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Month: October 2013

Every step you take, I’ll be watching you

Every step you take, I’ll be watching you

There was a song back in 1983 made popular by the Police titled, “Every Breath You Take,” and that is the inspiration of todays blogpost.  For those of you joining that are from a younger generation or worldwide that might not have heard of it, I have included the link here:

The actual song has had many interpretations and uses over the years, from good love to ugly love, breakups, used at weddings, and often referred as the stalker song.  My use for today is from more of the stalker aspect (don’t close your browser) and how new devices can help you track YOU!

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 11.21.17 PMSince I started this journey what seems like a long time ago, motivation and the ability to easily track things have been difficult at times.  I had a pedometer years ago that was very basic and offered little more than the time, steps, and miles.  Since that time in 2004 things have changed dramatically with technology advancements.  iPhones, GPS trackers, apps, and clip on/wrist devices that track what seems like your every move.  For some this may seem like little more than a novelty, but I have found it to be a huge asset to the tools that are helping me succeed!

After much research into what the devices were capable of, I wanted a standalone device and not an app that would choke up my phone and take a toll on the battery power.  The device I chose was the FitBit One (, a little clip on device that can recharge from a USB port plugged into your computer or wall adapter.  Able to track steps, miles, stair climbing, activity time, calories, sleep, and act as a timer, it really is a diverse device.

After opening the package the instructions are very self-explanatory on how to get your FREE online tracking account setup and sync your device.  Once the FitBit tracker is fully charged I get several weeks of use before needing to plug in again.  A few times daily I visit the iPhone app to have it wirelessly sync my progress between the device and the Internet and show just how much activity I have been doing.

What do I use my device for?  Well its clipped on first thing in the morning (if I don’t already have it clipped on overnight to track my sleeping habits, and then I wear it all day.  I check it randomly throughout the day to see, have I been active enough?  Working full-time in the IT world I can often get stuck behind a screen working on a project, but being able to see that I have not reached my goals or lacking activity encourages me to get out and take a walk or be up and around.  For me personally I have a goal of no less than 10,000 steps a day and like to climb at least 20 floors a day before even hitting the gym.  Anything less and I will often go up and down my steps at home to meet my goal before hitting the pillow every night.

One of the areas that perhaps I don’t use enough of is the online logging of food and water intake that the application lets you manage.  If you have come from the land of awesome food tracking tools online this will look very familiar for you.  The ability to search for many foods and items out there to choose from is pretty good.  Nutrition tracking is something I have set as a goal for the next year to make even better changes, but for now I use it as a reference.

While many of my stair climbing brothers train together, at my department I don’t have others that have picked up the climbing bug so that leaves me to often challenge me.  Having the device lets me try to push myself further and have someone else to compete against even between events.  Sure I have others in the climbing and running community that I stay in touch with and we keep tabs on each other, but I compete a lot with myself.

If you’re looking for a solid device that will give you plenty of information, weigh almost nothing, and work with a variety of computers and the iDevices, this is it.  If I can think of a downside, it would only be that I sometimes forget its on me.  While I try every night to take it off my clothes, it has made a spin through the washer and dryer and still working.  I don’t recommend washing your fitbit, but I was lucky!

While some applications out there or devices will track a GPS location of you, this is one that you don’t have to worry about at this point.  Check it out, with the holidays ahead, this makes a great gift idea to put an extra tool in your training.


Your plan to start climbing…

Your plan to start climbing…

IMG_5801While I’m not a veteran yet of the ESB (Empire State Building) climb or taken it to the elite level, over the last eight years and climbs/runs under my belt I’ve acquired a decent amount of information to share.

Sharing, yes the gift of giving that information to others of how to become better, what they choose to do with it is up to them.  No plan is a 100% fit and perhaps you will find adaptations that will suit your style or body better.  Most importantly, if you are starting out new to exercise or have health/weight conditions you should make sure to consult your physician about your newfound goal.

This is a five-day plan that I utilize that I have found to work well for me.  I have three-day plans as well and depending on my schedule always find a way to fit in exercise.

Does my plan work?  Well, I certainly can look back through the family pictures and tell a difference in weight, clothes, and confidence.  Going from 235 pounds down to 160 pounds and losing 10 inches off my waist and toning up have changed my life!  You can use this as a great weight loss plan, or you can use it to get ready for a stair climb event.


That gallon jug of water that “Ralph” the gym rat is carrying around is really cute, but why are you waiting until the gym to start putting fluids into your body?  Hydrate ahead of time, make sure your body has the water and has the fuel to do work.  Sure its good to intake fluids during a workout, but you are already behind the eight-ball if you are waiting.  Keep a water bottle with you during your workout, you can skip the high calorie power drinks if you want.


In our job as firefighting we often go from zero to sixty in split seconds with the pager tone or station alert, more and more statistics prove that life style to lead to more injury and health issues.  As climbers, runners, and fire event participants however we have the ability to prepare slightly and be ready for the timer to start.  Avoid the injuries and avoid the potential problems before your training days and before the event with a proper warm up.

For me, that starts out before I get to the gym or wherever I am training.  Work is done, life is done, forget the dishes or the lawn, just turn it all off.  Headphones in and getting in the zone is where I am leading up to the gym.  That short drive or trip to get mentally prepared is the first step in the process.

Stretching and loosening up is a huge part of making sure that your body is ready for what you want to make it do.  I find that I spend about 10-15 minutes warming up in the gym to be a good amount of time to get me limbered up and ready.  I blend a variety of lower & upper body with some core workout mixed in to work very well.  Get the blood moving and be ready for the next step.  Often times for me it is more time to mentally focus and tune out the day.

I finish my warm up with a casual walk on the treadmill to get the pulse up and beating along.  A nice five minute at around 3.5 miles an hour seems to be enough and prepares me to take the next step.


Why put it off any further, get the legs moving and get working out.  Over to the elliptical machine I go and place the settings to give resistance that will be sufficient to work your quads, hamstrings, and gluteus.  Each machine will be different with some being visual and others general settings.  Don’t make it too easy where you are pumping along at 12mph without breaking a sweat, but don’t make it where you have to use all your weight to make it move.  I do 15 minutes on the machine.


I use this day to change things up a little.  I might stretch longer to help with stress and more mental preparedness and crank the tunes.  I move from my warm up over to the weights and go through your typical upper body machines and finish with leg presses.  I move from the weights over to the cardio.  For this day it is back to the treadmill to work the heart.  I nice 3.5 mph pace at a 5% incline for two minutes before turning the pace up to a 5 mph jog for two minutes.  At that time I go back to 3.5mph for two minutes before cranking back to 5mph for a four minute time, repeating this step twice.  As I get later on in the weeks and closer to events I will cater the upper speed and times differently.


The third day is similar to the first day except moving over to the stair-climbing machine.  Hopefully either your fitness center or you have invested in one.  A pace of about 70 steps a minute seems to be a good rate.  I keep that going for about five minutes and then alternate up to a 90 step per minute rate for two minutes before dropping back down and repeating the cycle three times.  I alternate this and the following week, extend those faster rate times to three minutes or more.


This day seems to be an off day for me and another time to change things up more.  I’ve taken to enjoying racquetball over the last year or so and find time on the off day, whether day two or four to step into the court for 20-30 minutes.  Its some good cardio and a lot of leg work.  If you don’t care for hitting the court, maybe change today up with 20-30 minutes of cycling instead.  I head from the court over to the weight machines afterward to get in the second full lift of the week.


Today is another full day getting ready for the climb or event.  After warming up it is time to hit the stairs again with a longer climb at a steady pace, no HIIT today.  Set the pace at a comfortable 70-80 steps per minute and hang on, its time to rack up some floors.  Depending on your machine, some will tell you floors and others steps so my information varies a little.  A nice 40-floor climb will get the heart beating today and allow you to start working on some endurance.   After the climb it’s over to the elliptical to go from impact stepping to a no impact leg workout for 15 minutes with resistance sufficient to work your quads, hamstrings, and gluteus.


Just as important as the warm up is the cool down period after a workout.  Be it a five minute slower paced walk on the treadmill or a walk around the outside of the facility, let your body know its time to stop.  Bring back the stretching and make sure to pay attention to the areas that you worked that day.  Make sure that by the time you are finished with your cool down that you are sub 100bpm on your heart rate.


  • If you are just starting out, make sure to take it easy.  If you find the speed to be too much, set it slower to be more comfortable at first.  Try not to increase speeds more than 10% each week.
  • Stop if you feel faint, dizzy, or in pain.
  • Make sure to consult your physician before starting a routine.



Fundraising for cures

Fundraising for cures

Fundraising, it’s something that draws many feelings from this firefighter.  Excitement, dread, and perhaps a slight amount of fear all present themselves at some point during the process.  What will my goal be, will I reach it, is it reasonable, or will it be a challenge, all things that I am constantly reminded of as I watch the progress thermometer on my website.  As we near less than a month before the early bird registration for the Scott Firefighter Stair Climb, the building blocks of our fundraising this year are already in place and working!

First I’ll discuss how I am looking to augment just lobbing out emails and sharing the story about what the L&LS does in order to hit my goal this year.  One of the new partnerships that we have built this year is with Ann Bradford, an Independent Scentsy Director in Knox County.  Scentsy, for those who might not be familiar is a company that sells scented wax, warmers, and other home scented products.  Through donations from online and book parties I hope to add to our fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for this years climb.  We started our first “party” back in August and already have had some good results.  A certain percentage of each sale will go towards the cause and help me reach my goal!

By clicking on and then if it asks choose the Firefighter 4 Cures party you are able to help make a difference!

Fundraising.  Even for the boldest of firefighters who love getting in the action, this can be a topic that turns them timid as soon as the materials are handed out.  Who wants to feel like they are back in school again running around with sheet and selling cookie dough?  I really didn’t want to either until I saw more of where the money would be going and who it would help.  In my case I mainly raise money for Leukemia and other cancers and I have a VERY good understanding of what these groups mean to my family.  While the first year it felt a little awkward leading up to the climb doing my fundraising, once you’re at the event and hear other survivors, those still battling the disease, and family members who have lost someone…you will be changed.

Letting people know.   People have to know about your fundraiser or the fact that you are collecting funds to meet the goal of your cause.  Letting people know takes a marketing plan of sorts if you want to see the success that others have reached.  A flyer at your station or local market, a post on your Facebook page talking about it, or even contacting the local newspaper or television station about what you are doing are all a good plan.  There are many ways to fundraise and get your goal out there.  In person, posters, social media, conducting events, press releases, and emails out to your friends and family.  If the event you are doing is fortunate enough, the fundraising page will allow you to manage your email campaign right by logging into their homepage!

Making the sale.  It truly is a sale and you need to work it to make the deal.  Why are you doing this and what inspired you?  Make it personal and take ownership of it.  If you’re doing a stair climb for Leukemia and Lymphoma because your mother had it, make sure to talk about it.  In my case it was a great way to begin opening up and getting comfortable and getting to pay forward.  What do you have to offer, is the fundraiser that you’re doing a product sale where a portion of the proceeds benefit your cause, or is it primarily getting donations to go toward your goal?  One can certainly be easier than the other.  Be confident, have plenty of information, and before you contact people make sure you are ready to talk about it.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to stick your neck out.

Training in turnout gear

Training in turnout gear

I saw a question posed about turnout gear and “working out” providing little to no results if you were wearing it and it got me thinking about the whole concept once again.  While I don’t work out in my gear all the time, I do have days or certain portions of my training where I am in full gear for one reason or another.  Do I lift weights in gear, well I guess that just depends.  There are some portions that I will do in gear because they may closely mirror specific fireground duties.

With that said, let’s talk about career that has you train in full gear.  The first one that comes to mind is the military. I fail to see the difference between full combat firefighting gear and military pack, boots, uniform, and a weapon on a long run?  With the exception of their gear weighing more in many cases, they are doing training in a variety of gear.

Personally I would rather do a variety of training in gear because you are going to do nothing but have your body more used to heat, range of motion limitations, and the stresses that will affect your cardiorespiratory system.  We are stressing our systems when working a real job, why is that the only time we put the gear on?

Training in our fire gear can be safe, effective, and have results for individuals that you just don’t get being in the gym in shorts and a cutoff shirt.  As a crazy tower climber that started training in 2004 at 235 pounds, a 42 inch waist and a body fat percentage that was out of whack I know first hand the changes you go through.  Through my routines over the years I have lost the weight, lost 10 inches off the waist, am able to run distances, able to climb distances, increased my bottle times, and increased the amount of work that my body can put out before tiring.  While not all of it was due to my persistence with training in gear, it has been a huge asset to my regimen.

I’ll address some of my concerns for training in gear and the first is hydration.  Making sure to stay hydrated and listening to your body is key just like any other situation.  Depending on what you are accomplishing in the gym you are going to raise your core temperature and going to output the fluids.  Make sure to balance that out.  Speaking of core temps, leave off the hood.  I haven’t been in a climb or run so far where hoods were permitted or encouraged.  Leave it off and lose some heat anyone that leaves it on IS setting himself or herself up for a problem.

Secondly, what are you trying to accomplish in the gear?  Are you a climber and perhaps you’re using the stairmaster or elliptical to get your cardio on.  Wearing your gear for these machines not only builds the heat but also provides a significant amount of resistance on your muscles that will add to the burn.  If you’re a tower climber like I am, you will appreciate building up your endurance in gear before running a 30-40-69 or 110 floor building.  Perhaps you are involved with the turnout challenge and running road races in full gear and can’t make it out on the road to practice every night.  In football you don’t just do all your work in shorts, helmets, and a practice jersey and expect that on game day you are ready for full contact.

Cleanliness.  I can’t say enough about cleanliness.  The first way to piss off your gym staff or managers is to show up post-fire without having cleaned your gear and hop your filthy gear onto a machine.  First of all take some pride in your gear and keep it clean, and check it out before you don it at the gym.  I have an old set that I use for training that is OOS but in very good shape that I wash frequently to keep fresh (if you reek, you’re not going to make many friends).  I have a second set that I do some training in, but mostly compete or perform events and was added in the summer of 2013 to keep from toting my frontline department issue gear around.  If all else fails and you are in your gear, keep it clean, fresh, and replace your boots with running shoes.

Performing in our gear has brought concerns over the years, however the track record of firefighters training, performing, and yes competing in challenges with bunker gear is long and well documented.  One thing is for sure…  If you stand in front of a group of firefighters and tell them that something is too hard, or too difficult, the next thing you’d better do is get out of the way.  Firefighters are going to do it, and they are going to do it in a New York minute and when they are done they will say may I please have another.

If you’ve been training in it, is it working for you and are you seeing results?  If you haven’t tried it, maybe you’re missing something that works for others.  Try it out, but be careful and listen to your body.  I’m only one person giving the advice, but I have a great number of fire contacts that have been doing this regimen in gear for longer than I.

Stay Safe