For Springfield Fire Captain Steve Stinnett, being healthy isn't just about improving his own life. Being fit could very well make the difference when it comes to saving the lives of citizens and even his fellow fire fighters.
Stinnett, 39, has been with the Fire Department for 12 years. He's on the Heavy Rescue Team based at Station No. 1. It's the only unit dedicated solely to technical rescue – specialized situations that include going after trapped people in a building. "It's a challenging position," he says. "We're the only unit that gets to do that."
It's not just a technical challenge, but a physical one, too. Not being up to the physical challenge is akin to not doing the job properly, Stinnett says. He cites the term "occupational athlete" as a good thumbnail description of the job. Fire fighters wear dozens of pounds of gear. They handle large equipment such as high-pressure hoses. They might even carry people out of a burning building.
"As a fire fighter, it's irresponsible not to keep yourself in good physical condition," he says.
Stinnett is an active person on his own personal time. He enjoys running, and has completed one marathon and two half-marathons. He tries to keep from over-indulging when it comes to food – though he likes red meat and ice cream as much as the next guy, he subscribes to the "everything in moderation" school of diet.
But now more than ever, Stinnett is also working on his physical well-being while on the job. There's been a push nationwide to improve fire fighter fitness in recent years, and Springfield is no exception. The department has recently adopted physical agility testing for all fire fighters on a yearly basis. Prior to this change, testing was only done when they were hired. And there's now an even greater focus on physical fitness and agility in the fire academies that train new recruits.
It's not just about saving others' lives. About half of all fire fighter deaths in the line of duty are a result of over-exertion – not flames and smoke.
At Stinnett's station, the staff are now working out as part of their regular routine. "It's part of our schedule," he says. "First thing in the morning, we get our workout in. I view it as the foundation of our job. You can have all the technical knowledge in the world, but if you don't have the fitness to put it into play… ."
It all fits into Stinnett's view of overall view of wellness. It may not always be essential for one's job, but being physically fit is essential for being "in balance," believes.
"It doesn't matter how a person is active – running, cycling, weight-lifting, even working in the garden. Living in a sedentary culture like we do drives me crazy. I like to see people getting off the couch and away from the computer, doing something active."