The 5 Steps to Get More Fit for Duty

The last five years, I have been sponsoring the FRF "Fit for Duty" Challenge.  This past year there were over 100 submissions from firefighters, EMTs and medics from all over the world (the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) that made some great fitness progress and helped change their lives with improved health and fitness.

Reading all these stories is both humbling and motivating!  My mission with Fire Rescue Fitness is to educate and motivate 100,000 firefighters, EMTs and medics to get "fit for duty."  Each year after the Challenge is completed I feel like I/ we (the FRF nation included), are getting there but there are still a lot more work to do.

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It prompts me to ask pondering questions...

  • Why do many people that want to get fit for duty fall short and fail?
  • Why do other succeed?
  • What is the major difference between success and failure?

After surveying and working with literally thousands of people over the 25 years I have been in fitness, including the last 5 years of managing the "fit for duty" challenge, it has become fairly obvious that there are really 5 things that these successful people do that separates them from the others.   Follow these steps and see results!


#1.  Decide to! 

Excuses are everywhere, don't have enough time, don't have equipment, the kids need something, the chief is fat, I'm tired, I'm hurt, I don't know what to do, I don't like running, I like beer, I like donuts...  The list can continue for pages and pages.  I know because I have heard them all and used them myself also.  So, lets just get it out there that we all have excuses.  The biggest and most important step to your success is your attitude!  The biggest thing that I have seen that separates fitness success from failure is that those that succeed, "decide to succeed."  Sounds very simple and cliche but its the cold, honest truth.

Let's take the excuse of not having enough time, which is the most common reason people miss their workouts.  On average people spend over an hour checking on their social media accounts and surfing the web.  This estimate is probably low but it will help prove my point.  Now, I could tell you to stop checking your profiles and stop browsing but I am not (that is too obvious).  You could hop on the stationary bike and check your profiles and web browse as you exercise.  My point is that you have to make the decision to get fit and find a way.   This brings me to the second point (keep reading).

#2.  Get or make a plan

After you make the decision to get fit for duty, you have to establish a plan for success.  Success comes from taking one step after another, with purpose, focus, discipline and persistence. To make your efforts their most effective, put together a plan. When on the fireground or rescue scene we have a command staff that evaluates what is needed and creates a plan to mitigate the situation.  Take command of your health and establish a plan.

How to create a plan is the other question.  First start with figuring out what you want to accomplish.  Performance improvement should be on every fire rescue athletes goal list.  You may also want to lose weight or body-fat, these goals will also help you improve performance in the long run.  The next step is to create a map that includes your goals, timing, structure, and the physical and emotional variables necessary to execute each step. Planning also means getting ready for the day’s workouts — the right gear, a proper warm-up, and proper fueling on hand. “Fueling,” or your nutrition and hydration, is perhaps the most important variable in your outcomes (keep reading).  There is a lot to consider.  Luckily there are a lot of resources available like  that can help.

#3.  Eat like an athlete.

Remember this statement:  "You cannot out-train a bad diet."  All the workouts and crunches in the world will not help if you are not fueling your body properly.   Avoid highly processed foods, bagged foods, and packaged foods while including natural, one-ingredient foods. Always have vegetables and fruits available.   Personally, I won’t throw sweets away because I don’t want to be “that guy,” but I’ll put them in the cupboard so it takes effort to get to them. Then I’ll leave celery and peanut butter with some orange slices on the table and, believe it or not, most of that stuff gets completely eaten. If you make it more work to get the bad stuff and you put some good stuff there, chances are they’ll take the good stuff.  Here are the basics to good nutrition, smaller portions, natural foods, limit the sugars and drink enough water.


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#4.  Get support.

You can buy the top running shoes on the market and hire the best nutritionist in the country, but those fancy shoes might weigh you down if you can’t get your family, friends or crew to support you.   Having a workout buddy or recruiting your partner to exercise with you can help immensely when it comes to staying on track.  The key is to have people around you that will tell you what you need to hear versus what you want to hear.  Effective support is the perfect blend of those that demand your best yet allow you to be authentic and vulnerable.  Your support system should have empathy, great listening skills, and passion.  We have a group of people on the FRF Nation Facebook page that help and support each other, you can click here to "like" the Fire Rescue Fitness Facebook Page.

#5.  Execute the Plan

This is one of the more difficult parts of the plan.  This is the step where the work actually happens.  Its one thing to set-up the plan its another to execute it.  I wish I had a magical slogan or advice that would make this part easy... but I don't.   Those that have fitness success take it one day at a time, they plan their workouts, plan their nutrition and then just "does it!   This step is about putting one foot in front of the other each day...  Nike had it right when they said: Just Do It!"


If you need to lose weight, lose bodyfat, get in-shape for a test, or if you are just frustrated and tired with your level of fitness, these 5 steps will help you.  Commit to yourself, decide to make fitness a priority, have a plan, eat right, get some support and execute.  Thousands of firefighters, emts and medics are dedicating to their fitness, join them today.

Stay safe and Get FRF!

Aaron Zamzow

PS- If you have questions or want some direction and/or help, please contact me!



Fire Rescue Fitness has workout programs that will help first responders lose weight, gain strength, lose bodyfat and most importantly improve performance on (and off) the fire/rescue scene.   To discover the best program for you, take the FRF workout quiz (click here).

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