Great gift ideas for any first responder! You don't need a reason, these are the perfect gifts for any season.
It seems that gift-giving has gotten more and more difficult these past few years. In this day and age, if you want or need something, you order it online and you can get it the next day. This has led to an era of gift cards and easy exchanges. If you are looking to get that beloved first responder a gift, you are in the right place. If you are a first responder that didn't get what you wanted this Holiday season or has some gift cards to spend, you are also in the right place. And, it does not have to be just for the holidays, these gift ideas are valid any time of the year.
The credentials for this list are simple- be affordable and effective at improving your level of health and fitness. These gifts can help relieve aches and pains, provide good nutrition, give some motivation, and ultimately improve the performance and health of any first responder.
#1. The Peanut Foam Roller.
By now you have probably heard about foam rolling and how it can relieve muscle aches and improve mobility and recovery. If not, here is a great article to read (click here) Foam rolling has been gaining in popularity in gyms and firehouses over the past few years. The idea behind foam rolling is fairly simple, use your own body weight to roll along the foam roller to find tight spots in your muscles. By rolling on these "hot spots" which commonly occur in stressed muscles, you cause the nerves to relax and loosen. This allows blood to flow more freely through the muscles and allows muscles to heal and repair more efficiently.
The concept behind foam rolling has remained the same over the years but the rollers themselves have evolved. You can now get rollers of a wide variety of styles, shapes, and materials. Some rollers vibrate and even heat up. My personal opinion is that you don't need to get fancy, you just have to find something that works for you and stay consistent with it.
Which, is why I love the "peanut" foam roller. You can put this in your gym bag or overnight bag and use it practically anywhere. I've found that it is really useful to use against a wall to get the shoulders and upper traps which can be difficult to get with the traditional foam roller. These "nuts" (insert funny joke here..lol) come in various sizes (insert funny joke #2) and levels of hardness (insert joke #3). I found a great option on Amazon.com that is $22. If you love foam rolling, you will love these! If you have not tried foam rolling, you should try these...
#2. The Fitbit Charge 5, or Sense.
I am sure you have read about fitness trackers and wearables. They have only been the most popular fitness trend over the past two years. There are a lot of different options on the market, some are smartwatches, some are just something you wear on your wrist or finger, and some even come with special clothing that can sense muscle tone. As technology has improved, so has the fitness wearables business.
I could write an entire article and post on fitness wearables (and maybe will soon) but, here is why I like these three Fitbit options. Fitbit has been one of the more reliable brands on the market and is known for having good products and fairly good service. They also have a very intuitive user interface that tells you what you want to know; steps, heart rate, distance, reminders to get moving, etc. The details are different from product to product but the common functions are useful and can be used to motivate you to get more movement in throughout the day. Personally, I am using mine to help me get the 10,000 steps required for the FRF 40-day Challenge.
What I really like about the Sense and Charge 5 is they have the technology to monitor heart health via ECG and an Electrodermal Activity sensor (EDA) that measures perspiration to register the wearer's stress levels. And, they incorporate some of the most advanced sleep monitoring technology to help users monitor and improve sleep habits. These functions are imperative for any first responder, the better we can monitor our stress levels and responses, the better we can manage and implement positive ways to manage it.
The biggest difference between the two products is that Sense also has the capabilities of a smartwatch which is reflected in the price. Being a smartwatch, it integrates with a phone to show notifications, and it can install apps, expanding its capabilities. Either option is a great gift and can really help to educate the user about their current health and level of stress.
#3. FRF 40-Day Resilient Challenge Program.
One of the best gift options (I might be biased) to give any first responder is the FRF 40-day Resilience Challenge Program. Let's face it, the last few years have been very difficult for firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, nurses, doctors, and police officers. The stress of the pandemic along with the already stressful job has taught us that health and fitness include more than just squats and arm curls.
As a first responder, it is essential that you are and stay fit physically. What the last few years have confirmed is that we also need to focus on our stress management and mental health skills. You can do all the planks and bench presses you want but if you are not managing the other aspects of your health- nutrition, mental health, and recovery, you are destined for some type of breakdown. That breakdown can take many different forms; weight problems, relationship issues, using alcohol and drugs, PTSD, poor cognitive function, and/or you can just turn into a real a$$hole. And yes, there is a lot of research that confirms that unmanaged stress can cause these issues along with many other health issues.
Enter the FRF 40-day Resilience Program. This is more than just another FRF Workout, this program includes resources and guidance on how to manage your fitness, mental health, and nutrition to become a more functionally fit and resilient first responder.
The program includes a 40-day workout program that can be adapted to every fitness level. FRF just launched a new GET FRF App and platform that allows the user to change exercises based on available equipment and level of fitness. This new app platform also gives users direct access to coaches and each other for support and motivation. This complete program also includes the NEW FRF Healthy Eating Guide for First Responders, recipes, and meal plan examples. And, new for 2022, the program includes resources on mental health and stress management that can easily be integrated into any schedule and lifestyle. Put all this together and you have THE MOST EFFECTIVE HEALTH AND FITNESS PROGRAM FOR FIRST RESPONDERS!
This is the most "complete" workout and fitness program FRF has ever created and a great gift to give "yourself" or that firefighter, EMT, or medic in your life. I personally feel that every first responder should do this challenge to help them build strategies to manage their health and fitness. A bonus to the program is that you can also participate with me as I feel so strongly about the program I will be doing also be doing it.
#4. Firefighter Functional Fitness: The Essential Guide to Optimal Firefighter Performance and Longevity.
Why would I recommend another fitness program? Because it is a good one.! I love what Jim Moss and Dan Kerrigan created with their Firefighter Functional Fitness Book. I own a copy and believe that every first responder should read it. The book is designed for firefighters by firefighters, and talks about the 4 Pillars of Firefighter Functional Fitness: 1 - Physical Fitness, 2 - Recovery and Rest, 3 - Hydration, and 4 - Nutrition and Lifestyle. It also reveals the Big 8 concept, which includes over 100 photos and descriptions of functional exercises, movements, and stretches that are specifically designed to enhance firefighter performance. The Workout Programming chapter gives firefighters numerous options for putting the Big 8 into action, taking into account all levels of fitness. Additionally, each chapter provides practical action steps for both immediate improvement and long-term success. I think this is a great complement to FRF programs!
#5. BlastMask Training Regulator
BlastMask® Training Regulators attach to your face mask and simulate real-world SCBA breathing without draining your cylinders or your budget. And with new enhancements, including the bypass and slide latch mimicking SCBA functionality is even more true to life. The BlastMask enables you to conduct multiple training and fitness exercises with or without SCBA packs that can dramatically improve your readiness for the job. I personally like to use it at the end of my FRF workouts to simulate fireground intensity.
The BM is easy to use and cleans quickly so it can be used by your entire crew. This is a great gift for any firefighter looking to take their training and fitness to the next level.
#6. Crackyl Magazine Subscription
What is Crackyl Magazine? CRACKYL Magazine is a publication dedicated to the well-being of firefighters across North America and beyond, providing relatable and applicable content covering our pillars: health, lifestyle, finances, stress, fitness & nutrition, relationships, and more. In the latest issue you catch Rip Esselstyn on the cover where he shares all things plant strong (pg. 40). Ever thought about learning how to ride a motorcycle? Hear from fellow firefighters who ride for a really great reason (pg. 26). Is stress breaking you down? Follow along as First in Wellness explores how to kick stress to the curb, for good (pg. 20). And improve mobility with FRF (pg. 56). Members of the FRF nation can get a FREE digital subscription here.
#7. TRX Suspension Trainer System.
TRX (suspension training)- As fire rescue athletes, we need functional strength in all planes of motion and on unstable grounds. One of the best fitness tools that match that need is suspension trainers. Suspension training requires you to use balance, coordination, and strength, all aspects required on the fireground. Another reason I like suspension training is that it promotes core endurance. If you’ve never tried suspension training before, you’ll soon find that all the exercises, even the ones that concentrate on certain body parts, will use just about every muscle group, especially the core. A third benefit, suspension training works well for all levels of fitness. You can easily vary the level of resistance of any exercise, all you have to do is change the various angles of the exercises you’re performing or where you place your feet or arms in relation to the suspension device’s anchor point. And, these suspension trainers are fun. They keep your workouts interesting, you can continually challenge and change the dynamics of a workout with some slight changes in grip or stance. The best one on the market is TRX, I believe every first responder needs one at the station and at home. FRF has a great program that utilizes TRX (click here for the Hero X program) that you can do anywhere (gym, home, firehouse).
#8. Percussion/ Massage Gun.
As first responders, we routinely drag, step, pull, lift, and carry heavy objects which leads to achy and sore muscles. As you read previously a great way to help manage these aches and pains is with a foam roller (see #1). Another way is to use a gun or machine that can do it for us.
If you have picked up any fitness magazine, performed a fitness-related search on the internet, or watched your favorite sports team, you’ve probably seen a percussion gun. These industrial-looking machines (also called massage guns, massagers, power massagers, or muscle guns) are handheld electronic tools that use a small motor to move a soft plastic or foam attachment back and forth or side to side, which you can use to rub, compress, and jiggle different parts of your body. There are a wide variety of shapes and sizes of these guns along with a vast array of attachments that go with them. I actually created a post about the various options and attachments available, you can read that by clicking here.
There are a lot of different options on the market, a lot of which are overpriced. I have used very expensive guns and not-so-expensive guns and could not really tell the difference. The best options include a case to keep all the attachments and the charging cord handy. Based on my personal usage and feedback from other responders, there are two really affordable options that would make for great gifts.
- The MECOC gun is a great option for those that want to get started using a massage gun and do not want to invest a lot of money. This model has 30 different speeds and comes with a case.
- The FLYBY has a lot of good reviews. It is powerful and quiet. A great mid-level gun and investment, very similar to the gun I have and use daily. I highly recommend it.
Flyby F1Pro-- Deep Tissue Massage Gun. Quiet Handheld Percussion Massager - Back Muscle Soreness & Recovery for Athletes - Men & Women - Lightweight, Portable, Long Battery Life, 3 Speeds & 6 Heads. -$44
Which is a better gift option for those aching muscles- the peanut foam roller or the massage gun? They both are. Percussion guns can be used to accompany foam rolling (and visa-versa) and hit muscle groups from different angles and at different intensities. When both are used they can really improve recovery.
#9. Thinline Anthem- O.T. PROTEIN (PROTEIN + BCAA'S).
There are a lot of protein mixes and supplements on the market. I have tried a lot of them and found that Thinline Anthem has a great one. When you’re putting the work in at the gym, give your body the support it needs when recovering. The OT protein supplement has 10 different sources of muscle-building protein and branch-chain amino acids (BCAA). This unique protein powder will help your muscles spring back after an intense workout and can also boost your metabolism. Both vanilla and chocolate taste great and mix well with milk and/or water. Each scoop has 24g of protein. I like to mix chocolate with some frozen berries for my post-workout shake. Give it a try!
#10. Instant Pot Duo Crisp 11-in-1 Air Fryer and Electric Pressure Cooker Combo with Multicooker Lids that Air Fries, Steams, Slow Cooks, Sautés, & Dehydrates.
Proper nutrition and preparation are very important when it comes to your health and fitness. We all lead busy lives and seem to have less time to prepare our food. This lack of time can lead to fast food and poor nutrition decisions. Which is why the Instant Pot is so valuable! Pressure cook delicious one-pot meals up to 70% faster than traditional cooking methods, slow-cook foods to tender perfection just like grandma used to make and get all the crunch from deep-frying but with 95% less oil in one multi-cooker. Seamlessly transition from pressure cooking and slow cooking to air frying with the included removable air fryer lid. Redefine cooking and enjoy quick and easy meals anywhere, any time. I started to use the Instant Pot to prepare meals (chicken and slow cooker recipes) and it cut my prep time in half. I highly recommend it, especially if you have a family (or crew) to feed.
#11. Built Snack Bars.
Long shifts and calls can create havoc on a first responders' appetite and food choices. If you, as a first responder, are not prepared with some healthy go-to snacks you are bound to make some bad nutritional choices. This is true for any profession but it seems to affect first responders a little more due to the fact that most firehouses and ems facilities have baked goods and candy always available.
This is where the Built Bar can come in handy! I like to have a couple of these handy throughout my shift and day. They have a good amount of nutrition with some good fiber and protein and they taste great. The only issue you might have is that they do contain sugar alcohols that, if you eat too many in a day can cause some bloating and gas. Which, actually is not a bad thing, it helps you only eat one or two a day. The chart below shows why these Built Bars are one of the better options for a quick and tasty snack. There are a lot of flavors to choose from and the company likes to introduce new ones each month. I love the Cherry Barcia, Salted Carmel, and/or the Cookies N' Cream flavors. You can also mix and match flavors which would make a great gift option.
#12. FRF "JUST DON'T QUIT" WORKOUT HOODIE.
Stay motivated to reach your fitness goals with this comfortable FRF sweatshirt! It is crafted for comfort; this lighter-weight sweatshirt is perfect for a workout and for relaxing. Once put on, it will be impossible to take off. The hoodie is a 50-50 cotton/ poly blend that is medium weight and runs true to size. A perfect addition to your workout program! This hoodie is so comfy it will be your favorite.
There you go, twelve of the best gifts for that first responder in your life and/or twelve ways to splurge on yourself if you are a first responder. There is no greater return on a gift than promoting one's health and fitness.
I hope this list helps you complete your holiday shopping. Please reach out (click here to contact Zam) with any questions and comments.
I look forward to seeing you in the FRF Challenge and hope to help you become a more Resilient and Fit Responder in 2023!
Be Safe, Be Grateful, Be Humble, and GET FRF!
-ZAM (Aaron Zamzow)