Top 5 Firefighter, EMT, and Medic Fitness Excuses…debunked

Excuses are like____________ (fill in the blank). We all have them and use them...

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Are you (personally) letting excuses impede your fitness progress?  Right now, more than ever, we as first responders need to make sure that we are managing our fitness and our stress.  There are a lot of excuses that we can currently use, my gym is closed, I don't have time with the kids being home, I'm tired, I don't know what to do.... on and on.

I get it, this is an incredibly stressful time in society.  Our "normal" has changed, our schedules have changed.  But if you are brutally honest with yourself you will realize that the excuses you are using now are the same ones you have always used.  Trust me I have used them too.

The trick, however, is to not let the excuses to continue to hold us back.  I have had the privilege to work with thousands of clients over the past 25 years and have heard every excuse on the planet on why people are not making progress.   I honestly should have written a book about them all.  And these are the same excuses I am hearing now, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic.  So, today I wanted to talk about the 5 most common excuses we all use (are using) and give some tips to OVERCOMING THEM.

EXCUSE #1: I don’t have time

This is probably the most common fitness excuse of them all.

First off, when you say you do not have enough time, what you are really saying is “I don’t have enough time for that”.   I love the caption in the photo above.  I think if you truly looked at your day you could carve out at least 15 to 20 minutes.  Do you really think that if you were to add up all the time you spend watching TV and surfing the web throughout the average week you could not replace any of it with a workout?

A 30-minute workout takes up only 2% of your day.

One thing that will help you make time is to change your mindset.  Do not ask yourself how much time you are going to waste by working out a few times a week.   Ask yourself how much of your life you are going to waste being unfit and overweight.  And, in some cases working out gives you energy to get other tasks done, which in the long run may save you time!

Excuse #1 Solutions

Instead of trying to find time to work out, think about how you can make time.  Some activity is better than none. The trick is to find a block of time in your daily schedule that is consistently free of commitments. Try to make time first thing in the morning or before and/ or after shifts, during your lunch hour, or after homeschooling lessons with the kids.  The time commitment can be minimal.  Start with 15-minutes in your day. The next week, go for 16-minutes and the following week, 20-minutes.

Soon, that found time will become part of your schedule.  Walk every time you are on the phone so that you can knock out some more steps.  Try to add some simple stretches and mobility work first thing in the morning.  The point is to make some time to fit in (no pun intended) healthy activity.

Also, how much television do you watch?  How often do you check your social media accounts?  You can watch TV, check email, and post on social accounts on the treadmill and/or on the exercise bike.  Just saying...

And one final point about creating time.  I have worked with thousands of athletes and clients, a lot of them are parents that make a ton of sacrifices for their kids.  They sacrifice their time to cart kids to practice and friends houses and lessons.  All of this is great but by not taking control of your health, what kind of example are you setting for your kids….?

EXCUSE #2: I need to be motivated to exercise. 


Heart attacks, stroke and cancers are the leading killer of firefighters, EMTs and medics.  Following a regular exercise and nutrition program can significantly reduce your risks of these health issues!  If that is not motivating for you, look around you.  Your family, your crew and your community are also depending on you and your physical ability to help them.  For me, I never want to tell my crew that my fitness let them down.  That thought motivates me to get to the gym.

Excuse #2 Solutions

If you think you need motivation to train, you are already half beat.  What you really need is "meta" motivation: the motivation to train even when you are not motivated. If you rely on your feelings to decide whether to workout or not, you never will.

That said, there is a trick you can use to get yourself motivated to workout, and it is backed up with research.  It’s called ‘the few minutes’ principle.

The basic idea is that procrastinators (which we all can be) often put off doing certain things because the size of the task in front of them seems too overwhelming.   You then start to "dread" the workout and talk yourself out of it.  By deciding to just go to the gym or workout area (if you work out at home) for a ‘few minutes’ you’ll often see the workout through to completion.  So, instead of thinking about the entire workout, just think about doing 5-minutes of stretching and see where it goes from there.  That is all you need.

If science does not work to motivate you, here are some other suggestions to get you moving.

  • Make a chart or keep a log (Google “Exercise Chart” for examples) or track your workouts using a tracking app like the FRF TrainHeroic App.
  • Give yourself a reward for meeting your fitness goals – a reward that you really want. If you love massages, book a massage at the end of every month after you complete your target number of workouts.
  • Join the FRF Better Every Shift Challenge (click HERE). You can win cash, swag, and prizes for accomplishing your workouts.  The entry includes 3 FRF workout programs, coaching, and nutrition guides, and the proceeds benefit FRCE, FCSN, and The Science Alliance.  And, you could be featured on a podcast...  Click Here Now for more information.

Excuse #3. I do not know how to train properly.

If you are reading this article, you are in the right place.  I post regularly on the Fire Rescue Fitness blog with exercise and workout tips and tricks.  This site alone will give you more than you need.

My goal with Fire Rescue Fitness is to help 100,000 firefighters, EMTs, and medics get fit for duty.  FRF offers complete workout programs that include eating guides, workouts, exercise tutorials, nutrition guides, and coaching.  You can check out all of the programs by clicking here.  If you have questions on where to start you can also click on the "contact" section of this website and send me a message.  All our programs also include at-home workout options so that in case your gym is closed, you can still make progress from your home.

Excuse #3 Solutions

You have access to all the information in the world.  You must take some time and effort and find it.  Use the resources around you to start planning a program.  Send me a message or check out the hundreds of posts and workouts here at FRF.  You can also look up the FRF Nation on Facebook where I post often and talk with the thousands of firefighters that are using FRF to get more fit for duty.

Excuse #4.  I am way too tired to work out.

Your mind, when it comes to exercising, is like a spoiled child. If you give in to its demands without a fight, it will see weakness and prey on it often.

If you miss one planned session, you are much more likely to miss the next. The biggest journey always starts with one step forward and the biggest fails always start with one step backward.

You need to show your mind who’s boss. You will not always have lots of energy when you go start your workout but that does not matter. The only thing that counts is showing up and giving it a shot.

Excuse #4 Solution

If you are too tired to work out, change your sleeping habits, not your workout habits.  Sometimes that is difficult with the demands of calls and family, look at your current sleeping habits and find an extra 15 or 30 minutes.  Possibly find time to take a nap.  If you feel sluggish get-up and start moving.  Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.  Believe it or not, working out will give you more energy.

Excuse #5. I do not have time. (Yes, I know I used this one already).

I know I covered this excuse already, but it is the single-most common excuse I hear from people, so I wanted to give you extra reasons why it is not valid.  When people feed me the "I don't have time" line, I like to play the "don't have time game" and have them audit their time.

If you truly feel you do not have 20-30 minutes in your day for exercise, my first thought is man that must suck, my second thought is to do this.  Write “168” in big numbers on a piece of paper or whiteboard.  There are 168 hours in each week.  Go ahead and do the math... I will wait...

Next, figure out how much time you sleep and work each day.  For the purpose of this post, let us say you work 70 hours a week—that’s 14 hours each day, Monday to Friday.  And you get 8 hours of sleep each night which is 56 weekly hours.  Adding 56 and 70 together and you get only 126 hours out of a possible 168.   This leaves 42 extra waking hours each week that you do not have time to exercise.  That is almost 2 days.  So, what are you doing with that 42 hours?

Excuse #5 Solution

Everyone has enough time for health and fitness. Workouts do not have to be hours or even an hour long.  You can make great fitness progress with 20-45-minute workouts.  Break workouts up into different sections, do 10 minutes of mobility work in the morning, do some bodyweight strength in the afternoon, and then do some cardio in the evening.  This is not ideal, but my point is that you can find the time.

Remember good health and fitness are a choice.  I understand that some days things come up and you really may not have time to train that day. But over the course of a week, you do have the time.

What is your excuse now?

All these excuses have one thing in common.  They all involve choices.  You must choose to make time.  You must choose to work out (and stay consistent).  You must choose to educate yourself about fitness.  You must choose to get moving.  You must choose to make time (I know I used that one already).

The takeaway from this entire article is this... No one lacks time. They lack willpower and motivation.   You must get your mind right first, make the choice to get healthy, and then take action.

I hope this helps get you motivated to lose your excuses.  If you have any questions or need some additional motivation, please feel free to comment and/or send me a message (via the "contact" page).

People are counting on us all!

Stay safe and GET FRF (Fire Rescue Fit),

Aaron Zamzow


Always remember this point!

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