You work with a great group. We all do. We go through literal hell together, see terrible things, and sometimes beautiful things like the birth of a child, but either way, through thick and thin, we are there for each other. You go out after shift or off shift and have a beer at the bar or go out on the boat and enjoy some free time together. You have built some great memories and unbreakable bonds with your brothers and sisters, but have you ever thought to yourself, or wondered, “Could we get even closer? Could our group become even tighter?”. The answer is a definite YES.
Through my time in the fire department and deployed overseas, I have noticed one thing that they have in common with each other: the groups that live together and lift together, are significantly closer than those who just go through the motions at work and go home at the end of shift. Actually, “significant” isn't the right word. I would say astronomically closer; leaps and bounds closer and more tight knit. Now I know you're probably thinking to yourself “Yeah, right. Like one aspect of physical training can make that much of a difference”. Yes, it is right.
Whether you are in an all volunteer department, a combination department, or all paid to the extent of FDNY or LAFD, you all have your cliques. On the larger scales you have your groups that you work with. Look at those groups, those cliques, and tell me how high their motivation is. Not for the job, but for LIFE. There is an influence in each group that effects the others within the group.
Fitness is an addiction that spreads. I have seen it in my fire department and many others. And I have seen the opposite, unfortunately, in others. Think of the one guy on group that is into physical fitness, or even just starting to take it seriously, as “Patient Zero” in an outbreak. Slowly the other firefighters see this, ask about it, wonder about it, research it, and become so curious that eventually they start working out. It spreads. This process alone builds conversation and comradery. It builds trust in your brothers, and they trust you when you assure them that YOU WILL BE THERE for support, and that no matter what they should not ever be embarrassed.
While in the gym, you push each other. You see each others limits and challenge each other. You notice your brothers breaking points, their “red lines”, and how well they function under stress. During these workouts you subconsciously build a memory bank of your brothers, and when you are at a fire or a prolonged event, you can make sure to tell them to take a break before they go past their limit. This will prevent possible strains, sprains, and even LODD's.
Being there for your brothers and sisters means more than making dinner when it's your turn on shift, mopping up, or having their back in a fire. It means looking out for them physically and mentally, so they can live a long, healthy life, and not become a statistic as a medical related LODD or fire ground injury. It means making sure they stay on top of their fitness so they can go home and play with their son or daughter instead of needing to rest their back because they threw it out lifting a patient.
Going through an hour of an all out, sweat inducing, muscle aching workout, together as a team, means a lot more than anyone can imagine. If you haven't given this a try yet, what's stopping you? There should be no excuse. An hour out of your day to build even stronger bonds and to better your own well-being as well as your team's, is well worth the time. If you and your department are already on this path, keep it up! Possibly even look back at when there was no physical fitness program, or it was just one or two people instead of the whole shift. I can guarantee you there is a difference in the brotherhood.
Ian is a professional fireman, a Veteran Air Force Firefighter, and a Certified Personal Trainer with ten years in the fire service. His passion for physical fitness has led him to begin Thin Line Fitness.