Firefighter Fitness in 2021: 5 Steps to a Healthier Year

Finally, we made it through 2020. I know for many of us in the fire service it was an exhausting and growing year. One thing I think we all realized (hopefully) is that health and family are not to be taken for granted.

The good news is that 2021 is looking to be a more promising year—a new beginning for family gatherings and social interaction. Are you ready for those social interactions? Did your health and fitness take a break during the pandemic? Are you looking forward to focusing on your health in 2021?

Check out this video to learn five steps all firefighters can take to make 2021 a healthier year.


Need a quick recap?

Step 1: Make the Commitment

This sounds so cliché but there is a lot of validity to it. We all can make the statement, but there must be more behind it than just talk of getting more fit. You must really make the commitment. It is not easy; you must devote time and energy to creating a healthier lifestyle and environment. Start preparing for your health success. One of the first steps is to get rid of the junk foods around the house and get out the gym bag and workout cloths.

Step 2: Evaluate Your Current Situation

This is the perfect time of the year to be completely honest with yourself and the mirror. Perform a health-360, inside and out. Look at your weight, body composition (body fat percentage), look in the mirror and go get your annual medical. Understand your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure and get your preventive cancer screens. Do a personal health assessment: Rate yourself on how you feel, how are you performing on the job, your stamina, strength and attitude. Firefighter fitness in 2021 starts with pulling back the curtain on your health and taking note of where you truly are.

Step 3: Set Your Goals

Now that you know exactly where you are starting from, you can more accurately set 2021 fitness goals. The biggest thing to remember is to set realistic goals. If you need to lose 30 pounds and/or lower your cholesterol, start with some smaller numbers and shorter deadlines.

Make your goals measurable and set a realistic timeline for accomplishing them. For weight loss, try to set a goal of losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. You may also want to set a goal to reduce your pants size in 30 days.

Not all goals have to be about losing weight or six-pack abs. Here are some great goal ideas for the new year.

• Meditate or do yoga for 5 minutes a day
• Work out 3 times per week
• Get 8 hours of sleep per night
Stretch before every shift
• Reduce desserts to one day a week
• Stop chewing tobacco
• Stop smoking
Drink at least 60 ounces of water a day
• Eat vegetables 3 times each day

Lastly, make sure you write your goal down and look at it often. You may even want to take a “before” picture to help you stay motivated.

Step 4. Create a Healthier Environment

Encourage others around you to improve their health. If you are cooking at home or the firehouse, make sure there are healthy options available. Recruit some workout partners, start working out with your crew and challenge each other to make healthy changes—quit tobacco, lose weight, eat vegetables. The more you surround yourself with like-minded and healthy people, the more encouraging and easier it will be to make progress.

Step 5. Evaluate Your Plan and Progress Every 30 Days

It’s great to have a goal; it’s even better to create several smaller goals to support it. Improving your health and fitness should be a journey and it takes time. Make sure you evaluate your progress and re-assess whether your plan is working every month. This is also the time to celebrate your progress. If you are constantly looking ahead and never taking the time to celebrate your accomplishments, you will most likely get burnt out. Focus on your progress and then set-up your next 30 days for success.

Every January 1, thousands of first responders set a goal of improving their health and fitness. Every February 1, many of them have already fallen off the path. Follow these five steps and I guarantee you will not be one of them. To achieve firefighter fitness in 2021, make the commitment, determine your starting point, set your goal, create a healthy environment and evaluate your progress periodically. You can and will become a healthier and more fit first responder in 2021.

Questions or comments? Contact me at or visit Fire Rescue Fitness.

Aaron Zamzow

AARON ZAMZOW is a firefighter/training officer for Madison (Wisconsin) Fire Department with 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer and host of the Better Every Shift podcast. He holds a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness as well as a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification. He is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, an NASM certified personal trainer and an ACE-certified peer fitness trainer. Zamzow is the founder and owner of and develops programs aimed at getting fire rescue athletes fit for duty. He authored the book "Ladder 2 Workout: A Comprehensive Firefighter Workout Program that will get you 'Fit for Duty' in 28 days." Connect with Zamzow on Twitter at @GetFRFit, on Facebook at Fire Rescue Fitness or at

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