Being a firefighter demands that one be both highly trained and physically fit. That’s why the Cedar Hill Fire Protection District has been participating in the Fit4Duty workout program.
CHFPD joins the list of 16 other fire and ambulance districts around the St. Louis area that partake in the program offered by Fitness Trainer Gordon Leftridge of House Springs.
“I train hundreds of firefighters, paramedics and EMS from all over,” said Leftridge, who started Fit4Duty LLC in 2015. “From High Ridge to Lake of the Ozarks, I travel all around helping first responders focus on their health and wellness.”
Though Leftridge started his business two years ago, he has been working with firefighters for more than 10 years. Members of the High Ridge Fire Protection District would workout at the gym he owned in House Springs.
“I owned Energy Fitness for 11 years, but sold it to start Fit4Duty,” he said. “However, when I did own the gym, the firefighters would come in and work out on a regular schedule to stay fit.”
Leftridge explained he started Fit4Duty after selling his gym equipment to HRFPD in 2011. He wanted to upgrade the equipment and thought that the district might want to purchase the older models.
The district did indeed want them and purchased the items at a low cost. They soon discovered, however, that most of the men and women didn’t know how to use the machines correctly. So, they asked Leftridge to come in and show them how.
The firefighters liked Leftridge’s personality, knowledge and motivation and requested he come back on a regular basis and train them all.
“That’s when I started noticing the real need for a fitness program in the fire service,” he said. “So, I sold the gym and I started my own business that specializes in first responder’s health and fitness.”
What started out as one district soon developed into many more as the firefighters started spreading the news to others. Lt. Mick Fisher is one who told people about the program, as he used to work at HRFPD.
“I saw the success of the program within other departments and want to implement it within Cedar Hill Fire Protection District,” Fisher stated. “I was able to get in the budget after showing the chief the benefits of the program, and we hired Gordon in May.”
Since then, Leftridge has been coming to Station 1 three times a month to train the firefighters.
“Like most districts, we have three different crews on staff,” said Fisher, who coordinated the program. “Gordon visits each one to instruct them on what they are supposed to do.”
The first month, Leftridge met with the men and women for an orientation during which time he explained how program works, took body measurements and consulted individually with each person. He also talked to them about their goals and injuries or issues and made diet plans for each.
“I design complete health and wellness programs which include personal training, nutrition and assessments,” Leftridge said.
During the subsequent months, Leftridge showed the firefighters the exercises and explained how each one was beneficial. He demonstrated how each one was supposed to be done so that no one got hurt.
“One of my main goals is injury prevention,” Leftridge said. “That is why I tailor the exercises to each person. If someone hurts themselves, then I am not doing my job correctly.”
Leftridge’s workouts are unique in that they encompass Functional Training.
“One thing that sets his program aside is that he incorporates a lot of our equipment into the exercises,” said Fisher. “We may have to lift tires, swing sledgehammers, climb ladders, jump hoses, etc., all of which we have to do on our regular jobs.”
“I try to have the exercises mimic what they do every day,” Leftridge said. “It is a little unconventional, but that is why it works and that the guys like doing it.”
Every month, Leftridge switches up the routine so that the men and women don’t get bored and so their progress does not plateau. If there is a problem or issue, he alters the workout so that everyone prospers.
After six months, the firefighters are reevaluated to make sure they are benefiting from the workout.
“I definitely feel it is helping,” said Chris Johnson, engineer. “I now have more energy and motivation to work out each day. I am happy to see the department is participating in program and look forward to seeing all results that come from it.”
Johnson’s goal is to build up his strength and conditioning so that he can do his job even better.
According to Fisher, there are two main benefits to the exercise program. From a firefighting standpoint, it’s that it helps the men and women do their jobs better as they become stronger and faster, and from an administrative standpoint it saves the district money.
“Being physically fit reduces the chance of us getting hurt, thus decreasing the number of workers’ comps and medical claims,” Fisher said. “Ultimately, that reduced insurance costs, which save the district and the tax payers money.”
Presently, CHFPD has a contract with Leftridge for one year. However, early indicators suggest that the program is working, which means the district might continue staying Fit4Duty in the future.