Firefighter Fitness 24

Fit with Fire

Due to the physical nature of the profession, most fire departments require their personnel to maintain a certain level of fitness. Many departments go as far as requiring yearly physical fitness assessments, and most allow crews time to work out while on duty. The Olathe Fire Department has both of these things in place, and have now extended some of their fitness routines into the community.

While working as a firefighter at Olathe Fire Station 1, 
Capt. Paul Craft noticed that members of the crew all had individual fitness goals, but did not enjoy the same type of workouts.

“I DEVELOPED A CIRCUIT-TYPE WORKOUT AND INCLUDED ALL DIFFERENT TYPES OF EXERCISES, WHICH WORKED THE ENTIRE BODY” CRAFT SAYS. “WE ENDED UP HAVING ALMOST 100 PERCENT BUY-IN AFTER A COUPLE OF WEEKS. PRIDE AND OWNERSHIP TOOK OVER, AND WE WERE HAVING A BLAST WORKING OUT TOGETHER.”

Olathe Fire Chief Jeff DeGraffenreid continually strives to find different ways for the fire department to engage the community. He was interested in taking the crew’s fitness class to the public. He became aware of a program that the University of California, Davis Fire Department was offering students that combined traditional CrossFit exercises with activities similar to firefighter training. Knowing that Craft, as well as Capt. Matt Britt were both ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified Peer Fitness Trainers and CrossFit Level 1 Trainers, DeGraffenreid shared the concept with them.

“Chief wondered if we could expand on the idea and use it to become more involved within our own community,” Britt recalls. “We could even find some potential applicants or future firefighters.”

DeGraffenreid worked closely with the city of Olathe Parks and Recreation Department on the logistics and details. The class was designed as a six-week session that meets from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Monday and Thursday at Olathe Fire Station 1. The class is open to anyone 18 years and older. Although workouts are modified to fit each participant’s fitness level, they are not designed for beginners.

Given the unique structure and location of the class, as well as a lack of comparable models, the two captains worked together to develop the workouts.

“We have a different workout for every class, and all workouts have a fire service theme,” Craft says.

Each workout consists of traditional exercises combined with skills typical to those used on the fire scene, such as dragging training dummies and fire hose.

“THE WORKOUTS MIMIC THE MOVEMENTS AND MUSCLE GROUPS USED ON TYPICAL FIRE-GROUND SCENES—FOR EXAMPLE, CARRYING HEAVY EQUIPMENT SUCH AS SAWS AND LADDERS,” BRITT SAYS.

Sandbags and heavy kettlebells are also used to simulate other firefighting tools and equipment. Currently, Britt and Craft teach all of the classes but hope to add more firefighters in the future.

Ultimately the goal of this class is the same as any other fitness class: to get people in better shape and increase their quality of life. However, the benefits have gone far beyond that.

“THE GREATEST BENEFIT IS THE ABILITY FOR THE COMMUNITY TO FEEL A PART OF THE OLATHE FIRE DEPARTMENT, BRITT SAYS. “THE CLASSES ARE ALL HELD AT THE FIRE STATION IN THE BAY, EXERCISING AROUND THE WORKING CREWS AND APPARATUS.”

Craft adds, “the participants get to learn about health, fitness and their local fire department. We are truly building a partnership with these people. They become comfortable around the firefighters and begin to feel like family.”

Overall, Fit with Fire has been successful in creating an additional way for firefighters to connect with the people they serve and protect on a daily basis.

The next Fit with Fire class will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Monday and Thursday, January 8-February 15. For more information or to register, visit OlatheKS.org and select Parks & Recreation under the Government tab.