The Tactical Athlete

The Tactical Athlete

By Fred Mohr NASM-PT

Captain Elizabeth Fire Department New Jersey Local 209


A recent study in Boston found that among new recruits for fire and EMS services, only 22% were at a healthy weight, while 44% were overweight and 33% were obese. That means that three out of every four recruits were above their recommended healthy weight. And these statistics arent limited to the young. Three-quarters of active emergency responders nationwide are overweight or obese. Additionally, 75% have been classified as hypertensive or pre-hypertensive.

Strains and sprains account for 48% of fireground injuries, which can be a result from being in a deconditioned state. Wearing turnout gear with SCBA and a helmet puts a stress on the body. Compound that with working in less than optimal conditions and the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body can suffer harm easily.

Who and What is a tactical athlete? The term has actually been around for a while and it was first used in the military when it was realized that many injuries can be curtailed by exercise programs that focused on specific training programs that increase athletic performance. Anyone who is a first responder falls into this definition.

Here are a few realities of the job that need to be understood to gain the right perspective on why fitness is a number one priority when it comes to being a firefighter and why the label of TACTICAL ATHLETE is so appropriate……

Firefighters carry heavy, unevenly distributed weight.

We work in awkward positions, almost always!

High stress, High demand, we go from 0 to 100 in an instant!

Harsh weather conditions, high heat and humidity or freezing.

IDLH atmosphere, tight & cramped. Forces us to operate under limited movement patterns.


Why is it good to think like a tactical athlete? By consciously making a decision to relabel yourself you are making a positive decision to change. You are creating a new mindset. A tactical athlete is a person with the physical ability, stamina and strength to function on the battlefield. The job of firefighter more closely resembles battlefield conditions than any physical labor jobs out there.

Where can you find info on tactical athlete? If you type the words tactical athlete into any search engine just about anything you would want to know will pop up. Topics such as aerobic training, sleep, and diet are all on the forefront. Robert Piparo a Lieutenant with New Brunswick Fire Department and 555 Fitness Director is a proponent of the idea of thinking of ourselves as tactical athletes , he says “If we consider ourselves as tactical athletes and choose to lead a healthier lifestyle, we are not only helping ourselves, we are helping our coworkers, our families, and those we swore to serve, today and long into our retirement.”  555 Fitness is a huge resource for the type of tactical training firefighters can use to improve their health and mindset.

So, when is the best time to start on a fitness program? Right now! It can be as simple as going out for a walk. It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor first and if you have any injuries or movement issues then enrolling in a physical therapy program is best.

If you don’t have a gym at your firehouse and are lacking equipment then you can easily start with a body weight workout. You can buy resistance bands to make these exercises harder. I recommend to keep any firehouse workouts short and light in the beginning and save the higher demanding workouts for when you are off shift.

How to start…. If you feel a little lost on how to start then it’s usually best to seek guidance and help. Hiring a certified personal trainer is the best approach. Aside from having someone to hold you accountable they can start you off on the best path and get you the results you want much faster than going at it alone. Plus, they will use their experience and knowledge to focus on your weaknesses and any muscle imbalances and keep you from getting hurt in the process.

Lastly, a lot of people ask me what’s the best exercise program or routine for them. That answer is actually up to you! In short, it’s whatever program you are most likely to stick with. That’s because there isn’t one perfect program out there. If I give you a program that has a lot of squats in it and you hate squats, how long will you do that routine for? Maybe a few months at best. Then you will lose enthusiasm and eventually quit. So, the best program to start with will be the one you enjoy the most.  

Here is a quick and simple work out for anytime or anywhere….

First get hydrated and make sure you have a healthy lean protein meal about 1 to 2 hours before you begin.

The workout:

10 body weight squats

10 push ups

10 crunches

Do 3 rounds and follow up with a quality stretch afterward.

If this doesn’t seem like enough just add more reps and more rounds as you progress. You can also add more exercises like jumping jacks.

Congrats! You are on your way with your fitness journey and being a tactical athlete!


Fred is a coach and personal trainer living in the Jersey Shore area and coaches at Platform Training in Wanamassa N.J.

You can find him on social media:

On Facebook- Frederick Mohr & Steel Mace Nation Podcast

On Instagram – @steelmacenation & @steelmacefireman

On Youtube- Steel Mace Nation Podcast

On Soundcloud, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play – Steel Mace Nation Podcast


New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association