Setting Goals for Firefighter Fitness: A Model for Success

by | February 23, 2022

On the fire and rescue scene planning is paramount. This is why we have policies, standard operating guidelines and procedures for almost every situation. Of course, proper training and experience help us apply those guidelines to the current situation, but the foundation of our responses are set in written plans.

For our health and fitness, however, planning is often an afterthought. The intention, and at times motivation, to improve our health and fitness exists, but we do not have a plan or even a path to help us succeed. As a trainer, I have seen this thousands of times. Former athletes set a goal to get back in “playing” shape but lean on the program they used when they were active players. Or we start to follow the newest fitness trend, only to change programs a couple of workouts in. Or we set a goal and follow a plan that was previously unsuccessful, hoping this time it will work.

As a result, no matter how earnest our intentions are, many of us miss the mark. Not for lack of trying, but because we don’t have a winning blueprint or a strategy. From my experience working with thousands of first responders, it has become very clear that focusing on habit-forming goals and following a clear plan leads to success and real progress.

Start with the Big Picture

Before you even hit the gym, you should create your own idea of what you want to accomplish. To get started on the process, think “SMART”—a goal-setting acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Learn more about SMART goals in this video:


In the business world, SMART goals help executives set well-defined agendas. For fitness, a good example is “I want to lose 2 inches of fat off my waist and fit into size 33 pants in 8 weeks.” This checks all the boxes of a SMART goal and is also a very common fitness goal. Maybe you have set this goal at some point, only to have it not go so well. That’s because in addition to being SMART, your goal also needs something else.

It needs to be personal. Some might also say that a goal needs to come with some passion. What gets you excited? What are you fired up to accomplish, learn or participate in? Maybe you have always wanted to run a 5k, do five pull-ups or just be able to touch your toes. As a first responder, maybe you feel like you are losing a step and could hold up your crew. Look in the mirror, look at a picture, look at the example you are setting or not setting. Fueling your fitness journey with something personal will provide motivation to help keep you going.

In my next video, I’ll share some thoughts on healthy habits—and why they go hand-in-hand with goal-setting. In the meantime, get started developing a SMART goal or two for your fitness and health!

Questions? Contact me at or visit Fire Rescue Fitness.

AARON ZAMZOW is a firefighter/training officer for Madison Fire Department with 20 years of experience as a fitness trainer. 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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