Crossfit, working out and keepin time

There has been a lot written over the years about Crossfit, both good and bad.  The latest article, which can be read here (, makes some excellent points, including some that I have seen first hand, but makes a cardinal mistake when she makes a blanket statement that all crossfit is bad.  So I thought I would write up something on why I chose to use crossfit to keep up my fitness for the fireground.  


The fireground is an extremely dynamic place, one of the most dynamic situations anyone can be put in.  The elements of each fireground, taken as a whole, are unique.  Firegrounds are never the same.  From the construction of the structure, to the contents, to the extent of the fire, to the alterations of the structure, to the different requirements such as rescue.  The one constant is the variety.  So it makes sense that a person that works in that type of environment would have a workout that mimics it, variety.  And variety is the one element that best describes crossfit.  But there should be and is more to crossfit than simple variety.  I am a firm believer that as firefighters, our fitness levels should have it's foundation in strength (hence the title of our first shirt).  I always use the antidote of give me a powerlifter and a marathoner.  Given enough time in a day, the powerlifter can move his/her body over 26.2 miles.  They may walk most of it, but they can make it.  Now take the typical marathoner and have them deadlift 500lbs.  Given all 24 hours in a day and they still would not be able to lift it.  So my belief is that strength is paramount but certainly not the only thing.


Unlike Crossfit, I don't have much need for timers or clocks other than to tell me when a certain time period is up.  When I do one of our Honor WOD's, I don't keep the time, well, most of the time I don't.  The fireground does not have a timer.  We don't get graded on our speed in which we complete a task.  If one crew puts a fire out in :45 seconds and another does it in :55 seconds, does that make the first crew better?  Absolutely not!  Different conditions, whether it is the amount of fire, atypical construction, landscape or a million different factors could account for the 10 second difference.  What matters the most is getting the work done, whatever amount of work is required by a particular fireground.  The biggest difference between the fireground and a workout is what is known.  At a fire, it is almost completely unknowable.  We can see the smoke and fire conditions most of the time but beyond that, it's a mystery until we stumble upon it, then it is adapt and overcome time!  A workout tends to be defined.  So I don't keep time and I don't care about speed.  I care about completing my workout, doing it safely, and trying to be efficient while doing it.


I am not out to speed through my workout.  That's a good thing because I am not built for speed!  I simply want to do work.  I have no problem taking a breather.  I have no problem scaling the weight back if my form starts to break.  I did that yesterday on the Honor WOD Terence McShane.  My form started to break so I dropped from 225 to 205 and eventually to 155.  I got a hell of a workout and I didn't hurt myself.  That is what we are all about.  If you want to workout for the best time you can, then that's your prerogative.  Going fast is great for competitions, but the fireground is anything but a competition.  It's real life, with real consequences.  Being efficient is far better than being fast.  So when it comes to moving weight, especially heavier weights, I would caution against going for time.  What good are we if we get hurt?  I know some departments that forbid working out on duty because of the on-duty injuries, which makes them liable for.  I know of a few others that specifically forbid doing any type of crossfit.  We have to not only be smart on the fireground, but in the gym as well, especially the firehouse gym.


If real estate is all about location, location, location then it can be said that working out, especially with weights is all about form, form, form!  Who is better at opening up a door, one that is heavy duty and locked up securely?  A skilled truckie with their assortment of tools, or the meathead with an axe and his boot?  The meathead may get that door open every now and again, but the truckie will get it open most of the time and will have spent a lot less energy doing so and won't have to worry about a torqued ankle, knee or hip!  It is all about form, in everything we do as firefighters.  We can muscle our way through sometimes, but it is a recipe for injury and failure.


Enjoy these workouts, give them hell, but be smart.  Slow down when your tired, pace yourself from the beginning, scale the weight down if needed, stop if you have reached the breaking point.  At least you have gotten a good workout and can come back the next day to do it again as opposed to hurting yourself and being out for six weeks.  Remember, most departments race to a fire call trying to be first-on, but that race ends when the first company gets on scene, then it's all about doing the work that is required, as efficiently and safely as possible while completing the task.


One last quick story, my station has a sled that we can load weight on and push or pull.  I like to get our rookies out in our backyard and workout with it.  I have a 25m path marked.  We do 10 rounds down and back, alternating between the rookie and myself.  We do four rounds with just the sled (45#), three rounds with an extra 45# and three rounds with an extra 90#.  I let this young buck have at it.  He ran with the sled when it was light.  By the time we got to round 8 with the extra 90# he was spent.  Couldn't go on, so we dropped it down to just the sled.  The next day I told him to walk with the sled, even when it was light.  He did all 10 rounds as prescribed and we did it a combined 5 minutes faster.  I kept the time to prove a point.  Slow is smooth and smooth is fast!


Train hard, do work!!!