Station Officer Angela Munro
BSpLS., Dip. Teaching., P. Grad. Dip. Ed. Leadership., Dip. FLM.
Ex. Secondary Teacher (Physical Education/Science)
A high standard of physical fitness is essential. Not only does it help prevent injuries, but allows ‘on the job’ tasks to be completed efficiently. The varied nature of work within the Fire Service requires a good level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance.
By ‘aerobic’ I mean using oxygen – that is continuous exercise of low intensity (low heart rate) for a long duration (over 20minutes), i.e. jogging. Whereas ‘anaerobic’ means without oxygen – high intensity (working close to or at maximum heart rate) for short periods of time, i.e. sprinting, shuttle runs.
Furthermore, muscular strength require your muscles to work at full strength (e.g. performing a bench press), whereas muscular endurance means repeatedly performing tasks (e.g. push-ups).
It is the strength and endurance components that a lot of women struggle with.
To improve your muscular strength and endurance requires specificity, effort, and intensity. Let’s face it, it isn’t every day that we drag hoses, carry and haul aloft reasonably weighted objects, all the while wearing 25kgs of protective clothing!
A strength and conditioning programme should focus on your upper body musculature. Yes, yes, I can hear your cries of anguish already. Don’t fear, you will not look like a bodybuilder, or a bloke with bulging biceps – it doesn’t work like that. It comes down to human physiology – women simply do not have the hormonal ability to get ‘big’. Males have 10 times more testosterone than females and thus far more muscle tissue, therefore we won’t get ‘massive’ no matter how much weight we lift.
Interestingly, this little fact is problematic, as we require a concerted effort to improve and maintain our muscular strength and endurance. You need to challenge your muscles so that changes in strength do take place, thus none of that 3 to 5 kg green or pink coloured plastic weights. Don’t waste your time. Females and males respond in much the same way when it comes to weight training. It’s fine to start slowly with lightweights (especially if you have been away from fitness for an extended period), but move to heavy weights as you become stronger. You will be surprised at how strong you can become if you set your mind to it.
Now what muscles do you need to work? Definitely your posterior (places you can’t see in a mirror). Back and shoulders are a must; chest and arms come a very close second. How do you split this training at the gym?
Fitness trainers from your local gym can assist you with the type of exercises for these body parts. However on a general note, each exercise should involve for muscular strength 3-4 sets, of 8-12 repetitions, using a moderate to heavy weight and with a 1-2 minute rest between sets.
As for muscular endurance, this involves 1-2 sets, of 15-25 repetitions, using a light to moderate weight and resting for 30-60 seconds between sets. I suggest combining both, that’s finish your session with two exercises working in the higher rep range.
High reps create fatigue and you need to be able to perform tasks well in this state.
Don’t be scared of the so-called ‘boy’ exercises i.e. dead lifts, bench press and squats, they won’t make you ‘big’. I’ll say it again, this is a ‘big’ misconception that will prevent you from reaching your potential. Another crucial reason for under taking these particular strength exercises is for grip strength development. Females tend to have weak forearms and grip strength.
Finally, before you start any exercise programme ensure that you check with a doctor to get medical clearance. Also get a qualified training instructor to teach you the correct techniques involved with weight training.
Be committed, patient, positive, and enjoy.