Hi, I am about 50 pounds overweight and not really fit. I would really like to get firefighter fit in the next 6 months. I am not really fit, what can I do in cardio and strength training? Also how much and what should I eat prior to exercising?

I am going to apply to a fire academy in mid-April 2012. I have to be able to do the following tasks to get in;


Physical Ability Performance Task Descriptions:

    • Task Description: While wearing the fire equipment (helmet & coat) provided, the applicant will left and carry on one shoulder 1 - section of 3" hose bundled with the 2-1/2" nozzle attached, up to the third floor landing and return to the first floor landing while carrying a flashlight in the opposite hand. Applicants shall make each step on the stairway without skipping any steps. Time allowed: 60 seconds.
    • Task Description: The applicant will remove a roof ladder from a pumper and carry 50 feet, around obstacles, to a doorway, turn around and return to the pumper and place the ladder back on the apparatus. Time allowed: 70 seconds.
    • Task Description: Three unconnected lengths of 3" dry hose will be placed on the ground. The applicant will move down the hose, coupling each section. The applicant will then drag the coupled hose 50 feet to pre-marked line, then turn around and re-drag the hose an additional 50 feet to a pre-marked line. Time allowed: 50 seconds.
    • Task Description: the applicant will be required to advance a charged hose line forward 30 feet, then will make a 90 degree right turn around the marker, advance the charged hose to a the second marker located approximately 15 feet from the first marker, then make a left turn around the second marker and advance the charged hose line and nozzle past the finish line located approximately 15 feet away from the second marker. Time allowed: 40 seconds.
    • Task Description: The applicant will need protective clothing, SCBA and face piece; enter into an area with mask blacked out; and follow a rope to the exit. Time allowed: 60 seconds.
    • Task Description: The applicant will need a firefighting helmet, gloves and life belt and climb 70 feet on an aerial ladder at 70 degrees. The applicant will touch a flag and descend the ladder. Time allowed: 5 minutes

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Hello Lisa,


Getting in shape is one of the hardest things to do - it takes dedication and a ton of effort, but it's definitely doable. 6 months is a short amount of time to lose 50 pounds, but you can put forth a good effort and burn off (and gain some, actually) weight in the process.


Firefighting utilizes both upper and lower body strength. And, as always, having a solid core is necessary, too.


For example, you'll need upper body strength for exercises such as the ladder carry and utilizing hydraulic tools such as the spreaders and cutters. You'll need lower body strength for doing searches, climbing ladders, and so on.


Although I am not a personal trainer, my father is, and I've learned a thing or two from him over the years. Also, I have NOT taken these tests personally and a volunteer, but I hope my advice helps you in your journey.


For upper body use a bench press. Start with a weight that is comfortable, but also pushes your limits. After starting out you will be very achey, but that subsides after training for some time. Do reps of 8-12 for 3 sets, eventually pushing it to 4 sets. Up the weight when comfortable and necessary. Do incline bench press, too.


Arms are a big portion of upper body strength. Do 21's for biceps (Google them). These are good for endurance and building. Do 2 sets of 21's, then 3 when you're comfortable. For triceps do pull-downs and kick-backs.


For lower I suggest doing basic leg presses and other exercises you can find around the gym.


As I said before, fitness is a big thing. I'm not a professional, so I DO suggest seeking the advice of a personal trainer at your local gym.


Also, remember that you will NOT lose an adequate amount of weight if you only exercise - diet is HUGE in weight loss. You'll be sitting in a single spot if you're going to the gym and then housing beers and slices of pizza afterwards.


Last, but not least, do cardio last. When you lift weights there is acid that builds in the muscle. Cardiovascular exercise (Example: Running) helps drain the acid built up in the muscle.


Drink a protein drink after every workout to help rebuild muscle.


Best of luck.

Cardio is very important, so jogging/running is a necessity. I used the couch to 5k program with great success. It allows you to build stamina and lose weight. It starts off very light and by the end of the nine weeks, you should be able to run a 5k non stop. After that the next program is bridge to 10k and it keeps going. I lost 15 pounds on this program in nine weeks and gained really good stamina.

Also, following Andrews advise about weights will give you the strength needed as well.

good luck.

It's nice that you cut and pasted the physical agility components for others to see and learn from. This gig isn't an easy one and many times just plain dangerous.

The given here is that you have to be glued to a gym and a professional trainer if you want to even consider passing any of the above listed events. Being in perfect shape sans any bodyfat is what you are competing against. Even these folks will have difficulty tackling the above. Now add 50 pounds of being overweight, which is considered being morbidly obese... Not a good thing, especially when just starting a career that is going to beat you up physically as you go through your career. Starting out overweight and not in shape... So how do you tackle this?


Remember this:

Food is fuel, NOT entertainment!


Network with other female firefighters who have been successful in this career, work your ass off losing weight and practicing over and over again all the above evolutions. In my area, there are programs for women to help them overcome the upper body strength issues that puts you in a tail spin if you don't compensate for it ahead of time. 



Focus on getting in shape, lose weight and ask a lot of questions on how to take the test(s).

For example, if you have the choice of dragging hose on grass, asphalt or a concrete surface, you would want to go the concrete route because there is less friction, making the hose easier to pull, compensating for upper body strength.



Just don't overdo it... sometimes people tend to take things to the extreme. Remember your ABC's... always be careful... :D


I know what you mean I"m also over weight at 255 but there are numerous ways to do it but the best way like everyone else says is hard work and dedication and what I've done is actually use personal trainers at my gym.  I stated to them my goals and my occupation and they know what to work on with me to improve myself as best as I can.

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