The Five Steps Every First Responder Must Take to Improve Their Functional Fitness

Improve your first responder and perform better on and off the fire/rescue scene.

We all want to (or should) improve our health and fitness.   Year after year it is the most popular resolution.    As a first responder, you should always strive to improve your health and fitness and/or maintain it.    If you don't believe me, pick up any trade journal and read the health and wellness research.  We as first responders have higher rates of cancers, obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, and injuries than the general population.  We also are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.    We all need to understand that we need to take care of ourselves so we can better serve others.

So,  this brings me to the question:  "How are you doing with your fitness and health goals?"  Many people have great intentions at the beginning of the year but then, "life" takes over and we fall off track.   You are not alone, this happens to me (more than I want to admit) even though I am supposed to be the expert.  We all face challenges when it comes to managing our fitness.  The good news is that it can be easier than you think with some simple planning and strategy. 


Improve first responder functional fitness podcast

If one of your goals is to get leaner, stronger, and more fit for duty, keep reading.   I have been fortunate to help thousands of first responders (including over the last 12+ years by following these simple five steps.  Yes, there is more to them, which I will address in later posts, but this will give you a clear process to follow.  


Here are five steps you need to take to make fitness progress this year.


1.  Lose your excuses.  I like to call this step “cleaning out the junk.” We all have a lot of junk and excuses in our heads that sabotage our fitness.  I understand because I have them myself.  Regarding fitness and health, it is easy to start comparing yourself to others, looking around for better workouts and the best diets.  I think in a lot of cases we search for the solution harder than we work on the solution itself.  So, this year, get all the junk out of your head.  This is your journey.  Be honest with where you are currently and set a realistic goal.  You can lose 10 pounds this year, you can get stronger and leaner and you can make a healthier year.  We all have them, stop letting them stand in your way. Lose your excuses and decide to commit to your fitness.  The more fit and healthy you are, the better firefighter, EMT, medic, and/or parent you will be!

And by cleaning out the junk I also mean cleaning out all the foods that sabotage your fitness progress.  Get them out of your house, lose the high-sugar, high-fat foods, and replace them with some fruits, vegetables, and healthy options.  Out of sight and out of mind.  If you have kids, stop using them as an excuse.  We all should be eating healthier!


2.  Get/ create a plan.  This is where most people fail.  Do not just start working out by doing the "workout of the day" or your "buddy's" plan. Or even worse, do not go back to the “old routine” that you used to always do.  We all have exercises and a routine we gravitate toward because we are comfortable with them.  Get out of your comfort zone and train differently.  If you have been doing the typical chest and triceps, legs, and abs routines, change it up and train more like a fire rescue athlete!  Challenging your body in new ways can help maximize your progress. FRF just launched a new program that will motivate you to train more functionally and create lasting healthy habits.   These habits will help you lose weight, gain strength, and improve your performance on the job and in life.  The program is scalable for all levels of fitness and also includes resources to help you manage your nutrition and mental health.  I believe every first responder needs this program.  Click here for more info.



3.  Eat like an athlete.  You cannot out-train a bad diet.  Fitness progress happens in the gym and the kitchen.  One of the things you do not want to do is waste your time in the gym by following it up with poor nutrition. Make sure you prepare your meals, watch for added sugars, hydrate, and mind your portions. And one of the best ways to stay on track is to plan a cheat meal each week.  This will help you avoid burnout.


Nutrition and eating healthily can also be overwhelming!  There are so many diets and plans on the market, how do you know where to begin?  Start with the basics.  Focus on hydration, drink at least 70 ounces of water a day.   Then add some vegetables, aim to eat at least 5 servings a day.  These two steps will help you clean up 70% of your nutrition.  The last part of this is to start reading labels and noting serving sizes.   If you understand and figure out what you are currently eating, it is a lot easier to make some simple changes to make improvements.  Every FRF program has "how-to" guides that help you break down nutrition and healthy eating into actionable steps.


4.  Get support. One of the best ways to ensure success is to surround yourself with like-minded individuals.  Tell your family, friends, and crew about your fitness goals.  Challenge those around you to join your quest for better health and fitness.  I think you will be surprised at the support you will get.  This will also make it easy to follow better nutrition if everyone is eating healthily.   Start to educate yourself on the basics of healthy eating and fitness and talk to others about their experiences.  We are in this together.  One of the benefits of following an FRF workout program is that you get access to thousands of other first responders who are doing the same thing.  Our FRF crew is filled with motivation and inspiring stories.  


5.  Execute your plan.   This is the hard step. You must set aside time every day to work on your health.

The one thing that every FRF success story has in common is that they made the commitment and did whatever it took to create a healthier environment.

Start to prepare healthy meals and snacks, make sure to carve out time for your workouts, eat like an athlete, and make progress every day.  It is time to GET FIRE RESCUE FIT!

The key to your fitness success is consistency.  Stop looking for quick fixes and fad diets, commit to making workouts and good nutrition a part of your lifestyle.



AND lastly (bonus), remember this is YOUR Journey!  This is your journey, not someone else's.  Stop comparing yourself to other people and go at your own pace.  No one else has your exact situation going on, so it is impossible to compare yourself to anyone else.  The moment you start looking at what everyone else can do or has is the moment you lose perspective on what YOU are trying to accomplish.  When we get the comparison game going, that is when we usually end up feeling worse about ourselves, and often this feeling can lead us to give up entirely.



Evaluate your progress every 30 days, reward yourself for your smaller victories, and re-work your plan if you are not where you want to be.   This is a process and a journey, enjoy the ride!

Now is the time to improve your fitness.  The FRF Nation is here to help!

-Aaron "ZAM" Zamzow

PS- My goal is to help 5000 first Responders get more functionally fit this year.  Click here to send me a message and I will find the best program for you.

Leave a Comment