Two weeks ago I was given a great honor. John Carpenter, the founder of the Firefighter Throwdown not only handed me a microphone, on the field , at Lucus Oil Stadium to address the athletes about to throwdown on day 2. He also told me that I would be introducing our National Anthem. Now to some, whatever, you get to say , please rise and remove your hats as we honor our country, but to me, getting to say those words, in that venue, before my peers was a bucket list item I didn’t know existed and for that, I am eternally grateful.
This was the third Firefighter Throwdown 555 Fitness had the pleasure of being a part of. It’s great to watch my own organization pick up speed and grow, but its even better to being doing it on the exact same pace as our friends at the Throwdown are. Each Firefighter Throwdown just keeps growing and growing and growing. Which says a lot about the current movement that is gaining ground in the fire service.
Watching so many friends compete in an amazing team competition , which took place over 2 days and had both men and women doing the exact same work was just awesome. I’m so proud to call each and every competitor a brother or sister, its unreal. I wish I could have ran our and high five all of them after each event. I think I got to meet and greet all 75 of them, please know that if I didn’t, I’m really sorry that I missed you and thats clearly a no rep on my part , please don’t tell the head judge.
Getting to see all of the photos posted online, really drove home the fact that we are changing people lives with this event and 555 Fitness. See, I’m all about cheering on the athletes accomplishment and totally grooving on the pain faces I see. But, 555 is all about the greater good, so I’m looking at the faces in the crowd behind you. Each event has grown in popularity at each show we have attended.
If you look at the pictures of the athletes lifting, look at the folks in the background, cheering them on, mostly complete strangers. Speaking of strangers, countless athletes created their teams through social media, most never met in person until 15 minutes before the comp started. But that didn’t matter, because they all shared a common goal, a common bond and knew the true meaning of the world “brother”. Thats whats so great about an event like the throwdown. Even though everyone is competing to win, against each other, they are also cheering each other on. At times, after winning a heat, the team that won doesn’t even take a break, they just start cheering the rest of the teams on.
So somehow, this functional fitness world parallels the fire service. As firefighters we constantly say, we are always there for each other. We always have each others back, no matter what happens in the firehouse, when you are on a job, its all business. So why do we allow so many of our brothers and sisters to lie to themselves. Why do we accept that it’s ok to be unfit for duty. After a few days with so many great athletes, supporting each other and getting supported by the FDIC crowd, the tide is changing.
3 Years Strong Today
Today marks the official 555 Social Media Anniversary, the Facebook page was created exactly 3 years ago today. In that time we have grown to be on 7 different online platforms, have started an apparel brand , been featured in multiple media publications, created countless amounts of free programing, traveled the country, and donated over 20k in functional fitness equipment to fire departments who want to help created change. Not bad for a few hose draggers , right?
Here's some full disclosure you guys may or may not know. I didn't start 555, nor was it my idea. I started as a fan of the Facebook page and started up what one might call an online bromance with the Captain who created it. After a few months he asked if I would help him take this thing to a whole new level. That's why it's all so surreal to me, I was brought on board to do exactly what it is I am doing everyday. No one ever would have thought we would be here in 3 years. I believe its because of all of you , our fans that we are changing people's lives each and everyday.
I can distinctly remember the conversation with Mrs. Pip, the night we decided I should join the 555 Fitness Team (by team I mean, Larry). We spoke about this new opportunity in depth, and how maybe this was a chance to really affect a positive change on the world. What we didn’t know that night, was where this road would lead us. However, I would not be here, we would not be here, if I didn’t have her unconditional love, her support and her ability to keep me in check. For that I am eternally grateful. Tracey , Finn and Dex are my why, they are my reason for existing and my reason for pushing so hard to make all our lives better.
As much as we are a fitness page, and fitness is a very important part of our lives, I have realized, we are a more of a motivational page. All of our messages, all of our posts, all that we do, we do to motivate people to start moving. To start making fitness a priority in their lives. We constantly meet people who thank us for what we do, they attest their change to us. In reality, its all the hard work they have put in, we just give them the push to change, the community to change with and the support from firefighters worldwide.
We are no where near the end. But one year the cardiac related LODD number is going to change. It will first be below 50%, then 45%, then 40% and we will never have proof that we had any part of its reduction. However, there will be a very distinguished list of people taking the credit and what will we do, just keep on keeping on. Motivating our brothers and sisters to be better than yesterday. Because fitness is a lifestyle, one that you need to live each and everyday. Thank you all for the last 3 years of support, love and friendship. I cannot wait to see what this year and the future holds.
How many of you left FDIC 2016 Humbled, like I did? I know its weird right, FDIC is the largest gathering of firefighter in the country. People go there for thousands of reasons, wanna buy a new ladder, go to FDIC, wanna be trained by the top instructors in the game, go to FDIC, wanna see hundreds of bag Pipers get down, go to FDIC. And all of those reasons are great, but me, I was there to try and meet and greet as many of you as I physically could. I feel like I succeeded in that mission, because all I can think about is how humbled I feel.
Hearing your fitness journey stories really drives me to continue the awesome work we are doing with 555 Fitness. Hearing how many firefighters are getting together in groups and working out together before, during or after their shift is unreal. Meeting husbands and wives who tell me because their firefighter is getting fit, they are as well. Hearing from so many people that what we are doing is changing the fire service for the GOOD is resounding in my head. It leaves me humbled.
I would really be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank my team. Those men and women are my family, their belief in our mission parallels mine. Seeing my team’s passion in person only makes me want to put in more work then I do. Their service makes me feel humbled.
John Carpenter and the Firefighter Throwdown see the future of the fire service. In just a few short years, the event went from a side room at a conference to the field at Lucus Oil Stadium. pretty much speaks for itself. The athletes who competed are amongst the best in the world, not because they are are the strongest or the fastest or the healthiest , its because they believe in leaving it all out there. Putting out 110%. They don’t know how many people they inspire being out there. Watching them cheer each other on and work together left me humbled.
Then I have this long and growing list of our supporters , partners and sponsors. The people from the fire industry and fitness industry who believe in our mission. These are people who aren’t just cutting checks , they are showing up , they want to be a part of this change because they want to take that LODD number and lower it. They want fit firefighters coming to their aid. Their support and generosity leaves me humbled.
So who cares about me, right. Why do you care that I’m rolling back from FDIC feeling humbled. Because maybe thats what the fire service needs when it comes to health and wellness. A good dose of humble pie (in our case humble donut). Topics like fitness, cancer and suicide are not easy to speak about. I’m actually embarrassed when I say that the leading killer of firefighters is cardiac related disease. It’s really easy to strap on some gear and say I’m the best firefighter around , but it’s really hard to look in the mirror and say, am I in the best physical and mental shape I can be in, to do this job. BTW, that answer is always going to be NO. Because we can always be better then yesterday. But if you’re not doing a dam thing about it, each and everyday , for you, for your family, for your brother and sister firefighters, well…..
A positive change is not created by one person, its not created by one person's ideas, or feelings. It's created by a group of people, working together, with a common goal in mind. That's how we have operated 555 Fitness since day one.
Yesterday CrossFit Aspire and DT1 in Cherry Hill NJ held a 555 Fitness Honor Wod (actually a double 555 Honor Wod) because its "Sunday Funday", right. The turnout was amazing, the energy was high and the weather was not exactly cooperative. But such is life.
For the month of March, the members of the box held a double under challenge. For each double under completed, a penny was donated. Some of the numbers were very impressive. They also charged a $10 drop in fee for the Honor WOD. All monies collected were donated to 555 Fitness. We are very grateful for their donation of over $1500.
The donation was huge for us, however, the change that is occurring within the Cherry Hill Fire Department is even bigger. Pictured during one of the mile runs( yes, run in the beginning , run in the end) are the departments Assistant Chief and Union President. How well does that speak to the future of fire fighter fitness when you have a department head and union president both on board.
This positive cooperation has allowed for several members to attend a wide range of fitness classes, obtain many different training certifications for tactical athletes and begin to purchase new fitness equipment. The departments members support of one another during the work out, was what its all about. They understand the meaning of the word "brotherhood" better then most and I'm happy to say that 555 Fitness is being allowed to help them along with their program.
As 555 Fitness grows, we plan on highlighting more and more fire departments like Cherry Hill. If you would like to include your fitness program, SOG's, ideas or pics, please contact Jkeegan@555fitness.com . If you are interested in holding an event at your department , gym or box, please email email@example.com .
In the fire service, everyone is an expert on everything. Everyone has the next game changing idea, product or ACRONYM thats going to change the world. All of these "experts" and "knowledge droppers" are very passionate about their agenda, which I think is amazing, but are they so passionate about it, that in the process, they stomp on everyone else around them, just so they can have it their way?
The picture in this blog post was sent to me by a 555 Fitness follower. He found this on the "whiteboard" at his firehouse. It's what we do in the fire service, take jabs here and there at each other on the "whiteboard" or on the kitchen "announcements" board. Trust me, I have my fair share about me up there, all the time. This one stands out to me though, because these "experts" are actually claiming that fitness is just one part of the job. Right there, I feel like, we win.
I understand the backlash against it. I understand where it comes from, because fitness isn't easy and there certainly isn't a "canned" program you can put out there to make you a "FIRE ATHLETE". It's just not going to work that way. We are all human beings, made up differently and to become "FIRE FIT", we all need to find what works for us. Whether it be running, rowing, swimming, biking, power lifting or crossfit. But all of those physical activities I just listed, are better than the current "status quo" of "recliner cowboys" running the show. You know the ones I'm talking about, the ones who tell you "you can't put a fire out with a book" or how strong they are now because in high school they were "all state" and "going pro" but coach took me out.
This change isn't going to come from a study, no matter who you pay to back it. This change isn't going to come from a book, no matter who publishes it. This change isn't going to come from a trade magazine, no matter who pays to have their add's on the page. And its definitely not going to come from a 90 minute break out group.
This change can only happen from within. I'm proud to say, we are a part of that. We started out as a social media page, providing free workouts each day to firefighters. Now there are about 8 other pages doing the exact same thing. No one is saying our way is the only way. Or this is what you have to do. What we are doing, is providing a community of like minded people. One that will support each other and grow together.
We always thought the grant program would be the home run. However, the real home run here, is the 555 Fitness community. The friends we have made and things we have all learned together speak volumes for the future of fire service fitness.
Are You Fit for the Challenge?
Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. To the outside individual, physical fitness may seem like insanity. Day after day training hard, doing the work with the hope of making oneself physically fit. Often one notices improvements, maybe running a little faster or adding another round. However, to objectively know all this effort is effective, one needs to periodically assess their cardiovascular (CV) fitness. Doing so provides a basis for comparison to the physical requirements of firefighting.
To assess CV fitness is to measure one’s oxygen consumption, oxygen uptake, or VO2. For practical purposes oxygen consumption, oxygen uptake, and VO2 all basically mean the same thing. According to Wasserman it is the amount of oxygen extracted from inspired gas in a given period of time, expressed in milliliters or liters per minute (1). In simple terms VO2 is a rate at which the body consumes and uses oxygen. To be able to evaluate fitness across body type and make comparisons body weight is factored out to give what is known as relative VO2 in millimeters per kilogram per minute. The higher a person’s relative VO2 the better a person’s cardiovascular fitness.
Measuring VO2 can be accomplished several ways. The gold standard is to complete a cardiopulmonary stress test. This type of testing is typically offered in a clinical setting such as a medical center, at an institution of higher education with an exercise science program, or at a fitness center which offers this service. Cardiopulmonary or VO2 testing typically uses the same procedures and protocols discussed in Overview of a Stress Test, with the addition of measuring the subjects breathing and gas exchange to determine actual VO2 using a metabolic or gas exchange system as pictured while breathing through a mask or mouthpiece.
VO2 can also be determined based on workload achieved during a standard stress test. Each stage of a stress test is associated with a previously measured VO2 or metabolic equivalent (MET). MET stands for metabolic equivalent where 1 MET equals a VO2 of 3.5 ml/kg/min. A VO2 of 3.5 ml/kg/min is the average resting VO2 for an adult. Each stage of a stress test using the Bruce protocol, for instance, would increase by approximately by 2-3 METs. Therefore if one achieves 12 minutes on the treadmill that would be associated with a workload approximately 11 times greater that baseline or a VO2 of 38.5 ml/kg/min.
Many submaximal options are available to fire departments or individuals looking for a standard measure to assess fitness. Tests such as the Queen’s College Step Test or Rockport walk test require little equipment and could accommodate a number of individuals at a time to test. These tests use prediction equations such as a standard stress test to determine VO2 but are not performed in a clinical setting make them a cost effective option.
Armed with the tools and knowledge to assess a firefighter’s fitness it is worth discussing how this information is useful. A high level of CV fitness has been shown to be a necessity in fireground operations. In the late 1970s research was conducted to understand the physical requirements. Performing simulated firefighter tasks showed that firefighters with a VO2 of less than 40 ml/kg/min or able to achieve a workload of 11.5 METs were able to meet the demands more readily than those with a VO2 under 40 ml/kg/min. To achieve this level of fitness is the equivalent of exercise approximately 12 minutes on the Bruce protocol used in standard stress testing. More recently a study conducted in conjunction with the Indianapolis Fire Department used real alarm situations over 6 months. This study found that fire suppression work often required firefighters operating at near 70% to100% of their maximum heart rates (2). Heart rate has a linear relationship with VO2. Therefore higher the heart rate requirement means higher the VO2 needed. Even receiving the alarm type can be associated with elevated heart rates of as much as 76% of the predicted heart rate (2). For the fit firefighter the likelihood of an elevated heart rate at alarms is diminished due to having a higher VO2. Much of fire suppression work, such as fire attack, ventilation, and overhaul, is performed at these high heart rates and is anaerobic in nature. Working anaerobically means the body does not utilize oxygen to generate the energy needed for the task and relies on stored supplies. However, excellent CV fitness allows a firefighter to recover faster from the anaerobic work and reduce the stress placed on the heart.
Any firefighter knows that firefighting is strenuous work placing significant demands on the body. Science has been shown to support this. ReIying on a firefighter’s ability to gauge their own level of fitness has been shown to be inaccurate and in the over confident firefighter could lead to compromising situations (4). From time the tones drop to end of overhaul, a lot is asked of the body. Have you trained hard to be able to do the work? Don’t perpetuate the insanity, understand your fitness level. Assessing fitness and knowing your VO2 can give you confidence in your ability to get the job done.
- Wasserman, K., J.E. Hansen, D.Y. Sue, W.M. Stringer, B.J. Whipp. Principles of Exercise Testing and Interpretation 4th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 2005.
- Lemon, P.W.R, R.T. Hermiston. The human energy cost of fire fighting. J Occ Med. 19:558-562, 1977.
- Brown, J., J. Stickford. Physiological Stress Associated with Structural Firefighting Observed in Professional Firefighters. Firefighter Health & Safety Research, School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Department of Kinesiology, University of Indiana, Bloomington. 2009.
- Peate, W.F, L. Lundergan, and J.J. Johnson. Fitness self-perception and VO2max in firefighters. J Occ Environ Med. 44:546-550, 2002.
Every year, firefighters across the country die or are taken out of work due to preventable medical conditions. Many of these conditions could have been identified in annual medical screenings and exams and treated before resulting in loss of life or injury time-off.
A Cardiac Stress Test may be a part of your fire department's routine physical exam or something your Primary Care Physician may suggest based on the nature of your work - but does just the thought of getting a "Treadmill" Stress Test give you chest pain you didn't have before?
Steve Vrieze (Volunteer Firefighter/EMT/Master Degree in Exercise Science) takes us into the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Cardiac Stress Testing to show us their facility and explains to us how this exam is administered and what to expect.
Thanks to awesome friends and fans like you, 555 Fitness now has 30,000 Facebook followers in just over 2 years time. It's just unreal to know that our mission and message can travel so far each and everyday. You guys and girls are the reason the small staff here at 555 Fitness keeps pushing forward. Hearing and seeing your success stories each and everyday only proves that our movement is growing within the fire service. Eventually, change will occur, and you can know that you played a part in it.
To thank you for your loyal support we have decided to have a little video contest on our Facebook wall. We want a short 1-2 minute video of you, and your crew living our motto of Train Hard Do Work in your station. For every like your video gets, you'll get 1 point, for every share your video gets ( must be shared from the 555 Fitness page) you get 2. Most points at the end of one week from this post, wins a grab bag of 555 Fitness gear for you and your crew.Seems easy enough, the rules are below.
1) Video must be done in station
2) Video must have workout listed in it, with one element of the workout using the number 30 (please not 30,000 of anything ok guys). 30,000 of anything will be automatic disqualification and cause for psych eval.
3) You have one week to post the video to our wall from the time of this post
4) Each like gets 1 point, each share from the 555 Fitness wall gets 2. Most points at the end of one week, wins a grab bag of 555 Fitness gear.
555 Fitness was started with a mission in mind. To create a cultural change from within the fire service. All to often we are inundated with studies, programs, politics, equipment created by certain groups of individuals who use their power and influence and create change from the top. All too often this change is met with extreme backlash from the rank and file, which (with help from our friend the internet) only stirs the pot and makes these folks almost famous. All while no real change is actually occurring.
Our experience has only showed us that our very simple and direct method of creating cultural change is working. Put up free workouts, share some tips here and there and create a very non judgmental area for emergency service providers to help their brothers and sisters get in shape. Our use of the internet has brought people together from around the world. We have helped to start this change from within in numerous departments. Not by forcing anyone to workout, not by creating 143 page documents with multiple opened ended options, but by sticking to our philosophy of “Train Hard Do Work”.
Now with the help our partners Brute Force Training , Life Aid Beverages, Topical Biomedics (makers of Topricin Healing Cream), and Top Secret Nutrition, 555 Fitness is proud to announce we are able to provide a special grant to a fire department who is leading the way in firefighter fitness. The Roebuck Fire District in Spartanburg County, South Carolina will be the first winner of this Brute Force Training grant, and will be receiving a variety of functional fitness equipment provided by Brute Force. Please visit their site here to learn more about their products: http://www.bruteforcetraining.com
This department is one of many that the fire service can look to and emulate. They are changing the culture and doing what is RIGHT for the members of the community, the firefighter and their families.
Keeping in mind that what is easy isn't always right, and what is right isn't always easy, the Roebuck FD did the unthinkable. The administration set physical fitness standards, and the members held each other ACCOUNTABLE without exceptions. Below is some info about the Roebuck Fire District and how they created positive cultural change from within. Keep in mind, their policies are very simple and to the point and as you will see, this change was created from within.
To understand why we chose Roebuck fire department as this surprise grant recipient, we would like you to read their story, in their words:
The Roebuck Fire District is a combination department covering 24 square miles of suburban Spartanburg County in S.C. We have 13 career firefighters, and 6 volunteers (3 of which work for other FD’s). We run approx. 600-700 calls per year with very limited medical first response, and work Automatic Aid with 5 local departments for structure fires. Annually we respond to well over 100 reported structure fires in our primary, and auto aid areas.
We hold annual physicals in March every year and there is where our official transformations began this year. Unofficially, we heard that there was going to be a new Dr. coming to our contract agency that performs our physicals, and we heard that he was a “no-nonsense” kind of guy. Honestly, we were scared of the outcome, because we all knew that changes had to be made, but we were really good at making excuses. One of the guys (that would end up on light duty) knew he was going to busted pretty hard, so he began early trying to diet and lost about 20 lbs before physicals… but that is about all the pre-gaming we had. When March rolled around, we completed physicals, and anxiously awaited the phone calls. The Doctor called Chief after reviewing physical info, and told him that he was not going to approve 3 of our firefighters for clearance to wear a respirator. Our physicals are referenced to NFPA 1500, but qualifying factors for “NO CLEARANCE” are BMI over 40%, quality of Pulmonary Function Test, Stress test on bike, and blood work. It is important to state that all 3 of ours that did not get cleared were NOT REMOVED FOR WEIGHT ONLY, but had other medical issues that were directly related to obesity. Some of these were cholesterol problems, hypertension, pre-hypertension and kidney function issues. The combination of weight, bmi and other health issues caused the Dr. to make his decision. When he called Chief, he knew this was not going to be a popular decision, but told Chief that essentially, he refused to have the blood of Spartanburg County Firefighters on his hands and wasn’t going to sign off when the indications were that he shouldn’t. (Gotta love a Doctor with some integrity!)
The administrative staff then had a meeting and determined that PT was no longer going to be optional at our FD. We had allowed our staff to voluntarily work out forever, and had not been successful. After determining that continuing to do the same thing would yield the same results, we made the big change. This did not come easy for us at all. There was push back, and excuse making, and every trick in the book to circumvent the system by those of us who were not put on light duty, but the other 3 had no choice… They were given 90 days to make significant improvement to their overall health and then they would be re-evaluated by the physician. We then decided as a group that we were going to do whatever it takes to support those 3 guys and get them back on the rig. The 3 were required to meet every 2 weeks and have supervised weigh-ins. Progress was slow at first, but evident and then all of us started weighing in and seeing results. After the first month, daily PT was a routine, not a chore anymore. Sure we still tried to get out of working out, but our shift mates would hold us accountable and make sure that we pushed past the moment of weakness and get through the PT. Two members were the first to be returned to full duty after approx. 45 days of mandatory PT and the last returned to full duty clearance after 2 ½ months on light duty.
Since then, all of our staff have seen awesome results, not just in weight loss, but overall function and job performance ability. Collectively since March, our career staff has lost right at 200 lbs, and that number is increasing every day.
We have gone from only being able to do 20 minutes (avg) work out each shift, to now at least an hour each shift. Our stamina on calls is much improved, and our overall ability to perform repeatedly on calls during our shifts is drastically improved.
We will have much more measurable overall health and wellness statistics to compare after our next physicals, but I am hoping that our department serves as an example of what can be done with the right attitude and direction from our staff, Chief and physician making the right decisions.
Do you know of a fire department who is doing something like this? Let us know.
We would like to congratulate the Roebuck Fire District, not just in winning the grant, but in doing what was hard, doing what is right for their employees. We would also like to thank all of our corporate sponsors for their support of not just 555 Fitness, but the fire service as a whole.
Our friends at Again Faster Equipment are proud to announce a mini grant equipment give away. During Fire Rescue International in Atlanta next month we will be giving away Again Faster equipment to one lucky fire department.
We will have all of the equipment in our booth during the Firefighter Throwdown on August 28 and 29th. Below are the steps you need to take for your chance to win this equipment package.
1) You must be present at Fire Rescue International on Sat August 29th at 12 o'clock to pick up this equipment.
2) You are responsible for taking the equipment with you, after the presentation at the event. 555 Fitness can not ship the equipment too you.
3) You must email firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information to be eligible to win.
- Your Departments Name
- Your Departments Location
- A contact name and number
- 500 words or less explaining why your department should be awarded this equipment and what you are currently doing to further your departments fitness.
The email must be sent do later the August 15th 2015. Should you have any questions, please email email@example.com. Good luck, and remember, Train Hard Do Work.