Part 1. What Football and Fireground Have in Common

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Part 1. What Football and Fireground Have in Common

The Sports Science of Firefighting: A 5 Part Series. 

PART 1. What a total spectacle last Sunday. Butler and Brady and gang. I was rooting for the Hawks — as a Raven’s fan born and bred, I’m anti-Patriots rather than pro-anyone else in that Superbowl matchup. So I can recount more Wilson / Mathews /  Lynch plays despite the torturous ending.

My pain aside, it got me to thinking about the FOOTBALL-FIREGROUND analogy. It's an easy jump to make. Sure, one is a game and the other saves life, limb and property. In one the goal is to put up points and the other to put out fire and find humans. 

But the sports science and teamwork of football is as good an analogy as any to the physiology and unit-based maneuvers on the fireground. Days later after the Super Bowl, that deep sports obsession I have lingers in my bones --  the high speed tackles, big acceleration through the pack, ball tucked tight under the arm, team trust, and earth shattering, history-making gambles like Patrick Kearse bobbling the ball in slow motion a few feet from the goal line.   

Sport-specific trainers start with key maneuver areas -- cutting, passing, tackling, blocking, catching. They develop ground rules and circuits that correlate directly to those skills. Governing principles include change of direction, acceleration, and technical ball handling, as examples. In the same way, we start with 8 fireground manuever areas that encompass most of what we do in this profession -- including hose handling, ventilation, search and rescue. When we isolate atypical weight-loaded muscles strained in these maneuvers, we reveal the governing principles of firefighting: Low-Motion, Weight-Load, O2 Burst, and Unit-Based Fitness.

When I break down the physiology, football and firefighting have common ground rules: bursting, staying low, balancing under load and in motion, and operating as a unit are fundamentals in both professions. They are governing principles for every position on the field, and every slot on the hose line and search team. Granted the key maneuvers are different. But in both cases success relies in outlasting the opponent -- the Hawks or the fire -- and the ground rules are the same. 

ZERO TO SIXTY bursts of a receiver or ladder climb require that the heart is strong and Type II fast twitch muscle fibers trained.

LOW-MOTION MANEUVERS — the snap or the search — demand glut stability and powerful core.

BALANCE UNDER LOAD AND IN MOTION is the mantra for success for the catch of the century or the advancement of a hose line. 

And finally, THE UNIT. Fitness training should be oriented around the team. We fight fires as a team, play superbowls as a team, why wouldn’t we fitness train as a team? This doesn’t mean every workout must be unit PT. But professional circuits that we're using to close the gap between fitness and the fireground should be facilitated team events, and made mandatory as needed.

After all, MVPs only surface on the shoulders of giants.  

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UNIT PT: The more hands on deck the better

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UNIT PT: The more hands on deck the better

At FITFIGHTER we hail from the military. Every morning at dawn Army units form up for PT in the yard, at the barracks, on the obstacle course, at the foot of a mountain, or wherever that day takes them. Fire Academies share a commitment to unit PT. Depicted below, at FDNY's Fire Academy at Randall's Island candidates start the morning with weight-loaded plyometrics and intervals using our STEELHOSES.

Research shows that fitness training in units rather than as individuals makes athletes push limits further and stay motivated longer. Most of us would agree that having someone waiting in the gym or on the track is a good way to ensure a high intensity session happens that day. At Halesite FD on Long Island, where Sarah Apgar is Director and Trainer, we do team weight-loaded workouts Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, and guys supplement with their own programs throughout the week. Peruse our top 5 benefits of "more hands on deck" exercise, and give it a shot in your own firehouse! 

FDNY Fire Academy Unit Training

FDNY Fire Academy Unit Training

(1) High Fives: there's no substitute for having a buddy team / workout partner with whom to high five at the end of a ferocious interval or difficult set, and motivate for the next one (out loud!)

(2) Timing: having multiple athletes work together at an exercise increasing consistency and accuracy of everyone's count and timing. Intervals are smoother and more standard. 

(3) Learning / Innovating: 2 heads are better than 1. Learn from your colleagues / teammates / fellow firefighters when they have a new take on an old routine. 

(4) Stamina: when you're getting weary, other people around you provide distraction and motivation and increase your stamina to get to the finish line. 

(5) Mutual Example: while training weight-loaded movement, critical elements should be watched such as form and body positioning, low squats, flat back, and the use of bones and joints for strength and stability (vs. muscle, which is not as strong). Workouts in teams enables this to happen during the workout. 

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5 Summer Training Tips

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5 Summer Training Tips

We're always surprised to hear that fitness commitments curb in the summer time, because there's nothing but warm temps and minimal clothing to make working out easy access. Here are 5 ways to balance lazy sun-soaked days with simple weight-loaded and bodyweight-based workouts....

Core work on a fitness ball compliments STEELHOSE skills training. Here I'm working with clients on form and stability. 

Core work on a fitness ball compliments STEELHOSE skills training. Here I'm working with clients on form and stability. 

1. Bring your frisbee and workout ball along to the BBQ. In between brats, get your cardio on and enjoy 20 reps of core strength. There's no harm no foul in combining good protein from the grill with some afternoon exercise. In fact, your muscles think it makes all the sense in the world. 

2. Use your beach towel like your exercise mat. They are the same concept anyway! When you hit the restroom, snag 10 Ragers or Taros on your way back before you re-settle in to your sunny slumber. 

3rd step of the Rager (beach towel friendly!) 

3rd step of the Rager (beach towel friendly!) 

Extension move during the Taro (beach towel friendly!)

Extension move during the Taro (beach towel friendly!)

3. Toss a Nugget or Auger into your trunk. This is the most adaptable piece of equipment around. Bring it on your road trip, huck it into your sailboat, clip it to your Bean Bag. Take it with you, and let it work you out. It's 4-10 lbs. Big deal. 

4. Take your kids to the local firehouse... and clammer around! As a firefighter, there is NOTHING more fun than seeing members of the local community show up for a tour of the truck bay, or seeing a kid who wants to try on some bunker gear. So try for yourself -- clammer around with gear and trucks, and get a workout in. 

5. Make rest stops workout zones. They have curbs, grass, and picnic tables. Step, jog, push. Don't let your sitting in the car drag you down. In fact, Flying J is totally on board.  Truckers are doing it too...!

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Founder Talk and Demo Workout at Northport FD

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Founder Talk and Demo Workout at Northport FD

We're making the rounds at Suffolk County Firehouses to bring our STEELHOSES to all corners of Long Island. An army of Juniors, veterans, and new members showed up for some truck bay hose workout action at Northport Fire Department last week. FITFIGHTER FIVE highlights included...  

I. Hitting the deck with the Auger in hand for an exhibition Search Circuit. Focus: low movement, forward progress with tools, core stability, and shoulder strength. Members tested 20 rep bursts with our 10 lb hose.   

II. Spreading our firefighter fitness message to a new community. Suffolk County has 109 firehouses in its first responder family. These houses support the 1.5 million residents of Long Island with emergency medical and firefighting services. It's our duty at FITFIGHTER to enable these efforts through our fitness programs and equipment. Northport FD has joined us!

III. Our very own FT circuit song mix from Sarah's screen-crushed iPod. Don't lie, hair band inspiration is the reason you love fitness. We agree. Highlights include: Van Halen, Beastie Boys, Journey. It's eclectic and awesome. 

IV. Team-ship! Sometimes the weary evening workout begins with moaning and groaning, but at FITFIGHTER everyone's in this together. It's never an individual thing. Quickly, the grunts are replaced with inspired encouragements, a good dose of trash-talking, and fire ground fitness training.

V. The juniors crew schooling every else within 10 minutes of the sweat starting. Naturally, these young bloods grabbed the Hoss and the Fiend while the rest of us started out with the Auger. These guys are training to be the firefighters of the future.

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Long Island Marathon: Best of the Finish Line

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Long Island Marathon: Best of the Finish Line

The wind gauge read 13 mph as runners passed the 26 mile mark in Eisenhower Park and got ready for their celebratory moment at the finish tape. Meanwhile, as spectators we were loving the sights and sounds of the finish line -- they were colorful and many. Here's FITFIGHTER's "Best of the Finish Line" catalogue of events at one of Long Island's premier running events of the year....

Drum Roll for the Countdown....

#5. Full body space blankets. If you weren't wearing one of these shiny trench coats you were simply out of style. This dude gave it an extra boost with the navy Eminem hood.

#5. Full body space blankets. If you weren't wearing one of these shiny trench coats you were simply out of style. This dude gave it an extra boost with the navy Eminem hood.

#4. Inflatable Dancing Gumbies. It just doesn't get any better than watching these guys go at it in the wind. Today was an especially poignant performance given the anamometer readings. 

#4. Inflatable Dancing Gumbies. It just doesn't get any better than watching these guys go at it in the wind. Today was an especially poignant performance given the anamometer readings. 

#3 is the raddest pair of socks I've seen at a finish line in a while. Nuff said. 

#3 is the raddest pair of socks I've seen at a finish line in a while. Nuff said. 

#2. Runners cuttin' a rug to the stage band at the finish line. What a sweet feeling that is ladies. Our only question is "why are there not more celebratory dances happening?"

#2. Runners cuttin' a rug to the stage band at the finish line. What a sweet feeling that is ladies. Our only question is "why are there not more celebratory dances happening?"

#1 "Best of the Finish Line" is obviously Halesite Firefighter Lieutenant Hugh O'Brien, who rocked the race in 4:33 following his sweet victory in the firehouse big loser weight loss competition. His return to running was an epic transformation..... Congrats dude!

#1 "Best of the Finish Line" is obviously Halesite Firefighter Lieutenant Hugh O'Brien, who rocked the race in 4:33 following his sweet victory in the firehouse big loser weight loss competition. His return to running was an epic transformation..... Congrats dude!


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Journey to "The Rock"

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Journey to "The Rock"

Until this winter, I only ever glanced at the sign for Randalls Island heading north on the RFK Bridge. No longer will I pass it by, as candidates at the FDNY Fire Academy are now training with FITFIGHTER hoses.  Fitness Director LT Michael Cacciolla, a fitness visionary and professional trainer who designs and leads the Academy's unit fitness programs, signed on with us in February with a package of 160 Hoss hoses. FDNY Trainees use the Hoss to work hose handling movement, forcible entry strength, plyometrics and more. During my brief visit I noted one of the cooler pull up bars I've ever seen and a powerful memorial to military veterans.

Here is a FITFIGHTER TOP FIVE list from this inspiring visit. We look forward to an ongoing firefighter fitness partnership with the FDNY.

1. Eagle-clad steel pull-up bar in the unit fitness area.

2. Military and 9/11 memorials showcasing tight brotherhood among soldiers and firefighters.

3. The place is dubbed "The Rock." Enough said.

4. Full floor fitness center with weights, plyo equipment, cardio, and functional fitness areas.

5. Killer panini sandwich next door at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy cafe.

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Halesite FD's Biggest Loser

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Halesite FD's Biggest Loser

These 2 fine fire responders cranked it up a notch to win the gold and silver at Halesite Fire Department's big loser weight loss competition, ending on St. Patrick's Day. Top 5 moments of the competition: 

1. Initial Weigh In included a FREE 10 lb. STEELHOSE, personal box of almonds, and our very own 5 principles.

2. Firehouse gym participation rose 20% and for maybe the first time ever, the lights were on regularly at 6 am!

3. Lieutenant O'Brien (gold medalist) started running again for the first time in a decade, and completed the Long Island Marathon a month after he won the gold! 

4. Brad Gaito (silver medalist!) used his first fitness app and became obsessed. His analytical mind won him the silver.

5. The smiles on "BIG CHECK DAY" were worth their weight in gold. 

Congratulations gentlemen!

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