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This past year my wife and I were blessed to welcome the birth of our first child. For those who are parents know the thoughts that go through your mind; joy, excitement, nervousness, and worry just to name a few. The last 7 months have been the most amazing and important yet difficult time we’ve ever experienced.

Each day we watch our son grow, learn and take on life. He learns a little more and more about himself and us each day and us the same about him. The one thing I’ve noticed as he discovers life and becomes his own little person is his impressionable innocence. Everything he’s exposed to and everything he’s taught is absorbed like a sponge.

The same is true for those entering the fire service. New recruits come in as an empty slate who, for the most part don't know anyone or how anything works and will absorb everything they hear, see and read like a sponge. In order to keep the fire service family and brotherhood alive, it is upon us, the current generation to do our best to not allow any negative emotions or feelings towards a fellow firefighter and departmental policies be absorbed by the newer generations coming in. The best thing we could do is to look at the things we don't agree with and turn it into a positive remembering why we signed up for this job. Just like babies, new recruits are excited and have an eagerness to learn, grow and a hunger to prove themselves worthy of this job. So let's embrace the newer generations entering the fire service and show them that although there is downsides to what we do, we can always walk in with a smile on our face,  have an eagerness to learn and a willingness to always pay it forward with the hopes of developing the generations to come.

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 17 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ, a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor, a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website. A martial arts practitioner and former collegiate athlete in baseball, Nick is also a National Exercise & Sports Trainer Association Battle Ropes Instructor, Functional Fitness Instructor and Nutrition Coach.  He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University, and a A.A.S in Liberal Arts - Business from Middlesex County College. Nick has spoken at the 2017 & 2018 Firehouse Expo in Nashville, TN as well as at numerous fire departments within NJ and fire service podcasts.

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.

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.