Fitness, Survival, and the FDNY

Those are three things I know something about. Crawling down hot smokey hallways in the ghettos of Brooklyn for 17 years probably taught me the most about all three. World champion kettlebell lifter, and AKC Head Coach, Valery Fedorenko, has taught me about survival under the kettlebell, about how much you learn when your very survival is at stake. Any serious athlete or active firefighter should clearly understand this basic concept.

When it feels like you're gonna die, you cannot allow yourself the luxury of pure instinct and simply flee (or drop the kettlebell).  There are times when you must react to your training, and do the exact opposite.
22 Years with FDNY
The FDNY, an organization I spent 22 years a part of, knows how to create a superbly trained probie, or new recruit. The young men and women of the FDNY leave the fire academy fit and ready to fight fires - chomping at the bit for some action. It's about the closest thing to a genuine boot camp out there, without actually being in the military. The problem is the new recruit is also pretty banged up after five or six months of training. Shin splints, cartilage tears, back and shoulder strains run rampant. The high drop out rate reflects the many casualties who fall by the wayside, and resign before they ever really get started.

When the probie is released to the field, there is no continuing education on physical fitness. He's left to do what he grew up on, bench presses and curls, and if he's lucky, a bit of running. In my opinion, what has kept the FDNY force so physically superior has been the graded physical test they've always used. Instead, they've now adapted the national CPAT pass / fail standards. While it may be seriously challenging to pass a CPAT, skimming the top 10 percent of over 20 thousand candidates was an enormous advantage that no longer exists in New York. But the fires still burn in the ghettos of Brooklyn. 

The Firefighter's Workout Book
In October of 2000 The Firefighter's Workout Book hit the book stores. That book represented a  culmination of years of my personal, but generally mainstream, fitness training, while I was still an active firefighter, lieutenant, and captain. After my retirement in '04, I turned full time to fitness, training firefighters, FDNY recruits, and civilians around the country. Ever improving my craft has now led me to kettlebell lifting legend Valery Fedorenko. In January of '07, the first time I ever trained with Valery, my opinion of what the human body is capable of changed dramatically.

The Fedorenko Method™ of Kettlebell Lifting
I was introduced to what I consider, not weight lifting, but a martial art approach to strength and conditioning, where size really doesn't matter. Volumes could be written on the Fedorenko Method, but the bottom line is that timed sets, the very core of AKC kettlebell conditioning, mimics what firefighters actually do; no rest, no taking a blow in the middle of dragging a high pressure hose line down a hallway, just surviving. It takes focused training and a certain level of proficiency to build into healthy kettlebell lifting for firefighters, but once a base-line proficiency is achieved, we can recreate the effect on the human body that is so typical at fire operations, gradually, slowly, safely. 

Isn't that exactly what we all hope to achieve when it comes to firefighter fitness?
  • To build strength, stamina, extreme cardio-respiratory capacity, with average individuals, and without injury, without the cure causing more problems.  
  • No hype, no BS, just a healthy probie or firefighter with off-the-chart work capacity for his or her entire career and beyond.

My workout programming reflects this philosophy at every level. Whether my First Responder Kettlebell Protocol or my Fit for Fire Program online video program. Timed, continuous progression is the answer.