In 2005, Scott Sonnon introduced his TACFIT (tactical fitness) program to fire fighters in Whatcom County. A few of us embraced this new program, and achieved unprecedented levels of physical fitness. We found the program to be very comprehensive. It achieves the perfect balance of no intensity joint mobility, moderate intensity strength training, high intensity metabolic conditioning, and low intensity compensatory movements. Those of us that were dedicated to the program felt like it had what other programs we used in the past were missing. Christian Carson and Ryan Provencher became certified as TACFIT Team Leaders, and put the program to the test on a much larger scale. We set up a 108 day “TACFIT Challenge” for our fire department. We served as coaches and instructors for the entire 108 days. Kelly LaBounty issued a similar challenge to fire fighters for North Whatcom Fire & Rescue. The results are outlined here:
Bellingham Fire Department has 137 fire fighters. Sixty expressed interest in TACFIT, forty participated sporadically, twenty maintained sixty percent compliance with the program, and eleven had seventy percent compliance or above for the entire 108 days. The average age of the eleven fire fighters with over seventy percent compliance was 41 years old. There were nine males and two females.
Compliance was measured on a ten-point scale. Completing the daily workout was worth four points, and eating six healthy meals was worth one point each. A perfect day was worth ten points. Points were subtracted for missing workouts, consuming foods or beverages with a high sugar/fat content, alcoholic beverages, etc. The goal was to average eight points per day over an eight-day period (eighty percent compliance). Fire fighters who scored seventy percent or above with their compliance had significant increases in the following physical attributes:
Greatest Weight Loss: 11 pounds (Average -1.4 pounds)
Largest Fat Loss: 9 pounds (Average -2.3 pounds)
Largest Body Fat Percentage Reduction: -4.3% (Average -1%)
Largest Lean Body Mass Gain: 5 pounds (Average +1 pound)
Greatest Push Up Increase: 20 reps (Average +4 reps)
Greatest Pull Up Increase: 9 reps (Average +4 reps)
Greatest VO2 Max (aerobic capacity) Increase: +4.9 ml/kg/min (Average +1.73 ml/kg/min)
Greatest Reduction in Abdominal Circumference: -2.25 inches (Average -1.2 inches)
Fire fighters also reported significant increases in:
Mobility: Fire fighters who completed the joint mobility and compensatory yoga as outlined noted significant increases in range of motion and better body movement overall after completing the program.
Mental Toughness: Participants expressed an increase in mental toughness. They felt like they were able to push themselves harder mentally as they progressed through the program. Improved mental cognition and retention of fine motor skills under physical stress were noted as the fire fighters adapted to this high intensity training.
Teamwork: The fire fighters in our department cover a wide demographic. The age range is between 24 and 67. The men and women in our department have a wide variation in their baseline fitness levels. TACFIT allows everyone to train together using the same training protocol at the same time. This is a tremendous team-building tool. No one is excluded regardless of their previous training and the group environment serves to encourage and motivate all who participate.
Injury Prevention: The number one killer in the fire service is heart disease. The most common injury is back injury followed by ankle strains and sprains. TACFIT addresses all of these issues and more by providing comprehensive training. Work and recovery are equally important. Core strength and joint health are targeted specifically on a daily basis. Training movements instead of muscle groups allow our fire fighters to perform in awkward positions under stressful conditions with greater efficiency and safety.
The TACFIT program has improved the quality of life for many people in our department. If you are interested in conducting a similar study in your department using the same protocol, it will be available soon to Training Officers and Peer Fitness Trainers. TACFIT Fire Fighter has evolved from the original TACFIT program to become more specific to fire fighters. The “First Alarm” will be released soon.
Are you ready to take your physical fitness and job performance as a fire fighter to the next level?