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.