Exercise Training Guidelines
Fighting forest fires requires specific fitness capacities, and training programs that are intended to prepare an applicant for fire fighting should be designed to optimize these capacities. The arm and leg actions utilized in the exercise training process should match as closely as possible the actions involved in fire fighting, such as lifting, carrying, dragging, digging and chopping.
If you are unfamiliar with aerobic or resistance training, consult a knowledgeable fitness professional before you start.
Following are some examples of training exercises designed not only to help you pass the PRE-FIT test but also to maintain your ability to carry out this physically demanding occupation.
To improve aerobic fitness it is necessary to challenge the body's oxygen transport system. This is accomplished by exercising at an appropriate frequency, intensity and duration.
Frequency: Aerobic fitness traning should be performed three to five times each week.
Duration: If exercise training is conducted three days per week, each training session should include 45 to 60 minutes of continuous activity. If training is conducted five days a week, each training session should be 30 to 45 minutes in length.
Intensity: The intensity of training is the most important aspect of an aeaobic training session. Unless the training intensity is high enough, the body will not make a favourable adaptation in aerobic fitness. Heart rate is used to gauge training intensity and your pulse can be counted on the thumb side of your wrist. Alternatively, heart rate monitors that are sold in fitness outlets can be used.
To challenge the body's aerobic fitness to adapt, the heart rate must be kept above a training threshold throughout the exercise session. The threshold training heart rate is 80% of you maximum heart rate and your maximum heart rate is estimated from 220 minus your age. To improve your aerobic fitness level the threshold training heart rate is 80%x(220-age). For a 20-year old the threshold training heart rate is 80/100x(220-20)= 160 beats per minute. An effective training program for a 20-year old would be exercising five days per week for 30-45 minutes each day with the heart rate continuously above 160 beats per minute throughout the exercise session.
Type of Activity: The aerobic exercise training must involve large muscle activity such as running, cycling, aerobics classes, cross country skiing, swimming or active sports like basketball, soccer and squash. It is best to choose an activity with which you are already familiar and exercising with a partner will provide greater motivation for adherence.
Maintenance Program: Generally, a six week training period of five days per week for 45 minutes each day will bring about substantial training improvements. After six weeks you should be ready to switch to a maintenance program of three days per week for 45 minutes per day with the heart rate continuously above the training threshold throughout each exercise session.
Muscular Strength and Muscular Endurance Training
Most physically demanding forest fire fighting tasks require use of the arms, shoulders, back and legs. To ensure adequate strength and muscular endurance in each of these muscle groups, a resistance training program should be followed which 'overloads' these muscles. Overloading a muscle group involves a combination of resistance, repetitions, sets and frequency.
For example, improvements in both muscular strength and endurance can be achieved by performing 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of an exercise at a resistance which is approximately 75% of the weight that you can barely lift once. Training with either free weights or resistance machines is effective for improving muscular strength and endurance.
Resistance and Repetitions: To determine what training resistance you should use in each of the muscle group exercises, find the maximum weight for each exercise at which you are barely able to complete one repetition. Next, calculate 75% of this maximum weight for each exercise, and then determine how many repetitions you are able to complete at 75% of this maximum weight. If you are unable to complete 8 repetitions, reduce the weight so that you are able to complete 8 repetitions. If you are able to complete more than 12 repetitions, increase the weight so that you are only able to complete 8 repetitions. As you gain muscular strength and endurance you will progress from 8 to 12 repetitions and so it will be necessary to progressively increase the resistance at which you train.
Sets: During each exercise training session you should complete 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of the exercises for each muscle group with one to two minutes rest between each set.
Frequency: Each muscle group should be trained a maximum of once every 48 hours. Therefore, either resistance train every other day or, if every day, train different muscle groups on alternate days - for example arms, shoulders and back on day and legs the next.
Warm-up: To reduce muscle soreness and injury, for 5 to 10 minutes prior to beginning a resistance training session, stretch the muscle groups to be exercises in the work-out and perform light to moderate intensity calisthenics using these same muscle groups.
Recommended Resistance Exercises:
These exercises can be performed using free weights or resistance machines. They can also be supplemented with additional exercises. All exercises should be performed throughout the full range of motion.
Legs: leg press, squats, calf raises, leg extensions
Arms, shoulders and back: bench press, upright row, arm curls, pulldowns
Calisthenics: curl-ups, crunches, back extension, push-up
Sample Work-out: Some people prefer to combine aerobic training and resistance training during each work-out and some people prefer to train these fitness components in separate work-outs.
For example, you could perform a resistance workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and an aerobic work-out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Alternatively, you could perform both resistance and aerobic work-outs six days a week.
All work-outs should begin with a 5 to 10 minutes warm-up of stretching and light calisthenics. After the warm-up, a training session that combines both aerobic and resistance training would begin with 30 minutes of aerobic exercises at the target heart rate, followed by 20 minutes of resistance training for the arms, shoulders, and back one day and 20 minutes of resistance training for the legs the next day.
End all work-outs with a 5 minute stretching warm-down.