What Are You Telling People?

I say “Good afternoon!How are you doing?” I am stopping to getodds and ends at a supermarket. It is atypical day during the summer here in Maryland;so being inside provides a bit of relief from the heat and humidity. The cashier is who I give this standard greeting. He is tall, lanky, and young. My guess is that this is probably his Summer job. Admittedly, I ask the question about his day out of rote practice. I just heard the conversationbetween the cashier and the person before me. I already know his answer. His response?“Oh, I can't complain.” That’s not the answer he gave the other guy.

In speaking with the person just before me, this is the response I hear him say: “Man it’s hot in here. It feels good at first, but then, it’s hot again.” Now, this is a supermarket, not a court of law. I will not prosecute him for telling me one thingand another person something else. And given that he and the other person are wearing the same uniform shirt, it makes sense. He is more comfortable with a known, coworker than anunknown, customer. We all have things that bother us. We are just not up front about telling everyone about them. And that’s fine, until you aren’t fine.

Everyone has problems.Whether or not someone will talk about them is another story. Over the last few months,firefighters in nearby jurisdictions have taken their own lives.An article from CNN article last year* states “Last year (in 2017), 103 firefighters and 140 police officers committed suicide, whereas 93 firefighters and 129 officers died in the line of duty, which includes everything from being fatally shot, stabbed, drowning or dying in a car accident while on the job.” In a discussion I had shortly after that, a question was posed to me; if I had a problem, who would I tell? Who would I tell what I felt, versus what the pre-canned answer of “Oh, I can’t complain.”

There are many people better qualified than I to speak on mental health. What I give you then, is not vast knowledge, but perspective. One that focuses on just on aspect of the problem of mental health in the fire service. Many people wouldn’t know who to tell their problems to if their life depended on it. If you had a problem, who would you tell?Not just any problem, but the kind of problem that would make you question being alive. How much trust you have in another person is proportional with how much would you revel to him or her. Who do you trust enough to tell that kind of problem?

I don’t feel like fire service culture makes it easy to talk about weakness, mistakes, and problems people tend to face. In order to have a conversation on that level, there has to be a sense of closeness between 2 people. A sense of trust.Listening to the comments of the young cashier and the guy he was talking to, they are obviously closer to each other than to me. They know each other. They have history. I'm just some dude picking up some odds and ends. No need to trust me with a problem statement.

As leaders, I ask we all take a look at what we are doing to make it easy for people to talk about problems. To find the common places and build bridges of trust and safety. Part of leadership is figuring out what that is for each individual. That's a pretty tall order. I've had a fewsuccesses and many more failures throughout my entire career.I don't know that I have a set answer. I will tell you what life has taught me so far. Keep saying “Good morning! How are you doing?” If I go back to that same store on a regular basis and interact that same cashier, eventually, we will get to know each other better. Eventually, we will talk about more things. Eventually, he’ll let me know when the heat is getting to him. Eventually, he’ll trust me enough to tell me what he really feels. Relationships are a lot like planting fruit trees. It takes a while to nurture the progress, but in the end, the fruit that is produced is worth it. As a leader, make trust your everyday order of business. Make trust ordinary, and you will see extraordinary impact.   

*From <https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/04/11/officers-firefighters-suicides-study/503735002/>

 About the Author

 NICK BASKERVILLE Nick has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for 10 years, followed by 4 years in the United States Air Force Reserves. He attained the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-6). Nick also has 18 years of fire service time, with 15 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick has had the opportunity to hold positions in the Company Officer's section of the Virginia Fire Chief's Association (VFCA), The Virginia Fire Officer's Academy (VFOA) staff, and as one of the IABPFF representatives to the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance. Nick is one of the many trainers for Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) to offer awareness and prevention training about cancer in the fire service. Nick has the honor of being one of the many contributors for The Firehouse Tribune.

Improve Your Cholesterol, Improve Your Career

Heart Disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States. It’s also one the leading causes of death in firefighters and for more than 1 reason. However, in this article we are discussing it with its link to cholesterol. So what is cholesterol and what does it due to our bodies?

For starters, cholesterol is a fat found in your blood that is developed in the liver but your body can also receive it from meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese, and whole or low-fat milk. Everyone needs some cholesterol in their bodies in order to function properly such as your brain, skin and bodily organs. What cholesterol is doing for your body is acting a building block for your cells as well as helping repair damaged cells especially ones found in the blood vessels and the dietary tract.

If cholesterol is helping your body, why is it bad?

Well, foodhigh in additives, preservatives and other toxic processes will cause cells to become damaged and are most likely found in refined and processed carbohydrates. This will cause the cholesterol to flow around the blood and eventually cling onto the walls of your blood vessels, thus causing the vessels to become narrower as time goes on eventually clogging the vessels. A clogged vessel does not allow for proper blood flow through the vessel potentially causing a heart attack (lack of oxygen-rich blood)or stroke (decreased blood flow to thebrain) to name a few.

To be on top of our game and have long lasting career and life, we can as firefighters help ourselves and families to help improve our cholesterol levels.

1. Eat heart-healthy foods

a. Healthier Fats

i. Saturated fats, founds in red meat and dairy will raise your total cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as “bad” cholesterol. Rule of thumb: 7% or less of your daily caloric intake should be from saturated fats.

ii. Leaner cuts of meat such as London broil, top sirloin, chicken breast, 96% lean ground beef and pork tenderloin are other healthier options along with low-fat dairy and monounsaturated fats which is found in olive and canola oils.

b. Eliminate Trans Fats

i. Trans fats affect cholesterol levels by increasing LDL levels (“bad”) and lowering the (“good”) HDL levels. Trans fats can be found in fried foods and many processed foods such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. In the U.S., food containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving is consider “trans fat-free”.

c. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

i. Omega-3’s don’t have an effect on LDL cholesterol (“bad”) however it does have heart benefits. Some benefits omega-3 has are helping to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”), reducing triglycerides (type of fat in blood) and reduces blood pressure.

ii. Types of fish rich in omega-3 are salmon, mackerel and herring. Other good sources include krill oil, walnuts and almonds.

d. Soluble Fiber

i. There are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Although both have heart-health benefits, soluble fiber also helps to lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and all you’ll need to do is all a little more fiber to your diet.

ii. High in fiber foods are oats, fruits, beans, lentils and vegetables.

e. Whey Protein

i. Whey protein given as a supplement according to studies has shown to lower both LDL and total cholesterol. So if you’re in the gym, at home or in the firehouse working out and GETTING AFTER IT, don’t forget to include whey protein in your diet.

2. Exercise

i. Exercise has been known to improve cholesterol especially help raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Before engaging in any physical activities, please consult with your physician beforehand.

If you want a long, healthy and prosperous career and a long life with your family your health comes first. Protecting the front lines and take care of our own comes above all else. Please remember to consult with your physician before looking into any of these recommendations as this is for informational purposes.

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ, a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. A martial arts practitioner in Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai as well as a former collegiate athlete in baseball, Nick is a National Exercise & Sports Trainer Association Battle Ropes Instructor and studying for the Functional Fitness Instructor certification.  He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.  

The 10 Minute Workout

One of our biggest excuses for lack of exercise is simple, it’s lack of time. Most of our time is spent working, sleeping, family obligations and friends. Very rarely do people say they have or make time for exercise, which in our profession is very unfortunate since as we’ve said in numerous posts thus far, we are “functional athletes” and need to behave, think and train like one; mentality and physically. 

In order to enjoy our life, our family, friends, combat the stress of the job and continue to feel healthy for the long haul, exercise is essential to this and what I am sharing with you all today is the 10 min work out you can do at home, in the gym, on the go and even in the firehouse alone or with your crew.

Why am I saying all of this?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, it is recommended to have at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic pace exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Depending on how hard you work out that will equate to 21 minutes per day of moderate aerobic pace exercise or 11 minutes per day of vigorous exercise.

So here are a few options of the 10 minute workout:

1.    Jogging: This is great for cardiovascular health, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol and is known to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. The American Council on Exercise states that an individual weighing 180lbs can burn up to 170 calories by taking a 10min jog.
2.    High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): This is my personal favorite and although it burns calories and fat quickly, it is not recommended for beginners. HIIT is a form of interval training and cardiovascular exercise training alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. This type of workout will challenge your cardiovascular system more than jogging along with added benefits such as increasing your metabolism, improves cholesterol profile and increases insulin sensitivity. A bodyweight HIIT Workout would look something like this: 50 sit-ups, 40 jump squats (or body squats), 30 pushups, 20 split jumps, 10 triceps dips, as many burpees as possible in 30 seconds. You will take a 30 second rest between each exercise in order to perform each exercise with 100% effort. 
3.    Circuit Training: This a great strength training workout due to strength training .Generally strength training requires rest periods between sets for muscle recovery however with circuit training uses antagonistic muscles (when one muscle contracts, the other relaxes, i.e. biceps and triceps) allowing for shorter rest periods An example of this would be as follows: 3 sets of 10 reps.
a.    Pushups
b.    Hollow body hold
c.    Squats
d.    Glute bridges
e.    Bench dips
f.    Plank hold (30-60 sec holds)
4.    Jump Rope: Jumping rope can burn more than 10 calories in a minute and a great way for overall body toning. Here is a quick jump rope workout you can do anywhere. 60 seconds regular jump, 60 seconds rope side to side, 60 seconds single leg (left), 60 seconds single leg (right). The goal is to do this routine non-stop for 2 rounds. If you are new to this, do regular jumps for 60 seconds for 4 rounds with 30 second rests. For the single leg jumps, start with the weaker or less dominant side first. 

So, there you have it. Four different workouts we can do any time, any where for overall health. Incorporate these into your daily life will have you feeling healthier, stronger and battle ready to perform when the alarm goes off.  

Please note: Always consult with your physician before getting into physical activities while recovering from any injury or surgery. It may not be the best treatment option after an injury or surgery or may be limited to particular modalities.

Until next time: work hard, stay safe & live inspired.

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ as well as NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. He has also been elected as a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ from 2008-2011. A blue belt in taekwondo and former collegiate athlete, Nick is currently studying to complete his certification as a TRX Instructor and a Battle Ropes Instructor. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.

 

Sleep and Firefighters

One thing firefighters have been known to lack, is lack of sleep. Generally, not something that is talked about or brought up in conversation, but lack of sleep has links to firefighter injury and death. Think about it, emergency service personnel live off shift work and interrupted sleep patterns which are out of their control since alarms can happen any time of any day.

According to The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sleep or interrupted sleep patterns could be a major factor in more than 60 percent of firefighter deaths. The majority of these are caused by heart attacks and traffic accidents. Research has shown that approximately 7,000 firefighters have reported to suffer from numerous sleep disorders such as obstructed sleep apnea, insomnia and shift-work disorder which was reported by the New York Times.

They also reported firefighters are also more likely to develop serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety because of sleep disorders. In addition to these health problems, firefighters are also likely to report an increase in kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity.

NYTHEALTH RESEARCH

Firefighter Deaths Could be Linked to Poor Sleep

Helen Regan Nov. 14, 2014

Sleep plays an integral role in physical health and especially of one of a functional athlete.

The human body is built with an internal clock and changing to our sleep patterns at any time can disrupt or alter the internal clock which is built on routine – something we don’t have much of as firefighters. While sleeping our bodies are healing and repairing our heart, blood vessels, muscles and allowing our bodies to heal. In addition, sleep with repair and consolidate memory. 

So what could we do to ensure we get a sufficient amount of sleep off duty so we are recharged and energized for our next shift?

Here are a few tips to try while off duty:

1. Routine. This is important. Stick to a sleep schedule while home.

2. Power Down. Turn off or avoid all electronic devices 30-60 minutes prior to bed.

3. Keep Cool. Try to keep the bedroom cooler than other areas of the house. Majority of people sleep more soundly in a cooler bedroom.

4. No alcohol or caffeine. Both are known to disrupt sleep patterns either by unexpected wake ups or restless sleep.

5. Comfort. Invest in a pillow and/or mattress that’s comforting to you. This also helps eliminate muscle, nerve and joint pains especially headaches.

6. FAST. Try hard to avoid large meals close to bedtime as much as possible.

Proper training, proper nutrition and proper recovery (along with sleep) are all vital to our success as firefighters on the job and off. 

Until next time; work hard, stay safe & life inspired.

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 16 years in the fire service all within departments in Piscataway, NJ. Nick has held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain as well as being a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ. He is also a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and currently a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University working in Corporate Taxation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.