By: Ryan Provencher – CRACKYL’s Executive Fitness Advisor
We have been talking recently about firefighters as tactical athletes, and strategies to develop the “Athlete’s Mindset”. The fifth strategy to consider in developing the Athlete’s Mindset is to be proactive in your preparation. I am a huge Seattle Seahawks fan, and Quarterback Russell Wilson often talks about how his preparation off the field has set him up for success on the field. This idea may be applied to our work as firefighters as well.
Here are 4 ways to be proactive in preparation:
There is so much information that we are accountable for as modern day firefighters. It is important that we stay on top of key concepts through frequent study of Strategy and Tactics, EMS Protocols, Policies and Procedures, etc. Be proactive in mapping out a study schedule for the topics that you want to review each week.
Hone your Skills
Athletes will often use the phrase “practice like you play”. This sentiment definitely applies to us as firefighters and we can get our reps in through Hands On Training, Scenario-Based Training, Skills Drills, and more.
Visualize Incident Response
Visualization is a powerful technique elite athletes use to prepare for competition. This is another tool that transfers directly to us as firefighters. Visualization is a simple technique that enables you to think about and to talk through limitless scenarios for yourself or with your Crew. Consider using images, videos, table top scenarios, building walk-throughs and more to build your mental “slide tray”.
Utilize Breathing Techniques for Stress Management
We have all heard the term “tunnel vision” and we are familiar with the “fight or flight” response to stressful situations. Your breath is a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less anxious, while maintaining access to cognitive function and fine motor skills. Try these breathing techniques to see what may work best for you.
The 4-7-8 Technique: Breathe in for a 4 count, hold for a 7 count, exhale for and 8 count. Repeat for 2-4 cycles and see how you feel.
Box Breathing: Breathe in for a 4 count, hold for a 4 count, exhale for a 4 count, hold for a 4 count. Repeat for 2-4 cycles and see how you feel.
Benefits of Breathing Techniques
The great thing about these breathing techniques is that they may be implemented at any time. Try this as you walk to your rig for a call, during training while wearing SCBA, after a call to wind down, or before you go home after shift to reset your nervous system and see how you feel.
Ryan is the Training Division Chief, Health/Safety Officer, and Wellness/Fitness Coordinator in his department, founder of Firefighter Peak Performance, and Executive Fitness Advisor for CRACKYL Magazine. He has a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with a minor in Nutrition from Washington State University. He has worked as a Volunteer Firefighter, Firefighter/EMT, Firefighter/Paramedic, and Company Officer before promoting to his current position. Ryan is grateful to combine his love for firefighting and physical fitness over his career of nearly 30 years. You can get in touch with Ryan by email [email protected].
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