Firefighters Guide to Staying Fit Through the Holidays.

Do Not go into "Holiday Mode." Here are some tips to help you manage your fitness during the Holiday Season.

As the Holidays approach our stress levels rise, as do the numbers on the scale and our waistlines.  For most of us as first responders, the holiday season means long shifts, lots of baked goods around the house (and firehouse), and reasons to put off our fitness until the next year.  The good news is that it can actually be easy to stay on track with your nutrition and fitness during the holidays just follow these six simple tips.   

#1. Don’t give up on your fitness.  It is easy to just give up and wait until the new year to work on your health and fitness.  One thing to remember is that fitness is good for your body and mind.  Working out can help manage your waistline and help you mentally get more out of the holiday.  And, let's face it this has been a really stressful year and fitness can really help.  Your workouts don’t have to be hours long, try to work out 3-4 times a week for 30 minutes.  If you need a program and some workout ideas, FRF has you covered.  You can get the FRF CATALYST program for FREE, just click here.  And if you are looking for a quick workout that you can do at home, try this FRF Bodyweight workout (Click here).



#2. Only eat until you are 80% full.-- Use this trick to help you manage your nutrition and lose fat (especially during the holidays). The brain is always behind the stomach in signaling that we are full.  Hunger and satiety cues are based on the release of hormones within our bodies. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the body to signal to the brain that you are full. If you are eating too quickly while watching TV or are distracted, then you won’t even sense these subtle changes going on internally.   Then, you return for a second (or third) helping because you still feel hungry.  A couple of minutes later you discover you are too stuffed!  This is a common occurrence in most firehouses and holiday gatherings.

Eat too fast and miss the "stop" sign our body sends and consume too much food.  We have all experienced that feeling at one time or another (some more than others).  So, slow down when eating, chew your food, limit distractions like TV, and get in touch with how you feel while enjoying your food.  Try to take at least 15 to 20 minutes to eat your first helpings, then re-evaluate if you are still hungry.

#3.  Stay hydrated... with water.  Hydration is critical for optimal performance and stress management.  The link between water and stress reduction is well documented. All of our organs, including our brains, need water to function properly. If you’re dehydrated, your body isn’t running well -- and that can lead to stress.  Studies have shown that being just half a liter dehydrated can increase your cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a stress hormone.  So, staying properly hydrated can keep you performing, thinking, and managing stress better.  If you are partaking in a libation or two, make sure you have some water to combat the dehydration alcohol can have.

#4.  Have a go-to healthy dish that you can prepare. Schedules and stress are harder to manage during the holidays.  This makes meal planning more difficult.   There are more temptations around and less time to prepare healthy food.  That is why it is important to always have some healthy meal options prepared in case of emergency.  Emergency means you need a dish to pass or you were shopping all day and are starving.  Instead of going out for fast food or restaurants or reaching for that cookie, you have something healthy all ready to go.  Personally, I love chili and always try to have some made and in storage containers in the fridge.  I also like stews and soups and slow cooker meals.  Here is my chili recipe.  I usually make enough for 12-15 people and store a bunch for “emergency” meals.  

Click here for the FRF Healthy Chili Recipe

#5. Take 10 minutes to recharge. The holiday season is supposed to be filled with joy and happiness!  Please remember that.  To help you (and those around you) stay grounded and manage stress, take a couple of minutes each day to take a breath and focus on the positives. Find a quiet area, turn off the phone, tune out all the noise, and take a breath.  Try to use this time to focus on the positives, clear your head,  and maybe do some stretches or dare I say yoga.   This is a great habit to incorporate into your firehouse shifts also.  Just ten minutes of relaxation can improve your mode, give you more energy, and boost immunity.  And, yes taking a little nap is also acceptable.  

 I like to follow this quick and easy yoga routine to help manage the stress of the season (or shift). Click here for a great 10-minute YOGA routine for first responders (and non-first responders). 

#6. Be Grateful.   It sounds easy but when you get stressed and things may not be going your way, your outlook and even your body chemistry can change.  One way to reverse the “Debbie Downer” feeling is to pause and think about two or three things you are grateful for.  It works!  And it is backed by science. Positive psychology and mental health researchers in the past few decades have established an overwhelming connection between gratitude and good health. Keeping a gratitude journal causes less stress, improves the quality of sleep, and builds emotional awareness (Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson, 2005).  Gratitude is positively correlated to more vitality, energy, and enthusiasm to work harder.

Bonus Tip!  Just because it is there does not mean you have to eat it!   Words to live by during the Holidays.  There always seem to be baked treats and an abundance of highly caloric foods available during the holidays.  Thus, the longer you stand around all these tasty foods, the more likely you are to eat them.  As a rule of thumb, when you are finished eating, get away from the food.  This “bonus” tip also applies to the firehouse.  After late-night calls, stay out of the kitchen.  

Enjoy the Holidays.  Make some great memories with your friends and family, relish the time you can spend together, but do not over-indulge.  Following these tips will help you make the most out of the holidays and keep your waistline from expanding.

Enjoy the Holidays, Be Grateful, Be Present and Be Kind. 





Aaron Zamzow (ZAM)


Something to remember as the new year approaches...  Your Health and Fitness are not just about YOU…. As a first responder, firefighter, EMT, medic, soldier, nurse, and/or parent your healthy impacts the lives of those around you. Your crew, your family, and your community count on you to help in their time of need.  ARE YOU READY? 

Make a commitment to your family, your crew, and your community to be the best version of yourself in 2023.  It starts with working on improving your fitness and your health and this program are what you need.   Take your fitness to new levels with the FRF 40-day Challenge. 


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