At the Greensburg (PA) Volunteer Fire Department, there isn’t just one success story, but a whole team of them. Sixteen members of the department, ranging in age from 21 to 55, have come together to form Team Ludwick, named after the borough in which they reside. These firefighters are working together to meet their health and fitness goals, and have used the support of each other as well as the resources provided by the Heart- Healthy Firefighter Program to help them stay on track.
Twenty-four year old Jamie Bartley, the team’s captain, played a key role in motivating his fellow firefighters to get healthy. “Some of the guys never wanted to do anything about getting in shape, and then I just started to get people moving to the gym or hit the weights with me,” he says.
At first, only a few guys joined Bartley for runs and on trips to the gym, but over time more department members decided to join in the effort and dedicate themselves to keeping fit. After about four months Jamie discovered the Heart-Healthy Firefighter web site, including its online Fired Up For Fitness Challenge. He signed his fitness group up as a team so they could keep track of their fitness activities. “It’s not easy because we are all so busy, but the Fired Up For Fitness Challenge was a motivator because it makes you feel like you are working for something,” says Bartley.
Team Ludwick works out together everyday and logs their hours in the Fired Up For Fitness database. After completing 10 hours of exercise each, they were rewarded with t-shirts as part of the program. Each member has now reached over 40 hours of exercise, earning them certificates of completion. This has not stopped Team Ludwick from keeping up the routine - they continue to log their activities in the database, which include running, lifting weights, and firefighting activities, and have so far each member has completed over 135 hours of activity.
Each member of the team has felt the results. Scott Johnson has lost at least 50 pounds since joining. “You can tell he feels really great and everyone’s noticed an improvement in his overall demeanor,” says his brother, Matt Johnson. Matt has also felt improvement since joining the team and praises Jamie for taking the initiative to start the effort. “Jamie is the backbone of the group, and we all just kind of jumped onboard with him. I’ve personally noticed since I’ve begun that I feel better throughout the day and I have more energy and endurance. I’m not sitting around at the station all day anymore,” Matt says.
Bartley, who’s also taken the initiative to cook healthier meals at the station, thinks that the focus on nutrition has been key to the positive results the team has seen. “I just started to make salads and leaner meals. Everyone used to drink soda pop and iced tea and now, for the most part, everyone drinks water and replacement drinks like Gatorade,” he says.
Members of the Greensburg Fire Department are fortunate in that the department helps pay for health screenings and flu shots as well as provides free membership to the local community fitness center. “I’d say that the most important first step is to get a health screening. A lot of guys have had heart attacks around here that could’ve been prevented had they known they were at high risk,” says Bartley. It is an alarming fact that heart attack is the leading cause of on-duty firefighter deaths. Perhaps with leaders such as Jamie Bartley and others willing to take their health seriously and start a department-wide health effort, the instances of firefighter heart attacks will diminish in the years to come.