and it will help with grip. For regular workout routines, wearing gloves can also prevent your hands from blistering when lifting weights, so it’s a good habit to get into.
My final piece of advice to anyone for exercising, whether you’re training for a firefighting challenge or simply looking to get fitter, is to set goals, keep workouts interesting and, most importantly, keep going!