29 September, 2021
There is no doubt that firefighting is a strenuous job. Even so, there are many factors that can result in firefighters packing on the pounds as we age.
Factor #1 is community. We love our brothers and sisters in the fire service. We work side by side with them and we (hopefully) trust them with our lives on the job. We go to their weddings, their birthdays, their cook outs just because, and unfortunately down the line: their funerals. All of these events typically involve good people, good food and good drink. As we grow older it is important to be disciplined and abstemious in our food choices. That box of donuts in the firehouse can be left for our brothers and sisters in blue! (just kidding! we love our siblings in the emergency services!). In all seriousness, it is okay to indulge on occasion, but it should be just that: occasional. We don't overfill our apparatus and we shouldn't overfill our bodies. Likewise, we don't put two stroke mix in a four stroke saw. We should pay careful attention to our blood reports and make food choices at the recommendation of our doctors.
Factor #2: Go to the doctor. Most municipalities offer great health insurance. Your doctor has taken the Hippocratic oath. Medical professionals can only help you if you go and build a relationship with them. We understand that life gets busy and we put off things we'd rather not do, but we can't let our health slip. This job beats you up. It would be a shame to work a 20-40 year career only to retire with chronic health conditions that prevent full enjoyment of your hard earned retirement! Screen early and often!
Factor #3 is decreased activity as we age. Sure, it's a strenuous job, but as we become more senior we're more likely to be the one guiding probies through training than performing the acts ourselves. Likewise, despite the old timers' willingness to enter a burning structure, interior is often tackled by the youth in the department. As officers and chauffeurs, firefighters contribute their years of experience and wisdom rather than their fleeting youthful vitality.
Even though it is a strenuous and active job, it is tough to outrun a bad diet. Firefighter food choices should be healthy and deliberate. It is important to establish a healthy diet and consistently monitor whether we are achieving our goals or at the very least maintaining our bodies as we age.
Likewise, we should make an effort to consistently exercise in a safe, functional and intentional manner. We should ensure that cardio and resistance training are present and varied in our workout plans. Most importantly, we need to make a plan and stick to it. Being a firefighter requires a lot of discipline and training. Physical activity is second nature to us, but we should frequently evaluate the effectiveness of our physical training efforts.
Above all, education and discipline are what will ensure firefighters maintain a sustainable lifestyle into their retirement years. Perhaps the biggest health trap firefighters face is retirement itself. Retirement is a dramatic shift if you don't deliberately fill your day with physical activity. It's easy enough to go to work and perform your naturally physical job. It is much harder to work up the motivation to be active when the retirement cash is flowing in and the cold brews in the fridge are calling!!