Middletown firefighters put emphasis on physical fitness

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MIDDLETOWN - When you see Middletown firefighters exercising at Captain Joe’s Gym, it looks like a simple workout but what they’re doing goes beyond that. They are training specifically for their jobs as firefighters using the national Peer Fitness Training regimen.

“It gives you the tools to be able to create the program for the individual firefighter and being a firefighter, we know the jobs we do on the fire grounds, so knowing that, basically you create movements and exercises that will translate over to our job,” said Patrick Ehman, a Middletown firefighter and Fire Service Peer Fitness Trainer.

More importantly, the program uses exercises that keep those firefighters healthy while on the job.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than half all of firefighter deaths in 2015 were cardiac-related. The Middletown Fire Department unfortunately knows about that firsthand. On November 3, 2006, Captain Joe Pagano died after a cardiac emergency while on duty. The gym is now named after Captain Joe and his experience motivated the nine Peer Fitness Trainers in the department to go through the week-long course with the International Association of Firefighters and the American Council on Exercise.

“Just knowing that you’re in shape mentally and physically you’ll be able to do your job and perform when we’re fighting fires and you have all your gear on, you’re carrying an upwards of 75 to 100 pounds worth of gear, so doing workouts like this and training for our job, it’s just an added benefit for our firefighters,” said Nick Mayo, a Middletown Firefighter and Fire Service Peer Fitness Trainer.

It’s also a way to promote a better culture in the fire department that puts a premium on better health and fitness.

“They’re a fitter force so the long-term benefit for the City is that over time, we hope to see reduced workers comp claims, and we hope our health insurance experience will be much better with our firefighters than it may otherwise have been,” said Middletown Mayor Dan Drew.

In the short term, Drew said it’s comforting to know that Middletown’s firefighters will have the physical strength to handle whatever comes their way.

“It’s a competitive job and you’re always making sure that the person behind you on that hose line is going to have your back no matter what,” said Mayo.

The national program does hold classes in Connecticut. The last one was in September in Middletown. Firefighters and EMS providers are eligible to become Peer Fitness Trainers. For more information, click here.