The Tactical Athlete
By Fred Mohr
Captain Elizabeth Fire Department New Jersey Local 209
A recent study in Boston found that among new recruits for fire and EMS services, only 22% were at a healthy weight, while 44% were overweight and 33% were obese. That means that three out of every four recruits were above their recommended healthy weight. And these statistics aren’t limited to the young. Three-quarters of active emergency responders nationwide are overweight or obese. Additionally, 75% have been classified as hypertensive or prehypertensive.
Strains and sprains account for 48% of fireground injuries, which can be a result from being in a deconditioned state. Wearing turnout gear with SCBA and a helmet puts a stress on the body. Compound that with working in less than optimal conditions and the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body can suffer harm easily.
Who and What is a tactical athlete? The term has actually been around for a while and it was first used in the military when it was realized that many injuries can be curtailed by exercise programs that focused on specific training programs that increase athletic performance. Anyone who is in the fire service or police or EMS/Medics also fall into this definition.
Here are a few realities of the job that need to be understood to gain the right perspective on why fitness is a number one priority when it comes to being a firefighter/first responder….
Firefighters carry heavy, unevenly distributed weight
We work in awkward positions, almost always!
High stress, High demand, we go from 0 to 100 in an instant!
Harsh weather conditions
IDLH atmosphere, tight & cramped. Forces us to operate under limited movement patterns.
When is a good time to start? Right now! It can be as simple as going out for a walk. It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor first and if you have any injuries or movement issues then enrolling in a physical therapy program is best.
Why is it good to think like a tactical athlete? By consciously making a decision to relabel yourself you are making a positive decision to change. The definition of athlete is; a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise. Fighting a fire may be work but it is still physical exercise. Even more so than most of your physical labor careers out there.
Where can you find info on tactical athlete? If you type the words tactical athlete into any search engine just about anything you would want to know will pop up. Topics such as Aerobic training, sleep, and diet are all on the forefront. For x years an organization called 555 Fitness has been doing great work here in NJ and a little north of here in Mass is an outfit called o2x. Both of these groups are a huge resource for the type of tactical training firefighters can use to improve their health and mindset.
Where can you work out? If you don’t have a gym at your firehouse and are lacking equipment then you can easily start with a body weight workout. You can do a set of 10 squats followed by 10 pushups followed by 10 crunches. You can buy resistance bands to make these exercises harder. You can also join a gym. I recommend to keep any firehouse workouts short and light in the beginning and save the blank workouts for when you go to the gym. Meet a PT once a week for at least a few months so you can learn how to do every exercise proficiently.
A change in your mindset will stick better and yield the results you want by planning your workouts and planning your meals. Even planning your sleep will help tremendously! Go to bed earlier and avoid caffeine before bed. Make sure the room is cool and comfortable. Avoid TV, phones and computers several hours before bed.
How to start. If you are ready to begin an exercise program but feel a little lost on how and where to start then it’s usually best to seek guidance and help. Hiring a certified personal trainer is the best approach. Aside from having someone to hold you accountable they can start you off on the best path and get you the results you want much faster than going at it alone. Plus, they will use their experience and knowledge to focus on your weaknesses and any muscle imbalances and keep you from getting hurt in the process.
Lastly, a lot of people ask me what’s the best exercise program or routine for them. That answer is actually up to you! In short, it’s whatever program you are most likely to stick with. That’s because there isn’t one perfect program out there. If I give you a program that has a lot of squats in it and you hate squats, how long will you do that routine for? Maybe a few months at best. Then you will lose enthusiasm and eventually quit. So, the best program will to start with will be the one you enjoy the most. This means you need to experiment and try different workout modalities. Again, this is where a knowledgeable personal trainer is key. They will guide you toward your fitness routine based on your fitness level and save you months or even years of routine hoping.
Quick and simple work out for anytime or anywhere….
First get hydrated and make sure you have a healthy lean protein meal about 1 to 2 hours before you begin.
Do a warm up (there are countless ways to warm up, just Google DYNAMIC WARM UP)
10 body weight squats
10 push ups
Do 3 rounds and follow up with a quality stretch afterward.
If this doesn’t seem like enough that’s quite alright, you can continue you to add more reps and more rounds as you progress. You can also add more exercises like jumping jacks.
Continue to hydrate throughout the workout and make sure you have another high quality, healthy meal to follow.
Congrats! You are on your way with your fitness journey and being a tactical athlete!
Fred is a Captain and Level 1 Drill Instructor for the Elizabeth N.J. Fire Department. He is also coach and personal trainer living in the Jersey Shore area.
Fitness Certifications include:
Level 1 Mace Fit Instructor
Level 1 Steel Mace Flow Instructor
Level 1 New Breed Mace Bell Instructor
Onnit Durability Coach
You can find him on social media:
On Facebook- Frederick Mohr & Steel Mace Nation Podcast
On Instagram – @steelmacenation & @steelmacefireman
On Youtube- Steel Mace Nation Podcast
On Soundcloud, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play – Steel Mace Nation Podcast