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Month: July 2015

Hydration under fire

Hydration under fire

IMG_9724-2As a firefighter, your body’s level of hydration is important around the clock, but when you kick up the intensity in your activity or the heat you’re exposed to it becomes crucial for survival. In the profession of firefighting, current studies show that proper hydration literally is the difference between life and death. With over 50-percent of Line-of-Duty-Deaths (LODD) being health related to sudden cardiac events and health related issues, properly maintaining our bodies can make the difference.

Recently I had the opportunity to trial the Phytosport Complete Hydration from Arbonne and put the product through its paces. It was a hot July day with heat index into the mid-90’s to the typical body, but on the day I tried the hydration packets there was nothing typical about the test. As the sun beat down on the pavement for four hours of auto extrication training, the heat within my firefighting turnout gear was intense and within minutes began zapping my body of crucial hydration and nutrients.

I had hydrated throughout the morning and even properly the night before this training. From almost 16 years experience in the fire service I knew first hand just how much it could zap my body in the heat of the day. What I didn’t plan for was extra time in the gear from working a motor vehicle crash (MVC) within two hours of the training that day. Already a little drained from the heat I first turned to water which cooled me off an did offer some relief, but didn’t really do much more. I tore open the packet of Tropical Berry Complete Hydration and poured in into my bottle of water. The fruity smell with no crazy undertones, chemicals, or odd powdery odors filled the air. I shook the bottle quickly and the powder dissipated in no time to something that was colored, but mostly transparent.

The first sip was tasty and nothing like I expected. Over the years of firefighting, and fitness I have tried some interesting products and been mostly dissatisfied with everything I came across, but the Arbonne product was different. It was refreshing, crisp, had just the right amount of flavor, and went down smoother than the other big name hydration products you might be used to. The big name hydration drinks always seem to be like drinking syrup, and on a hot day I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled to keep it down. On the other hand, I’ve had a number of these powder drink packets that seem just like a watered down product and don’t feel like they offer any relief. Complete Hydration was neither, it was the perfect level of flavor that sat well and I was able to consume with no side affects. Very quickly I could tell the difference between the previous 16 ounces of water that I consumed and the 16 ounces of Arbonne infused water. Within only a few minutes I felt a relief that I had not experienced before in rehydrating. Not only was my body responding to the difference in the drink, but also my mind and clarity of thought were greatly improved, leaving me feeling ready to reengage.

Once the first bottle was down, I turned once again back to regular water to hydrate to see the difference. Again, it only cooled me off, but offered little more relief than that. The bottle following that was again mixed with the Complete Hydration and offered a great experience, hydration, and quick jolt of energy back into my body.

Whats the difference?

When it comes to the labels, comparing Arbonne to some of the other popular hydration drinks you find around the firehouse, there were some big differences. First off the Arbonne has no dyes, no artificial flavors, less sugar, and fewer calories. Then there are the other differences; Arbonne has more sodium, potassium, and vitamins A/C/E than the others. I’m no healthcare professional, but have spent enough years reading labels, educating myself, and researching health products to see that Arbonne is definitely something I need to utilize.

It goes without saying that sure, you can go buy any sports drink easily at any local gas station, or even pour yourself a glass of cold H20 to hydrate your body, but are you really providing your body what it needs? While not as convenient to have to order a product and wait for it to be shipped, it is worth the short wait in shipping to give your body the best advantage.

I see myself picking up more of the Complete Hydration for after a fire, those long workdays, and competition days when I need to be on top of my game. It truly gave me an experience that I have not had before.

This is the second of the Arbonne products that I have had the opportunity to put to the test under real world conditions, and not just sips to taste and see if I “liked” it. As with any of my reviews of a product, I am going to put it through the paces rather than just giving it a quick thumbs up.

Interested in trying the Arbonne products that I have mentioned?  I recommend you contact and order through:  Kayla Shomaker, Arbonne Independent Consultant, District Manager

Phone (740) 485-1665




“My after 5k workout fix”

“My after 5k workout fix”

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 10.39.34 PMI had the opportunity two weeks ago to try a sample of Arbonne’s After Workout PhytoSport product after a 5K race in Columbus.  A runner and competitive stair climber of 11 years I’ve tried a variety of products, foods, drinks, and such to recover afterwards so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ve had some side effects and undesirable issues with “products” in the past that I have tried, so I was hesitant at first.

Everything with the morning was typical for me, from my meal to my pre-race hydration and warm-ups.  It quickly warmed up into the 70’s with humidity in the upper 80 percent range and kept noticeably going up as the morning progressed.  I pushed hard through the course that offered some decent change in elevation and maintained a great pace.  By the end of the course I felt my usual side cramps, leg pains, and of course thirst.

Grabbing a typical banana and half a bagel I headed by to my truck to mix up the “After Workout.”  The mix had a slightly sweet smell to it and quickly turned my bottle of water a pinkish tint.  With a good shaking the powder dissolved easily in the cool, but not cold water.  The first taste was not what I expected.  It wasn’t overly sweet, wasn’t gritty, not bitter, not metallic, and left no aftertaste.  It wasn’t something that I wanted to chug right away, but I really couldn’t put down.  Unlike other sports drinks after a race, the Phytosport drink didn’t upset my stomach because it wasn’t sweet as syrup.  Within 5-10 minutes I was feeling a heightened sense of alertness and had completely lost the winded feeling that I am used to after a good workout.  Typically it takes me a couple hours to feel quite that well.  If there is one thing that I really want to point out, it was the lack of muscle cramping, discomfort, fatigue, and soreness after finishing.  It was gone and in fact was non-existent the rest of the day.

Keep in mind this is the first Phytosport product that I have tried, but I am struggling to come up with many negatives to it.  The slightly fruity flavor appears to be the only one at this time, so maybe it’s not for everyone.

My first impression of the product leaves me wanting to test it again under different circumstances after a stair climb competition when my body is even more maxed out and my leg muscles are screaming in pain.   I look forward to trying more of the products and seeing what they can do for me.

Interested in trying the Arbonne products that I have mentioned?  I recommend you contact and order through:  Kayla Shomaker, Arbonne Independent Consultant, District Manager

Phone (740) 485-1665

Rastin Observation Tower – Stair Climb Review

Rastin Observation Tower – Stair Climb Review

IMG_6748I’ve had a birds eye view of the newest staircase that I am going to review you could say. It’s a very unique almost freestanding spiral staircase that surrounds an old smokestack at the old Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory in Mount Vernon, Ohio and is only 12 minutes from where I live. So from the time they announced it, I was already excited to see what the end result would be. Having seen the factory for years, I hoped that the tower would climb to the top, however they decided to only go partway.

Named the Rastin Observation Tower, it surrounds the smokestack that was in use at the PPG plant from 1951 until the closing in 1976. The reinforced concrete stack stands at a height of 280 feet, with the observation deck at the 140-foot level. There are 224 steps to get to the top, which is around a 13-floor climb. To my knowledge there is no other staircase of this type in the state of Ohio that I have located and would be curious to locate others to check out.

To view the entire Ariel Foundation Park map, CLICK HERE!

My first trip up the tower was a few days before the grand opening when there were several members of the project committee on-site. I was given a heads-up that there would be people there and that the gates were open. I had to seize the opportunity to climb it before a large portion of the general public.

IMG_6758At this time there is still landscaping that is underway around the base of the observation tower, so how that will look is undetermined. There are cement walkways that snake their way to the base of the tower from the parking nearby. It is at this point where you can enter the revolving gate to the actual base area of the tower. This area is completely level and a somewhat decorative concrete slab, which for an organizer planning a tower race gives plenty of room for timing equipment and racers to stage. Many areas leading up to the tower have pieces of the glass from the former factory embedded in the concrete, which gives it a different appearance.

The stairs are wide, the step height is short, and the tread is deep. It will be difficult to slip on these stairs because of the very aggressive surface that will certainly be unforgiving to a climber’s knee or elbow. Traffic can flow easily top to bottom with the width of the staircase, however they are narrow enough that racers can “double rail” to reach the top. Railings are tubular, mostly smooth, and are very sturdy.

I was full of excitement as I took the first few steps onto the tower. I noticed that after going no more than about 20 steps or so that maybe it was the curves and lines of the structure that were making for optical illusions for me. It wasn’t a loss of balance just an interesting aura from the very busy image to take in. That feeling quickly went away as I focused and touched each step and felt the wind through the metal structure.

IMG_6128Steps do not run continuously to the top, there are landings on the connector sections of the tower that can also serve as a great place to pass or to stop and take a photo. I decided to stop, take the photo, and take in the height and the view that the tower offered me. I continued my climb as I continued to peer around the community that emerged from the tree line, slowly becoming more picturesque. Even on a partly to mostly cloudy day the view was gorgeous and I marveled at the distance that I could see.

The top of the stairs opens up into a viewing platform that is the same width as the stairway, and with high sides. You can still view through the sides well, as the metal bars are several inches apart, allowing you to slide your camera phone through or poke the lens of your favorite SLR to snap an image. The platform goes just short of 360 degrees around the top. If you’re looking for a mountainous view or a gorgeous countryside from the platform you’re going to be disappointed. The view over the 250-acre park site with ruins, buildings, landscape, lakes, a river of glass cullet and more however is right in front of you. To the trained local eyes we can see a large number of landmarks off in the distance, myself seeing a large portion of the new Fredericktown water tower (7.3 miles away).

SONY DSCMy second ascent up the tower was on the day of the official dedication of the entire park on July 4, 2015. It was a calm day with plenty of sun, humidity, and heat. Knowing that there are only so many firsts I decided to climb the tower in full structural firefighting gear with my SCBA and carrying the American Flag. I certainly couldn’t think of a better day or better way to take our colors to the top. My son and I took our first trip together to the top as my wife stayed below to capture photos of the climb that day. It took several minutes to get there, not because of conditioning, but because of the number of people and those that we stopped to talk to. People who had heard about my climbs or were wondering about the gear and how hard it was to climb that way. As we reached the top, my son was a little hesitant at first, but excited at what he could see. I raised Old Glory over the top railing and proudly posted our nations colors at the top for all to see. Our second trip up that day, my wife Jennifer joined us so she could get her turn and be a part of it as a family.

SONY DSCI talked to many people along the way, stopped for pictures with visitors who wanted a shot before they moved on; it was motivating and great to hear the comments. From firefighting, to fitness, competitions, and why I do these events, it was a great way to share the message and hopefully convince more to get out and be more physically active.

If you’re looking for more information on the park itself, visit their website at where you can see the other places to hike around. The interactive map for the park can be found at the following location:

GPS Coordinates for the tower are – 40°22’58.5″N 82°29’39.1″W and there are numerous park entrances both off Columbus Road, Harcourt Road, and Pittsburgh Avenue in Mount Vernon.



Ring the Alarm

Ring the Alarm

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.56.51 AMIts been another topic that’s kind of been sitting on my shelf for awhile, but it took a family trip to bring it down. In following the theme of Firefighter4Cures, there are a variety of things that need “cured” and a variety of “diseases” out there.

My family and my sister with her husband and two kids were staying at a family waterpark resort and had already been playing for several hours when the incident happened.  Over the sound of the loud rides, rushing water, and screaming families an intermittent alarm began sounding throughout the waterpark.  I looked around expecting to see strobe lights flashing and people starting to move in an orderly fashion toward exits because it sounded like a fire alarm.  What I found literally were hundreds of confused people, including lifeguards and other staff members equally unknowing what was going on.

I went up to the first lifeguard that I found and asked what the alarm was for, to which she replied, “I don’t know, I’ve never heard it before.”  We started moving as a group toward the exit and watching for our other family members.  Running across another staff member, I identified myself and asked what the alarm was for because there was a clear concern among their visitors.  This time, I got more information, “I don’t know what the alarm is, haven’t heard it before, and when I radioed in, they weren’t sure what it was going off for either.  Keep in mind the alarm has been going off for several minutes now and there are people getting very concerned.  Another staff member was still letting people into the park, even after she said we don’t know what we’re supposed to do.  I got the best answer from the last person that I spoke to right before the alarm stopped.  “There was a fire in the kitchen, they think they have it under control, but thankfully they got the alarm silenced because its annoying,” she told me. Whether it’s better or not, there were lifeguards and staff that were seen evacuating people from the slides and bringing them down from other levels.

Do these communication issues sound familiar to you?  Does this sound like an organization you might work for, have worked for, or be exposed to on a regular basis?  Before you think that I only want to talk about what to do in case of an emergency, let me stop you there.  While the issue of the alarm is concerning enough, it’s the issue of communication and direction that I want to touch on. Are we in the fire service communicating appropriately and efficiently?

How well is your fire department operating and what is its direction?  Somewhere in the bowels of that SOG/SOP or employee handbook, certainly there has to be a mission statement beaming with some important sounding words and phrases.  Your members have read that statement, know the meaning, and can recite it because it is so important, right?  Why is it that such a single statement that is supposed to have meaning is placed in so many places, yet we don’t know it and perhaps even don’t live it? If you don’t know your mission statement or members can’t even remotely conjure it up, you don’t have one. I don’t know of too many people that enjoy sitting in classrooms, but maybe its time to sit down and discuss the mission statement of your department. Don’t discuss the mission statement of a select circle of members, or solely the chief, or even the helicopter officer, but the true mission statement that your department has. What are you doing to achieve that, is it working, and does it reflect accordingly? If the real direction of the department doesn’t reflect what you say you are doing, then why is that statement still there, is it there to look good and say we have something?

Do your firefighters, officers, and other employees know what’s going on?  Now that seems like a silly statement to make, doesn’t it?  Of course your members from the top down know what’s going on and have a sense of direction because we are so great with communication.  Unfortunately, and sadly, all to often even with all the advancements in technology and classes that are taught on communication we are still not getting the message or the right message out when we need to.  While I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some great organizations, I’ve seen my share of those that aren’t in there.  Whether it is that they don’t know how to properly communicate out the direction of training, operations, goals, missions, and other aspects, or they don’t feel that they need to.

Does your department publish a list of training throughout the year with the topics to a centralized board or email that is accessible by the members, or do you rely on the “its Tuesday” method and people will show up? Have you stopped to think that by deciding topics ahead of time that your membership might be able to plan their family lives and work commitments around the schedule and be better prepared?    From accountability standpoint I know personally from training, when it’s written down I avoid missing my own workout at all costs. I consider workouts and training like a date, and I hate to stand myself up and not conduct the training I intended to. If you are afraid to communicate out something as important as training on things that are live saving, should these people or the leadership of the department be trusted on the fire ground?

When your alarm goes off, do your members know what needs to happen?  Is the training that you are conducting actually working and are your people “getting it?  That sounds bad, but we’ve all seen it first hand at some point.  The pager goes off and there is arguments amongst the rank of the how to respond, what to respond, and what needs done first.  Once you get enroute and on scene do the issues begin to intensify. Are there remedial questions that by this point should just have known answers and actions? If you answer yes that there are issues and they are repeatedly happening, is your message really being communicated out correctly?

Do your members know the future goals of the department, be it a new station, new apparatus, new equipment, tools, land acquisitions, or plans down the road of large projects do they know? If you answered no to the question, I would ask why not? I’m not saying that you want your entire department on the apparatus committee or equipment purchases, or even a station build, but you’d be surprised the morale when they at least have a clue of what’s going on. It tends to look silly when in your community that citizens on the street know, but your members aren’t all on the same page about the new firehouse. Your members shouldn’t be reading about the goals of the department in the local newspaper or on television, instead they should be hearing it from their leaders. In the departments that I have been blessed to be a part of, new projects while they can bring a lot of work, also bring a lot of excitement and can help with morale. In the fire service, when things are stagnant and nothing new is happening, that’s when the morale seems to go down the chute.

Chiefs and officers out there, whether you like it or not, you’re going to need to communicate and make sure you’re getting across. Yes it may be a little uncomfortable and awkward for some, but you need to flex those vocal cord muscles and talk versus flexing the fingers to text or write those e-mails that your firefighters “love” to get. We as a society, because of technology advancements have lost the ability to properly and effectively communicate through verbal means. A written text, memo, or e-mail can be interpreted many ways other than the intended goal of the author. Instead of writing it down, get up and speak and as officers have a unified message and plan. Maybe it’s a training night once a year where you sit down in your firehouse, grab some food, and lay out the direction for the year, future goals, and make sure your firefighters are on the same page. Be the department that communicates effectively and consistently enough ahead of the issues that the communications following incidents are a “great job” and not “you guys screwed up”.

As a side note, the incident that happened at the water park turned out “not to be a fire” according to the front desk and a manager, however they were concerned that their staff was unknowing and most unknowing of what to do. Chiefs, and officers out there, don’t let that manager that’s caught off guard be you.  Make sure that your programs, your communication, and your training are preparing your members to know and act.