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Robert Piparo | June 26, 2019
(3 min read) EMS is an evolving profession. We are constantly changing our practices and procedures to meet the demands of an ever-changing medical field. We place a high priority on our patients, and rightly so – the first rule of good practice is to make providing excellent patient care our primary concern. But at what cost to the provider? When does this burden become too much?
All too often, EMS Providers spend so much time helping others, they forget to help themselves. Our world is a very busy place, and it becomes easy to make excuses for NOT living a healthy and active lifestyle. These excuses are common in the Emergency Medical Services and our society as a whole. However, by focusing on these minor changes to one’s lifestyle, and adopting the mantra: Better Than Yesterday, I believe we can change the overall culture of Emergency Medical Services.
1. Commit to 20-30 minutes of physical activity a day
All too often we feel that physical fitness needs to be at least an hour a day, at a professional gym that follows a certain procedure. The number of barriers to fitness in that statement alone are staggering. All you need is 20-30 minutes of movement each day to get you on a path to being healthier. Just utilizing your own body weight is a perfect way to get moving while on shift or in the station. Movements such as push-ups, air squats and lunges can be done in uniform with ease. One of my favorite beginner challenges is to simply walk 1 mile every day for 30 days straight.
2. Commit to 10 minutes of self-prehab/rehab each day
Ten minutes of self-care each day goes a very long way to helping your body and mind cope with the daily stresses we as providers face. This can be accomplished in many ways: basic stretching, yoga, meditation or even just decreasing screen time. These 10 minutes are yours each day, your way to decompress and motivate yourself to continue down this path. Simple tools like resistance bands, lacrosse balls or foam rollers can easily be stored in your station or even on your rig.
3. Pack your meals and snacks, pre-shift
We think the person that shows up to work with their lunch box has to be the person that is “prepping” for their big “fitness show.” That person is preparing for what’s ahead. By having your meals and snacks prepped for each shift, you avoid eating the quick, and mostly unhealthy options that we see as we are driving down the highway awaiting the next hot job. Having multiple options for long shifts allows you to fuel your body for whatever may occur during the shift.
4. Suffer with friends and colleagues
You don’t have to do this alone. Emergency medical services professionals are family. Why not get your partner, your tour or your entire department involved in this change? Participating in fitness challenges, 5K races, or health-related events will bring you all closer together. It will also show the public you serve that you are taking care of yourselves, so you can better care for them when they call. These healthy community relations initiatives go a very long way in furthering our service and how we interact with the communities we respond in.
5. No matter what, make it fun
That’s right, I said it. This all has to be fun. No one, not even me, will stick to any workout plan or lifestyle change if they are not enjoying it. You have to find what works for you and for those around you. If you like what you’re doing, chances are you’ll do it more often. If others see that what you're doing is fun, chances are they will want to join you.
Win/Win for all, correct? The first step is just getting out there and trying something new.
These 5 simple steps alone will not give you the fast results promised by fitness infomercials or people selling snake oil health drinks. However, they will start you on the path to a healthy lifestyle. One that will certainly make you a better provider and partner. A path that will begin to change the culture of EMS to a more individually health conscious one.
As with anything positive though, change starts with YOU, so why not start today so you can be “Better Than Yesterday.”
Robert "Pip" Piparo is a Lieutenant with the City of New Brunswick Fire Department in New Jersey and is the Director of 555 Fitness, a firefighter operated not-for-profit. 555 Fitness began with the mission to reduce line of duty deaths within the fire service. It has grown to provide motivation and free workouts to Emergency Responders each day via social media and a free downloadable app. 555 awards fitness equipment to departments through their “Strength is Our Foundation” grant program. Pip's role with 555 Fitness has given him a vast amount of experience when it comes to motivating and assisting Emergency Responders. Pip is a Brute Force Master Trainer, a State of New Jersey Level 1 Fire Instructor and an NJ-EMT-B. Pip has both career and volunteer fire and EMS experience, as well as working as a NREMT-P for several years.
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