Brian Dudley followed a career path as a plumbing technician, but he always wanted to be a firefighter. This dream finally came true a few years ago, when he began serving his community of Macon County , GA , as a volunteer firefighter. Dudley now volunteers his time with two local departments, Macon-Bibb County Fire Department and Houston County Fire Department.
Although he achieved this goal, Dudley was not exactly the healthy role model most would expect from a firefighter. The last time Dudley had considered himself in shape was in high school, when he participated in athletics. Like most Americans, his eating habits deteriorated as he became an adult, and exercise became an activity of the past.
“A couple of years back, I was at a scene of a fire which required me to climb almost six stories high – and I couldn’t do it” recalls Dudley . “I realized I needed to make some changes.”
At around the same time, a local television station, WMAZ-13, was looking for members of the community who were interested in participating in a health and fitness challenge called It Starts With the Heart. Dudley saw this as an opportunity to make a change, and he tried out for the challenge. He was one of 13 community members accepted. The challenge required Dudley to visit a physician and log his daily eating and exercise habits for almost a year. Along with weekly meetings, the logs were reviewed by a coaching team made up of health and fitness professionals.
“The program allowed me to really become educated about my health. At the end of the program, we all had to run a 5k race (3.1 miles) and I was the only one to actually run the whole thing,” says Dudley . He also learned important information such as how many calories his body actually needs and how to read a nutrition label.
After losing 25 pounds through It Starts With the Heart, Dudley decided he needed to continue on the path to good health and joined a fitness boot camp at a rehab center. By the end of the camp, Dudley had lost over 6% of his body’s fat and gained important muscle mass. “I came in third out of twelve people; they helped show me how to really build my strength and aerobic fitness,” Dudley says.
Dudley also started participating in the Fired Up For Fitness Challenge, which is offered through the NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program. This interactive, online program allows emergency personnel to log their hours of physical activity, with prizes awarded at certain milestones leading up to a certificate of completion. “I’ve received the certificate of completion, but I still log my hours anyway. It’s a great way to see what others in the local area are up to and compare your achievements to others around you,” Dudley explains.
Since embarking on these health and fitness endeavors, Dudley has run in three 5k races. His most recent race was the Fit to Fight 5k at Fire-Rescue International (FRI), which took place in Atlanta , GA , in August. Not only did Dudley run the entire race, but he ran it in his turnout gear to honor fallen firefighters. At the conclusion of the race, Dudley was awarded a plaque from the Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
“I love firefighting, and so I wore my turnout gear for the firefighters that recently died on duty here in Georgia . I didn’t know them, but I still wanted to do this,” Dudley says of the race. He also plans to help build a memorial log cabin for the family of a fallen firefighter who worked with the Atlanta Fire Department and Macon-Bibb County Fire Department. “I’m going to help build a little, and also install some of the plumbing and heating and air for the cabin,” he says.
Dudley continues to work towards a healthy lifestyle. He stopped by the Heart-Healthy Firefighter booth during FRI to take advantage of the free health screenings. “I got a Cookbook there, too, and it’s been helpful even reading through the recipes. It’s a great resource to have,” he says.
Dudley ’s goals include losing forty more pounds and gaining even more muscle. It is clear that he will continue to succeed due to his personal commitment and love of serving his community.