Book shows how to make fitness functional for firefighters
EAST WHITELAND » East Whiteland Chief Fire Marshal Dan Kerrigan and Jim Moss, a Missouri fire captain, co-authors of “Firefighter Functional Fitness,” share a passion to create a healthier fire service, one firefighter at a time.
Kerrigan and Moss connected on social media after noticing they both posted about firefighter health and wellness. Soon after they began sharing that message together and wrote an article on the topic for Fire Engineering, a magazine.
After a great response from the piece and with so much research, they began joking about writing a book. They discussed writing an eight-part series on what eventually became “the big-eight of firefighter functional fitness” in the book to explain the aspects of functional fitness exercises, such as pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying and dragging, all movements that firefighters perform on the fire ground.
They wanted to produce valuable resources for individual firefighters and fire departments that was helpful, useful and practical. Their main goal is to have firefighters understand that how to change their lifestyles to become healthier at home and improve their performance on the fire ground.
The book is designed to educate all firefighters regardless of whether they are in need of improvement or that are already fit but want new ideas on how to make their fitness functional for the job, and everyone in between. Moss and Kerrigan are featured in the photos demonstrating the various exercises.
“One of our primary goals is to help firefighters get fit for duty for the jobs that we perform, have a long and healthy career and also hopefully increase the chances of a long and healthy retirement,” Kerrigan said.
They want firefighters to take their health and fitness seriously and understand that this is something they can control. While firefighting involves a combination of strength and cardiovascular capacity for an extended period of time, he explains that it’s not about focusing on just building muscle or running a marathon--a comprehensive approach is needed.
“The essences of what we do is working at high intensity rates and having to use functional strength at the same time,” Kerrigan said.
They also have a goal to help reduce preventable line of duty deaths by controlling health-related risk factors. They want firefighters to understand that personal health and fitness affects others on the fire ground.
“You’re never going to completely control the risks that we face on the fire ground,” Kerrigan said. “We all know that going into the job. It’s a hazardous occupation, whether you’re paid or not. But we can control our own personal health risk factors and we should.”
Kerrigan explained that the rigorous and physical demands of the job put stress on all of their body systems. Heart attacks continue to be a leading cause of line-of-duty-deaths. On average, 100 firefighters nationwide die each year on the job, and close to half those deaths are attributed to stress and overexertion.
When Chester County firefighters responded to the arson crisis in Coatesville on nearly nightly basis in 2009, Kerrigan personally noticed that his body was not recovering from the physically demanding duties as well as he had in the past. He helped initiate health and wellness programs at his department and saw a need on the fire ground for firefighters to change their lifestyles to make healthier choices and to train specifically for the physical aspects of the job.
“I think for everybody it’s different. Whatever your reasoning is for realizing that you need to maybe do a better job of taking care of yourself, that’s the important part, it’s the realization and the taking action,” Kerrigan said. “Today is the best day to start taking better care of yourself. It’s never too late to make small changes that are going to improve your fitness and health.”
In addition to functional exercises, the book includes guidance on nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery and more.
For more information, visit www.firefighter functionalfitness.com.
East Whiteland Fire Chief Kerrigan and Jim Moss, a Missouri fire captain, wrote “Firefighter Functional Fitness” to educate firefighters how to make their fitness functional for the job. Moss is pictured in full gear and an SCBA, dragging a dummy. They both urged that if firefighters are training in their protective gear, that the gear must be cleaned to remove carcinogens.
Jim Moss, left, a Missouri fire captain, and East Whiteland Fire Chief Kerrigan, right, wrote “Firefighter Functional Fitness” to educate firefighters how to make their fitness functional for the job.