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Keeping Yourself Safe - Fitness for Duty

with Todd Platner
EMA Emergency Management, EMS Emergency Medical Services, FD Fire Departments, Law Enforcement, badges article logo label

Todd Platner’s Fitness Guides   Every day you don the uniform, duty belt, pen, and grab the field guide. These are the typical items responders need to be ready for a shift. One more item that should be in your duty bag or vehicle is a copy of one of Todd Platner’s Fitness Guides. If you dance ballet, you take Pilates. If you lift gurneys, pull hose lines, or tackle suspects to the ground, you need a fitness regimen adapted to your needs. I know, I know, you run and stuff. Or maybe you hate the gym. But Todd’s program is designed for both the flexibility of shift work and the unique challenges of responding to emergencies day in and day out. We all know “why” we need a Physical Training (PT) routine, but responders are frequently crunched for time and don’t necessarily like working out on days off. But it is important. “We are in the profession of protecting and helping the public, but we often neglect ourselves and our bodies,” Todd points out. “As first responders, it is our bodies that we use as our primary tool, along with our skill, to take life-changing action for those in need.

   Many responders slow down or stop PT after graduating from an academy. Many volunteers do not have a gym available at the station. Todd’s approach is simple. “Finding time to exercise is hard in everyone’s life. Exercise doesn't have to be a long drawn-out chore. Doing just a little more than the day before makes all the difference.” This simple approach, along with the knowledge that the “one size fits all” routine doesn’t work for everyone, led Todd to create programs specifically to prepare responders for the tasks they must face. Training also prevents injuries in the field. “Having a body that is well toned, combined with the knowledge of how to properly move and twist and turn while performing the tasks at hand, is extremely important. Having the right PT program will not only prepare the first responder better in every aspect of the job, but also prevent injuries to the first responder.

   Todd always refers to himself as a “Peer Fitness Trainer.” He is a Firefighter/ EMT but began his career strictly in fitness. “At first, I didn't give any thought of being a first responder/firefighter/EMT. I got a degree in Adult Fitness from Eastern Kentucky University. I worked in the fitness field and was quite content. While I stood in the wellness center where I worked and watched the events of 9/11 unfold on television, I had an overwhelming concern, not only for my own family, but for all of the families that were torn apart by the tragedy. I thought to myself, What can I do to help? In time, I became a volunteer firefighter and later a full-time firefighter/EMT. First responders began asking what they could do to prepare for upcoming physicals, and for tips on going to the gym. Finally it clicked; here is how I can help the first responders...” From this desire, Todd started a training program with his local department, and within a month he had 20 clients for “Virtual Coaching” through email and over the phone. This led to his website, and now his fitness guides. Each of the three guides is tailored to particular first responders, fire, law enforcement, or EMS.

   There are basically two different aids you can get from Todd’s website, . You can get a prewritten program with a mini poster of stretches, exercises, and calisthenics. Or you can get an exercise guide. The guide is not a program, but a step-by-step outline on how to do the exercises, stretches, and calisthenics; a self-fitness questionnaire; a self-fitness test; and a progress log. It even comes with a carabiner so it hooks on your duty bag. And you do not have to already be a “PT Stud” to use this program. Todd tells us, “The programs that I write on are mainly designed for the beginner responder. I want to reach people who haven't exercised since their younger years or have never been to an exercise facility in their lives. Many people who want to begin an exercise program worry about giving the appearance of ‘not knowing’ what they need to do when they go to a gym. Many times people who go to a gym and ask for help ‘feel discouraged right from the get- go.’” Taking Todd with you can help, “like packing a personal trainer with you.”

   You are worth fifteen minutes. Responders often neglect themselves because by nature they put others first. A stand-up 24 followed by family and other responsibilities can make finding time to do anything for yourself difficult. So, we asked Todd, if there is absolutely no time for a trip to the gym, what can a responder do? He had a ready answer. “Unweighted standing squats for your lower body, some sort of sit-up for your core, and either a pull-up or a push-up for your upper body.” Following his mantra, “a little more today than yesterday,” perfectly fits with every responder’s schedule. Fitness is for every responder, and Todd makes it simple. “My goal is to reach all emergency service personnel to provide the tools needed to address this serious health hazard through exercise. Together, we can be prepared to handle whatever emergency situation arises tomorrow. While we cannot change the past, we can use it to motivate us to pave the way for a brighter future.

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