555 News/Events / FIREFIGHTERS

The Firefighter Throwdown is Changing the Tide

The Firefighter Throwdown is Changing the Tide

   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.

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3 Years Strong

3 Years Strong

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.

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FDIC 2016 Reflections

FDIC 2016 Reflections

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….. 

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Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

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. 

 

OVERVIEW OF A STRESS TEST
By Steve Vrieze, MS, NREMT-B
It’s quite likely that you know someone with heart disease. Heart disease has established itself as the No. 1 killer in the United States (1). According the American Heart Association (AHA) 375,000 lives are claimed each year and 735,000 people suffer a heart attack per year.
Similar to the rest of the American population, the fire service feels the effects of heart disease too. Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the leading cause of on duty firefighter deaths (2). In most research SCD is an umbrella term that typically groups causes of abrupt loss of heart function together. In fact, 45% of all duty related deaths are due to heart disease. Furthermore for every SCD event, almost 17 non-fatal cardiovascular events occur (3). This means many fire departments, while not dealing with line of duty deaths, are still losing personnel to heart disease. With these findings the National Fire Protection Association suggests fire departments focus on detectable heart problems through annual medical exams and wellness programs.
One method for evaluating detectable heart problems is a cardiac stress test. If you mention to your department or personal physician that you have had any type of chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or palpitations, it is likely you will be scheduled to have a stress test. Elements such as age, risk factors, and previous heart history are considered when ordering a stress test. However, given the before mentioned statistics of heart disease and the fire service, it is likely a physician would order a stress test regardless of risk factors and medical history. There are a variety of stress tests available: exercise and non-exercise, as well as with and without heart imaging. Given the physical nature of firefighting, an exercise stress test is likely the type of test chosen for a firefighter. When looking at the diagnostic value of a stress test we often talk about specificity and sensitivity in clinical exercise testing. Specificity is the percent of those without heart disease that will have normal test results. In most cases the specificity of a stress test is 84%. Sensitivity is the percentage of those with heart disease that will have abnormal test results, which is typically 66% (4). In basic terms this means if you have disease and don’t know it, a majority of the time it will be discovered through a cardiac stress testing. If there this imaging added to the test these numbers can be increased.
Once a stress test is scheduled there are a number of things to expect. First, understand there is often a discrepancy between how your physician describes the test to you and how the actual test is performed. An exercise stress test can be performed using a variety of devices. While a treadmill remains the most common modality for testing, an upright bicycle is often used, or a supine bicycle is possible. Some places may even use a simple step in which the patient steps up and down to an audio cue. Secondly, you may have to have an I.V. placed prior to testing. For those with a phobia of needles this can often be a test taking deal-breaker if the patient isn’t prepared for it. The I.V. serves two purposes; first for safety and second for administration of an imaging solution. If any type of imaging is ordered with the stress test an I.V. is a given.
While the modality that a stress test is performed on may be different, the process often follows a common pattern: resting baseline, exercise, and recovery. During the rest phase, a patient has their blood pressure and electrocardiogram (ECG) assessed as well as reviewing cardiac history and risk factors. An ECG is an electrical recording of the heart. The ECG will consist of 10 sticky electrodes placed in various locations on the torso. For patients with chest hair, expect that the hair will be shaved for maximal adherence of the electrodes. With the skin prepped and electrodes applied, a resting ECG will be recorded as well as blood pressure measured. Blood pressure and ECG are recorded in a supine or lying position as well as in a standing position to assess for any abnormal postural change. Once the patient’s resting hemodynamic measurements and ECG is assessed, it’s time for the main event.
The exercise portion of a stress test follows incremental, pre-programmed stages from a well-established protocol. A stage can range from 2-3 minutes at a set speed and incline. Each stage increases in difficulty. A patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and ECG are recorded and assessed during each stage of exercise. Standard exercise protocols, such as Bruce, Balke, or Naughton, are used because of the extensively researched blood pressure and heart rate responses for each stage. If blood pressure increases too rapidly that can be a sign of future hypertension as well as potentially being associated with coronary artery disease. A blood pressure that drops with exercise is suggestive of poor cardiac pumping function and possibly suggestive of heart disease. The ECG is assessed for changes during each stage. Electrical changes on the ECG can suggest inadequate blood flow through the arteries of the heart. ECG changes are the primary indicator of heart disease during a stress test. It is these changes a physician is most interested in.
Exercise testing is often a symptom limited procedure, meaning the patient exercises as long as possible, exerting a maximal effort and stopping only because of fatigue or the development of symptoms such as chest pain, or shortness of breath, etc. However, testing can be terminated for other reasons, such target heart rate achievement, exaggerated blood pressure response, or significant ECG changes. The typical exercise portion of a stress test can last approximately 6-12 minutes.
Once exercise has been terminated, the recovery phase begins. In some situations where cardiac imaging is involved the patient may completely stop moving so the imaging can be performed. However in most situations the intensity of the modality is decreased to allow the patient to gradually cool down. The patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and ECG are continually monitored as the patient’s hemodynamics return to pre-exercise levels. The ECG is monitored for any changes that may develop in recovery which could be indicative of heart disease. Once the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure as well as ECG have returned normal resting levels or the established levels of the testing center, testing is done. If stress testing is performed with a competent, experienced, and efficient staff, a stress test can be completed in about an hour.
The idea of a stress test can elicit anxiety in a person. When armed with knowledge of what to expect during testing, the event can be a little less stressful. Additionally the risk of an adverse event occurring with a stress test is very low, about 1 in 5,000. A stress test can provide information as to how the body responds to calculated and controlled exertion, which provides an understanding of how the body might react to the rigors of firefighting. If heart disease is detectable with a stress test, it could be deadly on the fireground if undetected. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
References
Mozaffarian, D, E.J. Benjamin, A.S. Go. et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics – 2015 update: a report from American Heart Association. Circ. 131:e29-e322, 2015.
Fahy, R.F. U.S. firefighter fatalities due sudden cardiac death 1995-2004. Nat Fire Prot Assoc J. 99:44-47, 2005.
Smith, D.L., D.A. Barr, S.N. Kales. Extreme sacrifice: sudden cardiac death in the US fire service. Extreme Physiology and Medicine. 2:6-15, 2013.
Fletcher, G.F, G.J. Balady, E.A. Amsterdam, et al. Exercise standards for testing and training a statement for healthcare professionals from American Heart Association. Circulation. 104:1694-1740, 2001.
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