Fitness Program Design: Fit 2 Thrive

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So, here’s a disclaimer – I just finished the Fit 2 Thrive program from the new IAFF Wellness and Fitness side of things. The program was hosted by Performance Redefined. The Canadian organization in partnership with the IAFF is headed by Dr. David Frost, a well known fitness and wellness advocate.

There were a couple components of the textbook that had a really resonant effect on me. Fitness program design is one of those ‘ask 5 guys, get 5 answers’ things. Because there’s so many variables at play, there are leagues of different approaches. One of the core tenants of the F2T program that underlines all the exercises, fitness theory and workout planning is this; it’s not just exercise, it’s everything.

The goal of the Wellness Fitness Initiative (WFI) and the Fit to Thrive Program (F2T) is to maintain fire departments’ most important resource – its firefighters, by ensuring they are fit, healthy, and capable to handle the unpredictable, physically demanding nature of the job.

IAFF Fit 2 Thrive Student Manual

You are more than your job.

That shouldn’t be such a hard thing to swallow, but when it comes to fitness program design, it’s an important point to consider. If it’s not farmers carrying a bunch of gear to the staging area or huffing it up a ladder, it’s going on a bike ride with your kids or helping your parents move to a new township. Fitness is too easy to shrug off. The truth of it is, however – and you already know this – it will come back to bite you.

Even as I write that, it seems like an overdone thought. Of course fitness is important. You know that already.

So, why is it so easy to neglect?

Well, part of it is because of the wall. If you’ve done any amount of cardio, you’ll know it well. It’s the moment where your brain convinces your body that you’re tapped. Where, beyond the limits of what you think you can control in the moment, your legs and lungs beg you to quit. When you don’t quit, you transcend yourself. You know that too, because in the moments when you’re tough enough to proceed, you unlock a rush that you can actually feel if you pay attention to it.

Low load, high rep. Working on the job.


Peer Fitness Trainers

The Fit 2 Thrive project from the IAFF does a great job of building Peer Fitness Trainers that are equipped with this information. The relationships between warming up and working out or work and fatigue – it’s all a part of the puzzle toward programming a fitness plan.

We’re assigned a textbook, six weeks of meetings with the other folks doing the course and a swirl of fresh ideas when it comes to building out a workout program. You’ve got equipment. You’ve got the motivation to get some work done. There’s something underpinning all of this.

People exercise for their own reasons. Those reasons can include some of the things we touched on before; longevity, family or the job. The important thing to consider is building a balance between those things that pull us each way for motivation. Remembering that we’re more than the job right beside the simple fact that we’re also bound to the job. The F2T program helped me see the latter side of that statement, that fitness can and should have more focus towards each person’s personal side – not just the hazardous nature of the job.

Fit 2 thrive

Our fire service pays very close attention to the things we use. As a matter of company pride, we wash the trucks and for our safety on the fire ground, we make sure our tools are well maintained.

I’d like to propose an idea – it’s about time we paid as much attention to the things we are.

Our bodies and minds make up the continuum of wellness. As we position ourselves for having a well maintained body, we’re able and better prepared to respond on the fire ground. When we focus effort on making sure our minds are tuned well for the tasks we face at work and home, we’re categorically staged to perform at our best.

There are consequences for leaving yourself unmaintained. Take the easiest one to imagine – an injury. The ripple effect an injury could have would touch your capabilities at work, the time off you enjoy with your friends and family and further than that – the activities you personally enjoy.

A fitness trainer program from home

My participation in the Fit 2 Thrive program was conducted completely through Zoom. As with all things COVID-era, we met remotely in closed groups twice a week. For 8 weeks, we met to discuss elements of fitness programming that were both familiar and brand new to me. For instance, we learned about movement patterns and exercise distribution to meet specific goals. I had a pretty good handle on that. However, we also learned about energy systems and where certain types of stretching count most in a workout. That information was brand new to me.

I found the group to be relatively cohesive, considering the barrier that digital classrooms can create. We split off into smaller groups to discuss case studies and perform exercises while our ‘coach’ monitored form. These small group off-shoots were especially useful for me, when peers would help break down concepts and make sure everyone was on the same page.

A section of the program dealt specifically with goal setting. The chapter held the SMART method as the foundation for helping clients select objectives that matter.

If you’re looking for a FREE fire-specific goal setting program, I made one. Click here.

Next steps – free workouts

From here, I’m going to take my shiny new PFT certificate and do a few things that I think will share a direct benefit to people looking for a challenge. I have a handful of ideas for workouts, WODs and ruck challenges that I’m going to incorporate here at SIXFEET and as part of The Wedge. In doing so, I hope to add another helpful voice to the echos of other fitness advocates online.

To those of you reading that are weighing your participation in the F2T program, I’d recommend it. Especially where your ticket price may be subsidized by a department, this certification lays the groundwork for a plethora of other learning opportunities. Anybody can be an agent toward meaningful change. Like it or not, buy-in sometimes hinges on credentials. For a course like F2T, you’ll not only grab that cert but a helpful introduction to fitness programming as well.

Bill Dungey is a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is focused on fitness, mindset development and finding training opportunities to help the fire service make things better.

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