Dust Bunnies

Last week, I had the great opportunity to sit with a fellow fitness-minded officer from a nearby fire department and beat up some health and wellness topics that interest us both. We ran the gamut from training for strength vs hypertrophy, the consequences of long-term health when not appropriately metering efforts and endeavors and the way you manage load determining whether you get a blister or a callous on your foot.

Lieutenant Mike Byas is a 24-year veteran of the Wheaton Fire Department where he’s held his current rank for 4 years. Although Mike doesn’t have a degree in an exercise science related field, he’s spent years honing his craft and reading fitness related research. He could 100% hold his own in a room full of fitness professionals.

So, when the topic turned to ‘putting in time’ doing fitness on duty, I was eager to hear what he had to say. It turns out, I was not disappointed. If you know me personally, you will agree that quotable quotes are one of my favorite things; and I got a doozy from Mike regarding fitness and dust bunnies.

What?!?!?! Dust bunnies? Seriously?

Yep. Mike was serious, and I leaned in to hear how this story was going to end.

Mike states that he’s had conversations in the past where he has asked firefighters why they were doing a particular mode or style of training during their fitness time. An example might be walking for an hour at 0.584685 mph. And the answer and defense of the time spent is always “well at least I’m doing SOMETHING”. And the implied message is that somehow doing something is superior to doing nothing no matter how much of a waste of time it is.

And in your mind, you might be agreeing—yeah, yeah! Give the guy a break at least he’s doing something! Leave him alone!

Wait a hot second. We in the fire service HATE doing something for the sake of doing something. For example, I personally despise those ancient red leather-bound books where we carefully inscribe our calls by log number, time, address, and nature of call. I ask myself and anyone who will listen all the time “why in the h-e-l-l are we still doing this dumb red book?” All that information is recorded redundantly in multiple places amongst various computer systems.

The answer is generally something along the lines of: 1) that’s the way it’s always been done or 2) it’s just ‘something’ we must do.

Aargh! There’s that ‘something’ again. I hate it—and so should you.

Mike asked me how I’d feel about spending an hour cleaning up dust bunnies in the corners of the apparatus floor just because he ordered me to. Gotta’ be honest, I wouldn’t be happy with Mike ordering me to waste all that time chasing dust bunnies; and I doubt that any of you would be happy about it either. And then…he dropped the bombshell:

“Chasing apparatus floor bunnies for an hour is great because you’re doing something! It’s awesome because you got something done!”

AZ’s uncensored brain: <now hold on….that is just STUPID!!!>

And then Mike finished his thought: doing something in the fitness room for an hour just for the sake of saying you did something is a waste. Ouch. But here’s what he means…If you’re not being intelligent and tactical with your on the job fitness training, “You’re spending your fitness time chasing dust bunnies.”

While he was dropping the proverbial mic on the table at Starbuck’s, I was already scribbling down information in my notebook. Hello blog topic.

Legendary track coach Tony Holler from Plainfield North High School talks about intent vs intensity. And I’m not suggesting that your training program needs to always be INTENSE to be effective. However, there must be an INTENT behind what you’re doing. Otherwise, you’re just chasing those dust bunnies.

Thanks for the insight, Mike!

Look for a future blog on intent, intensity and intelligent use of on-duty fitness training time.

Coach AZ