The first day with your new crew will always be nerve wracking. You don’t know anybody. You’re worried that they might not like you. And no matter how hard you trained in the off-season, you’re terrified that everyone else is going to be in better shape than you are. We know the feeling. And because we’ve been there before, we have prepared a few tips to help smooth the transition to your new crew:
1 – Get on Their Schedule. All hotshot crews PT first thing in the morning. At the start of the season, that’s going to be 8am. If you’re used to exercising in the mid-afternoon or evening, that switch to a morning routine might take some getting used to. Better to do it in the weeks leading up to the season than before. Some people need to eat a meal before they PT in the morning – others not so much. For some folks, orange juice gives them heartburn if they drink it before they PT. Does the amount of coffee you drink in the morning impact your performance? These are all questions you want to have answers to before you show up at the station. Better to develop your routine before than work on figuring it out on the fly once the season starts.
2 – Acclimatize. If there’s a major difference in elevation (more than 1,000’) your body needs time to adjust. If you’re coming from sea-level and the station sits at 3,500 feet, don’t expect to show up the night before and be at the top of your game the next day. Your reputation is formed on Day 1. How you carry yourself, how you PT, all of that gets quickly established. And once your reputation is earned, it’s tough to change. You can either lag behind or pant like a blood hound on a manhunt and complain about the elevation…or you can show-up early, acclimate, and perform at an optimal level from Day 1. It’s your choice.
3 – Temperature-ize. That’s not a word. But you understand what we’re getting at. Much like the body needs to acclimate to changes in elevation, your body is sensitive to differences in humidity and temperature. While you can attempt to replicate temperature differences (PT’ing during the coldest part of the day (early morning) or loading up on layers to simulate hot environments) there’s no better substitute than showing up early and getting a few easy PTs in on-location. Plus, it’ll help you determine what clothes you’ll be most comfortable exercising in. Fear of the unknown is a big anxiety trigger. By reducing the number of surprises on Day 1, you’ll help calm some of the pre-season jitters.
4 – Walk the Walk. Before you arrive, ask someone on the crew where their running and hiking trails are. It’ll help to calm your nerves if you go out and run or hike one of their trails in advance. Even just casually walking a trail will help because you’ll know what to expect. And you won’t be tossing and turning the night before imaging some hellacious trail run second only to the Bataan Death March in terms of misery. When you do go out, take it slow and note the terrain. Where are the downhills and flat sections where you can catch your breath? How’s the footing? Any hazards you need to keep an eye out for?
5 – Break’em in. Make sure all your gear is trail-tested, and that your boots and shoes are properly broken in. Don’t show up on Day 1 with gear you’ve never run or hiked in. Plus, you’ll look like a total n00b if your running shoes and / or boots still have a showroom shine. You don’t want to discover that your new running shorts chafe like a bastard on your first run with the crew. You’re a hotshot – a certain level of professionalism is expected.
6 – Visualize Your Best Performance. This might sound a little bit mystical but we promise there’s no chanting or Yanni concerts involved. Professional athletes, Olympians, Kung Fu masters – even Andre Freakin’ Agassi (remember him?) have been harnessing the power of visualization for years to achieve peak results. So take some time to close your eyes and imagine yourself running with the crew. You’re feeling great, your stride is perfectly balanced, your breathing is dialed-in, and you feel good. You feel like you could run a hundred miles. Then imagine yourself hiking. Your pack is snug on you back, your steps are measured, and your pace is perfect. Imagine how beautiful the surroundings are, the smell of pine in the air, and remind yourself how luck you are to have a job like this. Imagining yourself achieving a high-level of performance has been clinically-proven to reduce pre-performance anxiety and improves game-day performance. Jason Selk’s book 10-Minute Toughness is a good, no-frills look at the power of visualization. If NFL linebackers are using these techniques, it’s legitimate.
Do you have some other suggestions for preparing for your first day? Let us know in the comments below.
This is a Big Day. For over eight years, Hotshot Fitness has been an enterprise of one.
But as of today, that changes. because former Ukonom Hotshot, and newly-minted Doctor of Physical Therapy, Anthony Harrell will be joining the Hotshot Fitness team as a contributing writer! Anthony will be covering a host of topics for us including:
Anthony is passionate about two things (besides his wife and dogs): 1.) Helping people achieve optimal performance and 2.) the Wildland Firefighting community. This guy has literally spent the last few few years devoted to the study of how wildland firefighters can become better. Honestly, this is why Hotshot Fitness was founded. When Anthony approached me about writing for the site, I was thrilled. Back in 2008, when I created Hotshot Fitness, I wanted to create a community that fostered the development and dispersion of best-in-class ideas. I wanted the wildland community to have access to the most cutting-edge research and the best practices available. Because I believe that when it comes to firefighting, physical fitness is a safety factor. Anthony brings an academic rigor that far surpasses my knowledge of physiology. But it is knowledge that is tempered by experience. He’s been a hotshot. He’s cut line through chaparral jungles. He’s suffered, and he’s overcome. And he knows what it takes to succeed in this smoke-filled world. He knows fire. He knows strength and fitness. And most importantly – He’s worn the boots, and pulled the shifts.
He’s one of us..
It’s not very often that a man of Anthony’s caliber and class approaches you with an offer to help. I’ll be frank, when he offered to contribute to the site, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Over the next few months, I promise you that you’ll be impressed by the quality of content that he’ll contribute to this site. I’m excited…and you should be too!
So without any further adieu ( 😉 … Welcome to the team, Anthony! The wildland firefighting community is stronger because of your willingness to share your voice.
Founder, Hotshot Fitness