In the fire service, we should be expected to be in the best of shape possible. If you think about all of the activities that our job entails, a lot of it can be summed up as extreme physical exertion in highly stressful situations. A recent study suggested that over 70% of firefighters across the country are OBESE or overweight! Click here to read the article. Of course, everyone is unique in their body type, but there are many that could make simple changes in their daily routine to have a positive impact on themselves and others.
When I entered the fire service as a career firefighter, I was NOT in the physical condition I needed to be in for my job. I was able to complete the physical agility test required as part of the hiring process, but that was the extent of it. My department currently uses the standardized CPAT test, which is much harder than the one that I took.
At my volunteer department, I had a very close friend that attempted to motivate me on a daily basis. His name was Earl Morphew. He was my Captain for several years after I joined as a junior firefighter. My bond with Earl started several years before as I suffered from exercise induced asthma for the majority of my early teens. Earl often responded on medical calls to the middle school when I would have asthma attacks, and over time, I knew that everything would be fine when Earl showed up. He was in good shape, exercised on a regular basis, and shared his knowledge with others quite often. Once I joined the department, Earl would always try to motivate me to go running with him or to eat healthier meals rather then the fast food I was eating. At that time, I let it go in one ear and out the other. I think I often played it off as him being too hard to me; however, I later came to realize it was only because he cared about me.
On January 28th, 2009, my one year anniversary on the job, I was awaken early in the morning to the news that Earl had been killed in a tragic vehicle accident while on his way to work. At that moment, my life changed. I found myself looking back on the smallest of conversations I had with Earl while he was here. I had taken for granted all those times that he tried to motivate me to get in shape, and given him a deaf ear. I came to realize that I would never have to chance to listen to his sharp tone of voice telling me to get off my butt and get in shape. I did not, however, let that stop me. Instead, I used his words to motivate me to do the best I could at getting in shape. This wasn’t a change that happened over night, but instead, one that I had to keep reminding myself I needed to do it. It was something I had to work very hard at and do not only for me, but also for the citizens I was sworn to protect, for my family, for my friends, and for my brother that I could no longer call up on to hear those words of motivation.
Over the next several years, my weight fluctuated quite frequently. Between 2009 and 2014, I had lost close to 100 lbs at one time, but would then would end up gaining weight/losing weight/gaining/losing. It was a constant state of ups and downs until I decided that I was going to make a lifestyle change and do this. I devoted hours of my time to the gym and drastically changed my eating habits. For a better perspective, I am 6′ 3″ tall and was weighing in at 313lbs. I do not say that because it is something I am proud of at all, but instead something I am very ashamed of. It was a slow process that took a lot of tweaking to make it work for me. Since I work part-time on the ambulance, I often found myself resorting to fast food restaurants for my meals. I had to make a conscious effort to pack my lunch and plan my meals out every day.
I am far from a health/fitness junkie and still have goals that I would like to meet. In 2014, I joined Team Ridebackwards which gave me another jump start on my programming. I have completed several 5K races, an Obstacle 5K, and in January 2014, I joined a local Crossfit gym. Despite the rumor of it being a “cult”, it motivates me to get stronger! That’s what everyone has to find…exactly what motivates them. I go to the gym now 4-5 times a week, and still don’t eat as clean as I would like…but I’m giving it my all. I have my weaknesses just like everyone else.
Still today, I battle with myself every time I wake up. I still have to make myself get up and work out. I still have to make myself eat healthier. The one thing that is different these days is that I know Earl is right beside me telling me to push myself a little harder. I am sure that I will continue to have my ups and downs as far as on the scales, but there isn’t a day that passes that Earl doesn’t cross my mind. I wish he could see me now. I wish he could tell me “Job well done!” I wish I could hear him tell me how proud he is of me and to keep pushing. I have been able to accomplish my goals all because of my family and friends who compliment me on my progress, but there will always be that one person that I will never be able to hear it from him again. He motivates me on a daily basis. If I have any advise to everyone reading this, it would be to discover what motivates you.
I know everyone has something deep inside that can push them to achieve their goals. It may come easier to some then to others, but we all have the fire deep down inside to be in better shape and to be able to accomplish our goals. I know, without question, that I am in the best shape of my life. I also know that you can be as well. Discover what fuels your fire and pushes you to get in shape, and pour it on!