The body cannot differentiate between the stress experienced during an emergency incident and the stress experienced during a high intensity workout. Rapidly approaching and exceeding heart rate maximum elicits the same stress response whether it is induced by a real physical threat, or an emotional/symbolic one. Firefighters should not experience this survival stress response for the first time during an actual incident. In fact, being unprepared to deal with this response could have lethal consequences.
Participating in high intensity training once or twice a week while focusing on maintaining cognitive function and access to fine motor skills will help to prepare for this experience in the field. Learning to breathe properly and move efficiently can help to control the heart rate response during high intensity exercise. Consistent physical training will allow you to do more work while maintaining a submaximal heart rate. You will condition your body to avoid adrenaline surge longer, and you will minimize stress response symptoms by recovering quickly once maximum heart rate is reached.
Survival Stress Management
The techniques described here may be incorporated into many metabolic conditioning protocols. We have selected the “4 minutes work / 1 minute recovery” protocol for this workout. This protocol requires tremendous focus and skill to maintain proper technique while controlling breathing, counting repetitions, and managing heart rate.
You will also perform simple cognitive tasks and fine motor skills during your recovery periods between exercises. This will help condition your body and mind to manage the survival stress response while building confidence in your ability to perform in the field.
Warm-Up: Perform each warm up exercise for 1 minute.
Training: Perform continuous repetitions for 4 minutes at maximum effort with proper technique. Recover for 1 minute between exercises. Complete the cognitive and fine motor tasks as described below during the first 30 seconds of each recovery period. Move to the next exercise station. Complete all 4 exercises. Add repetitions for each exercise to calculate total score for this training session. (Right side repetition + Left side repetition = 1 point)
Cool Down: Perform each cool down exercise for 1 minute. Repeat circuit up to 3 times.
*Recovery Periods 1 & 3: Perform cognitive tasks such as routing, hydraulic formulas, map exercises, scene size up, etc.
*Recovery Periods 2 & 4: Perform fine motor skills such as knot tying, hose coupling, chainsaw disassembly/assembly, etc.
Stress Management Workout