Strength and Conditioning Programs for Wildland Firefighters

Step 2 – Baseline Testing


So, why is there a picture of an old dude in a suit on Hotshot Fitness?

That’s a valid question. Let me explain. The man pictured above is an intellectual stud. If you were to find yourself at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, swilling manhattans and getting rowdy with a crowd of CEO types, and you brought up Peter Drucker, everybody would be familiar with him. Before there was Inc. Fast Company, Business Insider, and armies of management consultants, there was Peter Drucker, teaching people how to get their shit together. While his work was mostly focused on how individuals could improve their performance at work, the underlying principles that allow you to improve at work hold true for athletic performance as well.

One of Drucker’s most famous beliefs (certainly his most-cited) concerns the importance of measurement. If you’re not tracking something, you have no idea if your winning or losing. Getting better of getting worse. You’re lost. And the worst part is, you have no idea.

So let’s fix that.

From here on out, things are going to change. You’re going to develop a discipline around tracking your activity.

Today is Day 1

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been training for years, started last month, or haven’t even gotten around to starting.

“Day 1” is a frame of mind. It is a mindset, and it is not tied to a specific place in time.

Day 1 is whenever the f*&k you want it to be. But if it’s not today, and it’s not tomorrow, you should be asking yourself seriously “Why am I avoiding my Day 1?”

So what happens on Day 1?

Day 1 is the point at which you:

  • Commit to the goals you set
  • Establish your baseline and discover where you’re at
  • Set yourself up for a successful Day 2 and beyond
  • Generate momentum. Momentum which will build with each successive day. Momentum which will lead you to your goal.


What Day 1 is not:

  • It is not a day for discouragement.
  • It is not a day to judge yourself. Do not look at your results and feel ashamed or embarrassed.
  • It is not your end state. It is just your beginning.


Over the course of our lives, we’re going to have hundreds, if not thousands of Day 1’s. That’s just the natural ebb and flow of life. You’re going to have weeks and months where you’re a hard-charging, take-no-prisoners, fitness stud. You’re the meanest, leanest firefighter that ever walked the line. And you’re going to have weeks and months where you feel like a sloth stuck in quick sand. When there’s snow outside, and you’re hungover, and the next fire season feels like a million years away. These highs and lows are guaranteed. What makes all the difference is how you choose to respond to the lows. What distinguishes the successful from the average is what they do next. The successful among us choose action over idleness. They choose to change.They choose to get back into the game.

They make a choice to get better.

Remember – you always have a choice.

My Day 1

After taking some time off from training, I was feeling crummy. I felt lazy. I felt fat. I felt out of shape. I didn’t feel good about myself. Sure, I had plenty of excuses. I had been busy with a new job, with pursuing a part-time MBA program, with moving from Arizona to California. I had many demands on my time, and I had not prioritized my physical fitness.

But then I woke up one morning, and I felt energized. Something as simple as that changed the course of my year. I knew that I needed to capitalize on this fleeting feeling of momentum. I realized that it was time for me to get back into it. But before I started, I needed to understand where I was at. I needed to get my baseline measurements. I knew where I wanted to be – but I didn’t know where I was at now.

And so I took my own advice. I put on my running shoes, grabbed a notebook, and I went outside.

As I walked out of our apartment, I said to myself “Today is going to be my Day 1.”

And then I went to work.

It felt awful. My running stride felt uneven. Each push up felt like I had a weight on my back, and each pull-up was a battle to get back to the bar. By the end of it, I felt slightly queasy. But I had my numbers. I knew where I was at.

Here were my results:

Baseline Testing
Activity Result
1.5 Mile Run 11:10
Push-ups 38
Situps 40
Pull-ups 6


Note: I rested 5 minutes in between exercises.

[highlight]A nice bonus is that establishing your baseline 1.5 mile running time allows you to calculate your VO2 Max as well. For those who appreciate a more data-driven approach to training, you might be interested in digging a bit more deeply into this. To learn more, read on here. [/highlight]


So – are you ready for your Day 1? Are you ready to do your Baseline Testing?

If you are, a piece of advice. Rest up. Give yourself at least 48 hours from your last serious training session. You want to make sure that you’re not sandbagging your baseline because your fatigued from a workout earlier in the week. You want this scores to represent your best efforts at that time. Likewise, when you repeat this testing later in time, be sure to allow for the exact same amount of rest in advance. That will help with ensuring the consistency of the results.




  1. Mike Niemann Author November 26, 2016 (6:52 am)

    so you have step 1& 2 on here how do I acquire step 3 or where do i need to go to get it. I would very much like to start the program

    Reply to Mike Niemann
    • Mike Author November 28, 2016 (6:50 pm)

      Hi Mike –

      Thanks for the comment. I’m currently working on providing a more concise and structured overview of the program. In the meantime, I would encourage you to check out the Hiking & Running sections for a more detailed breakout of activities. That should be a good jumping off point. Good luck and email me if you have any more questions (mike at hotshotfitness).

      Reply to Mike

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