A World Champion’s firefighter fitness and workout plan
The Firefighter Combat Challenge is a tremendous demonstration of firefighter fitness. What does it take to excel in this event? Our featured athlete, Dwayne Drover shares his knowledge with us.
Dwayne Drover (AKA D-Train) is the 2009 Firefighter Combat Challenge World Champion. He is 37 years old, and he has been with the Waterloo, Ontario Fire Department for nearly 10 years. We had a chance to talk with Dwayne in Dubai where he was coaching the athletes participating in the UAE International 911 Firefighter Challenge.
Dwayne, you have been a firefighter for nearly 10 years, what drew you to the fire service?
I always wanted to do it. I decided at 25 years old it was time to go for it. I failed my eye test initially and had to go in for laser eye surgery. I came back two weeks later and I was good to go with 20/20 vision.
Once I was accepted into the program, I went to fire service school full time while holding down a full time job. I was on the go from 0800 to nearly 0100 the next morning. I received the outstanding achievement award at the end of my training, and was hired by the Waterloo Fire Department 3 months later.
What was it about the job that motivated you to go through all that?
It is a prestigious job, an important job, and I wanted very badly to be associated with the fire service. We had a fire in our house when I was 11 or 12, and the work that the firefighters did left quite an impression on me. It took me a while to get here, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Firefighting is a physically demanding job, have you always been physically active?
All my life, right from fetus! I’m sure I was doing curls with my mother’s umbilical cord. I first started lifting weights as a kid. We were all very active growing up in Newfoundland. I was about 12 when I started lifting weights. We would challenge each other to see who could lift the most. We had the vinyl weights with the cement and dust leaking out of them. My first bench press was 70 pounds and I could barely lift it. I made my shed at home into a gym and loaded it up with the cement weights. I have lifted weights consistently since then. I discovered the Firefighter Combat Challenge in 2005 and changed my training regimen to prepare for that event.
What did you do to prepare for your 2009 World Championship run?
In January, I went to my Massage Therapist/Personal Trainer, Tara Fulop Conner, and asked her to train me. She is this tiny little gal, maybe 100 pounds, she asked, “Are you going to listen to me?” I told her I would do whatever she said and off we went. She started by testing my core strength. Here I was, this big 240 pound weight lifter, and I could barely sit on the physioball without falling off. My core was so weak. I had to start from scratch again. I could lift a house, push anything, but my core was my weak link. That was the focus of our training initially, then we proceeded to high intensity cardio training, and I would lift weights with an emphasis on leg strength. My training with Tara was very specific, much more functional and well rounded than what I was doing before. I would run stairs with a weighted vest for nearly 2 minutes, and then I would drag the 175 pound dummy 120 feet. It was beyond the pain that you would go through for the race. I was toast after the stairs, so the dummy drag was a mental test as much as anything. Lot’s of explosive training, speed training. I would train with a snorkel in my mouth to restrict the air coming in. I wanted to maximize my anaerobic capacity. Every second counts in competition, so I wanted to push myself harder than anyone else was. I was able to maintain my weight at 240. This was my perfect weight for speed, agility, and strength. If I was lighter, I felt weaker and if I was heavier, I felt too slow.
What was your fastest time in competition?
My fastest time ever was 1:18:04 in Windsor. I woke up that morning feeling great and I knew that I was going to do something big that day. I wasn’t planning on breaking 1:20, but I just ran really well.
What kind of support system did you have in place while you were training?
I was training 4-5 hours a day. God love my wife Mireille and my daughter Demi, because they put up with all of this. My daughter who was 3 years old at the time would say, “go dad go!” She knew what the Combat Challenge was. She loved watching me train, but she wouldn’t watch me race. She didn’t like all the screaming and yelling.
You stopped competing in 2010 and you are now focused on coaching. Why did you choose to stay involved with this event?
I feel that I put in a lot of work to master the technique for each exercise. I know what it takes to physically prepare for the event. I have studied the elite athletes that have been successful in the event. I realize that efficiency is the key. I can share this knowledge with others to help them be successful. The times will keep getting faster and faster.
What else are you up to these days?
I have been competing in long drive golf believe it or not! I enjoy it because this is a skill that requires proper body mechanics and efficiency. It’s all in the hips!
Do you have any advice for other firefighters looking to get fit or achieve a specific goal?
A lot of guys that I raced against were ripped at 170 pounds. They would ask me, “How can you be so fast at 245 pounds?” It is not about the size of your muscles or 6 pack abs, it’s about heart, passion, and will.
Once you have your goal in your head don’t hem and haw about it. Put in the work and just go for it.
Check out Dwayne’s championship run:
In the coming weeks, we will be sharing exercises that will help you to prepare specifically for each component of the Firefighter Combat Challenge. Stay tuned!