The Complete Urban Athlete

The holidays were a bit rough, they took more out of me and more time than I ever anticipated.  Thus is the reason I am getting this final installment out so late and so far behind the others in the series on what makes a first responder/firefighter and ultimately a complete Urban Athlete.

Being in “rescue” shape is very different from being your typical “fit” or “in-shape”.  In the world of the first responder, your body is a tool, a blunt object that has to be able to not only be applied with force but also needs to be able to withstand an impact.  You are also not allowed the luxury of having “maintenance issues” along the way like some high performance vehicle.  The Urban Athlete is different, your sport is ever changing and skill set needs to be highly diverse.

I’ve been a straight up athlete before and in sport with a bunch of prima donnas, divas and d-bags .  Guys who I swear spent more time in the tanning bed, shaving their legs and color co-ordinating their sunglasses, lycra and bikes than they ever did on training and doing work.  People with way too much money and way more ego than their ability afforded them, most were clueless to the fact that they were in a niche’ sport that has become so exclusive that you buy most all of your speed in the ranks outside of the upper 7%.

The first thing that was clear to me when I hung it up racing triathlon and began boxing was what a shitty athlete I had really become.  As athletes do in most sports I had achieved a relative degree of mastery in ironman that allowed to me to swim, bike and run in long distances over shorter and shorter periods of time.  It is my belief that the one skill set above all else necessary to succeed in the ironman, (which would be to find yourself in that top 5% or operating as close to your potential as possible) is mental toughness.  Hand-eye coordination, speed, agility, explosiveness, lateral movement were hardly used and as I found myself hanging on for dear life sparring mid-round one day with a young Mexican kid named Jose this all became painfully clear.

Not one to shy away from my own ego it was only natural that I defaulted in my own head to thinking “Well shit, if this fight were to last an hour I’d have this kid on the ground!”.

Guess what asshole, this fight was going to last about another 30 seconds unless you started to cover up your face and start taking some body shots like a man.  Jose will have been long gone and already be post siesta by the time you start feeling your legs coming alive.  Sure, I could go “long” but the current event I was partaking in wasn’t going longer than 3 minutes.

Point is, I could finish in the top 10 of my age group at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii and run a sub 3 hour marathon off the bike but that doesn’t do you much good when you need to recruit muscle fibers for speed and power right this moment.  It’ll be even worse if you need to move quickly and powerfully and to do so from an awkward position.  Those last skill sets are actually applicable to our job as rescuers, they should be accelerated by our endurance capacity and not limited by it.

Since giving up triathlon I’ve attempted to be fearless enough to try just about anything and everything out there, using my own life and fitness as a lab for building a more complete athlete.  I’ve done fusion (jazzercise on steroids), Pilates, Yoga, Crossfit, Straight Olympic Lifting, TRX and blah-dee-blah-dee-blah.  Guess what all?  Each of these and others all think they have the market cornered on building complete athletes.  It wasn’t just the Crossfit and triathlon clowns who were making, manufacturing and drinking their own kool-aid; all sorts of idiots out there were taking liberty with mastering their own niche in the sporting world and calling it superior.

Each of these different modalities of fitness had some incredible athletes I’ve been able to meet and each have had some incredibly stupid and talentless clowns as well.  The ones that were the very best at what they did all understood the implications and importance of the focused effort in each.

My point is this, I excelled (by most people’s standards) at a sport that when looked at from the outside appeared to be intense and maybe even impossible to some but as soon as I attempted to bring that experience into another frame it’s usefulness hardly was applicable.

So for all you fire rescue dorks that spend your days posting to Facebook and debating the merits of whether one type of tool or another is best for forcing entry, or straight stream or fog is the way to go… here is what I am going to say to you.  Somebody has to apply the tool, somebody has to haul the hose and there are a whole lot of you who take on leadership positions in our job that cannot do either.  You act as if a promotion is a license to become a weaker link in the chain or you bastardize the job by trying to make it out of reach to other members as you attempt to over intellectualize it.  It’s firefighting; basic building construction, plumbing, electrical work, demolition, systems, basic strategy and logistical deployment, processes and above all else it is teamwork.

If you are trying to make it much more I think you are cowering behind being exposed for being a jackass and trying to make it way tougher than it is so that some sort of exclusivity is present.  It is not.  You can wear your duty shirt on your days off, let every guy/gal you ever nudge up on know you are a firefighter and let people give you 1/2 off for being paid for what you do and all the while their are still plenty of us that just want to work and get work done.

How is this done?  Pretty simple, you build a body that can handle the basics and fundamentals and then you master them in a manner that can be applied, you will become a jack of all trades and probably master none.  It doesn’t matter at all how fast you can run a mile or how much you can bench press if the two cannot be equally applied in unison and in a manner that gets the work done.  Besides if you think being able to bench pressing alone is going to do anything for you in any sport than you are mistaken.

Getting work done on our job, the kind that is done with a body that is a blunt object and which force can be applied through is what matters most.  Despite what most guys think, this job is not sexy nor does it come down to sex appeal.  I’ve broken down in the past 4 articles about the components of what makes a good Urban Athlete.  You can debate away on whether I missed one or gave one subset too much credit, all advances come from solid and honest debate.  The point though was to make it ambiguous and get you thinking about how you can either grow in any one of those areas or work towards supporting behaviors that will equally enhance them all.

I possess no advanced degree in sports science, I make no claims that I am an expert nor do you hear me saying anything about one avenue being superior to others.  What I am talking about is opening your own eyes, and realizing that being in rescue shape is about being able to take power, speed, range of motion, endurance and continually work to better these traits so that you can be a complete Urban Athlete and do a job that demands, without notice, that your body, that blunt and forceful object that you and only you control be called up to respond in any type of situation with success.  Success is measured by the impact we make, the lives that we can save or improve upon post hospital care by our quick and effective mitigation driven by human resources.

When you resign your seat from the debate society, get off your ass, log out of your social media and start doing some work than you are on your way to being the driving force behind the tip of the spear.  Otherwise you are just another clown that is going to watch guys like me do the work that you are going to take credit for.


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