For a dozen firefighters at the Clearwater Fire Training Facility on Wednesday afternoon, the workout was simple.
A minute of push-ups. Then, planks and squats. Finally, body-rows, and then back to push-ups.
"Four, three, two, one — exercise!" yelled firefighter Anthony Gomillion, the de-facto drill sergeant for the workout.
Easier said than done. One man groaned when he lifted out of his last push-up.
Another grimaced, his arms quivering uncontrollably, as he held the plank position.
Rivers of sweat streamed down their necks.
Staying in shape is hard work — even for firefighters.
The high-intensity workout was part of the Clearwater Fire & Rescue's Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week, an annual event in which firefighters around the world participate in workshops and training sessions to learn techniques for staying safe on the job.
This year's theme is "Fit for Duty," and on Wednesday, dozens of Clearwater firefighters went through a rotation of tutorials on nutrition, weight management, safe weight-lifting techniques and tips for staying fit.
"We're not going to put them on an Ironman course with this workout," said Doug Swartz, assistant chief for health and safety. "But these workouts will help them do their jobs safely, without injuries."
What people often don't realize is that firefighters need help with sticking to an exercise routine, eating healthy and keeping their weight down, just like the rest of us, said Gomillion, the head peer fitness trainer at Clearwater Fire & Rescue.
Back, knee and shoulder injuries are especially common among firefighters, Gomillion said, and firefighters account for more than their fair share of workers' compensation losses in the city of Clearwater. Proper weight lifting could cut down on those types of injuries, he said.
Peer fitness trainers — firefighters with personal training certification — demonstrated a series of weight-lifting moves intended to mimic real-life tasks that firefighters perform daily. To prevent injury from lifting equipment bags and pulling on fire hoses, practice lifting dumbbells and swinging kettle balls, Gomillion said.
The tutorial on nutrition featured more back-to-basics tips for weight management: Cut down on fat. Stop snacking late at night. Drink lots of water.
"Because of this job, there are a lot of things working against us in terms of sleeping well, eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle," Swartz said.
Unpredictable schedules and all-night shifts don't exactly make for a reliable fitness routine and time to cook healthy foods, he said.
Case in point: A couple of men walked into the training room halfway through the weight-lifting demonstration. They apologized for being late — they had just returned from responding to a call.
Swartz brushed off their apologies: "Don't worry about it — you probably got in just as much cardio."
Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.