Strength and Conditioning Programs for Wildland Firefighters

Mike // Author

Author based archive
19 Dec


I’ll be honest – a foam roller saved my life. Not literally of course, but it did make a huge impact. Back when I interviewed Carrie Lucero of Road Runner Sports, we were talking about everything running related, and she asked me about foam rollers. I told her that I had never heard of a foam roller. She looked at me quizzically. Here we were, half-way through an interview, and suddenly she must have been thinking “This guy runs a fitness website and has no idea WTF a foam roller is?”

It was pretty embarrassing. But we continued with the interview, and I promised to buy a foam roller. She told me it would help reduce the IT Band issues that I was having. And after just a week, my IT Band issues were gone. And I have been a fan of foam rollers ever since.

How do they work?

Think of it as a self-induced massage. Rather than having a masseuse deliver targeted pressure to your muscles, you’re inverting the situation. You’re balancing your body weight on a small area (the foam roller), and that provides the necessary pressure. As contributor Anthony Harrell explained in his article, “Got Back Pain?“, when you’re using a foam roller, you’re performing a “self-myofascial release technique” (sounds pretty naughty – but we verified its SFW status). Over time and with excessive exertion, soft tissue (like muscles) become short, tight and sore. Massaging the tissue helps to lengthen and relax the muscles, which will help with recovery AND performance. All good things. But the most important thing is – it just feels good. The feeling is very comparable to hopping into the shower when you have poison oak. Scalding hot water on poison oak produces this bizarre feeling of both pain and pleasure.

The foam roller is a bit like that, but definitely dialed down a couple notches.

When Should I Use Them? 

Before and/or after a workout. My IT Band would act like a dog that knew it was going to the vet. It would be fine throughout the day, but the second the running shoes came out – BAM – sudden pain. It was the weirdest thing. But spending five minutes on the foam roller, targeting the sides of both of my knees, as well as my hamstrings, really made a difference.

Youtube has a slew of videos that you can check out to target specific areas. For me, I have had the most success using it on my legs to target sore quads, hamstrings, and my IT band. I have found it to be less successful at alleviating tension in my lower back, but that might be an issue of form rather than an indictment of the roller’s effectiveness.

All that being said, the foam roller is a relatively inexpensive addition to your arsenal of recovery products, and if you’re regularly following our programs, you’re going to need one!

Buying Options:

Amazon has got you covered. Check out some of these options.

[highlight]For more advice on injury prevention and recovery, check out the “Hotshot Fitness Rehab Kit” for our recommendations on products that will keep you #FireReady.[/highlight]

15 Dec


“Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.” ~ Amy Morin

How many times have you woken up before dawn, cold and sore from a hard day of cutting line, and thought, “F this job. F this life. I’m done.”

And then proceeded to have a grumpy, miserable morning that led to an equally miserable afternoon and evening?

When I was on the Lassen Hotshots, and you hit that point where everything was awful, we called that “Jelly Fishing”. With your hands outstretched, and complaints spewing freely from your mouth, you could singlehandedly kill the crew’s morale.

That kind of negative energy is bad for you, and its bad for the crew.

So stop it. But how?

The answer is simple: Gratitude, my friends. But what exactly is gratitude? Properly defined, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Researchers have documented the importance of gratitude on our overall happiness and well-being. People that take the time to focus on gratitude are healthier and mentally stronger.

I was shown this short film titled “Gratitude” by Louie Schwartzberg, and trust me, it will help refocus your priorities, and clarify your perspective. If I’m stressed or frustrated, I try to throw this on get some much needed perspective on what’s important.

Gratitude: The Short Film by Louie Schwartzberg from ecodads on Vimeo.

Obviously it’s not always convenient to just sit down and watch a six minute video. But the next time you’re out on the line, and you’re dreading the start of the next shift, reflect on this:

As a wildland firefighter, I am fortunate because:

  • I am physically stronger than 99% of the population
  • I am mentally strong enough to do a job that scares most people
  • People dream about doing this job
  • The work that I will do today might save a life
  • I will see places today that very few people ever will. And they are beautiful.
  • I will experience a clear sense of purpose. I know what my mission is today.
  • The bond I have forged with my fellow firefighters is stronger than anything experienced by a civilian
  • I love what I do.

Amy Morin and Tim Ferriss, among many others, are proponents of daily journaling with a focus on gratitude. You don’t need to be churning out pages fit for the New Yorker. All that is important is that you take some time to remind yourself of all that is positive in your life. The relatively small, yet powerful, act of shifting the focus away from the negative stressors and towards the positive aspects of your life can yield major gains in overall happiness. You choose which path you’re going to take. You choose whether or not you’re going to go down a path cluttered with negative emotions, or if you will travel down a path filled with positive emotions. Choose wisely.

So the next time you’re sitting in the buggy, driving out of fire camp, pull out your phone or a notebook and jot down some things that you’re thankful for. Make this a daily ritual, and you’ll be a happier, healthier hotshot. Guaranteed!

Interested in learning more about the importance of gratitude? Check out these books:

Amy Morin, LCSW “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

Tim Ferriss, “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

05 Dec

Product: Fitbit Aria Wifi Scale

Maker: Fitbit | | San Francisco

Price: $128.47 USD

Buy Now 


Some of you might think that launching a product review of a scale during the holiday season, right smack between Thanksgiving and Christmas, is a blunder, but I politely disagree. Now is the BEST time to get a scale, and begin making it part of your daily routine. Tracking your weight is an easy way to monitor your progress, spot trends (both positive and negative), and you can use it to track fluid loss during intense workouts. Here’s the thing, by hopping on the scale now, you know that the results probably aren’t going to get much worse. I’ve been using Fitbit’s Aria Wifi Scale for a couple years now and absolutely love it. It’s simple. It’s easy. It works every time. If you’re in the market for a new scale – I highly recommend this one.


  • Weighing humans
  • Covering floor space


  • Accurate to a tenth of a pound. A superior alternative to the old fashioned analog scales that littered the bathroom floors of your youth.
  • Measures Body Mass Index (BMI). Haven’t compared the BMI values to other tools, however, so can’t speak to the accuracy of its measurement. However, it is precise, and its consistency is useful in identifying trends.
  • Allows for multiple users and guests. How does it do this? Magic I’m sure. But it works!
  • IFTT Compatibility.  IFTT = If This Then That. In case you’re not familiar, the site exists to make the services that people use more productive by connecting them. The Aria Wifi Scale can be programmed to transfer data (weight, date, BMI) to a Google Sheet. Which allows you to track your weight and BMI over time. Interested? Checkout the ‘recipe’ to set it up.
  • Reliability. I’ve never had an issue with it dropping the wifi, or crashing it. It just works.
  • Syncs with other devices in the Fitbit universe like the Fitbit Charge HR


  • Delivers the truth. Even if you’re not interested in seeing it.
  • No Spotify Compatibility. Doesn’t allow you to play your Spotify playlists during the weigh-in process. You must endure the ten second weighing process in agonizing silence. Ok, I’ll admit, I’m really reaching here.
  • It’s a scale. It works. There’s not a lot to complain about here.

Final Judgement:


28 Nov


[This post appeared previously on the original Hotshot Fitness site. We had some folks ask about it, so we’re re-posting. Enjoy!]

These Ten Commandments were passed down to me by Captain Mark Davis, while I was a rookie sawyer / swamper with the Feather River Handcrew on the Plumas National Forest. Never in my life had I met a guy as colorful and unique as Captain Davis and I doubt I ever will. His stories were epic, and his endurance was legendary. He was a tall tale brought to life, and he left an impression on everyone he crossed paths with. He certainly wasn’t a man without faults, but in the two years I worked with him, he earned my lasting respect. He truly loved being a wildland firefighter and I always admired his love of the job. It was infectious.

I’m not sure if he’s the original author of this, but I believe that he either wrote or received them while serving on Yosemite National Park’s Helitack crew, no doubt longing to hear the ear-shattering screams of a red-lined Stihl, augured into a monster sugar pine. Sadly, Captain Davis’ career was cut short by a career-ending accident, but his commitment to the chain saw, and the strange bond that grows between a sawyer and his saw, will continue to be passed on. Davis would have rathered to be able to use his saw again than have to look at getting a workers compensation lawyer, but unfortunately, some accidents can not be reversed. So without further ado…

The Ten Commandments of Thy Chainsaw

  1. Thy saw is a temple, put only the best into it. 92 octane mixed to perfection.
  2. Thy saw breaths – keep its filter clean.
  3. Love thy chain for it does all the work, keep it sharp at all times, seek perfection in its sharpening.
  4. Keep thy bar straight and true, file off burs, clean out chain grooves and oil holes, keep its tip lubed.
  5. Keep thy needle bearings lubed as it reduces friction.
  6. Thou shall keep thy saw clean, never put it on the shelf dirty.
  7. Keep thy saw ready for battle at all times, know its tanks are topped off, and its chain ready to cut, then and only then may you rest the saw or yourself.
  8. Thou shall thoroughly clean around thy carburetor, piston cylinder, cooling fins, magneto, and air intake slits.
  9. Thou shall know thy saw, as one knows the members of their own body.
  10. Thy saw is an extension of one’s own self, seek oneness with it.

Captain Davis loved firefighting, but I think he loved being a sawyer the most. The violence, the power – everything about it drew him in, and it never let go. Even though his days of storming up and down the line, barking orders are past, those who served with him will remember him as the craziest son of a gun they ever met. If you are interested in starting your own sawyer journey then you cannot follow these ten commandments without getting yourself a chainsaw – these reviews of small chainsaws provide a great overview for anyone looking for their first chainsaw.