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FDNY calendar 'hero' and fitness writer, Brian Dessart tells all
OK, my secret is out. I really didn’t try and hide it, I just kept talking about it to a minimum.
Recently, I was selected to appear as Mr. August in the FDNY’s 2014 Calendar of Heroes, which was released to the public on July 22. No doubt, this is slightly awkward to write about, but kind of cool in its own weird sense.
I’ve repeatedly been asked one question since the calendar’s release: “What type of training does it take to prepare?”
Basically, it takes dedication, jelled with a dose of discipline. Since 18 years old -- I’m 34 now -- I’ve always been a gym rat and followed a strict workout regimen. But as with anything else, doing something over-and-over can -- and will -- lead to staleness.
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So, since February 2012, I have paired up with my younger quasi-bro, Seany Bohan, who shares a similar heart for strength and conditioning. Simply, we were both able to motivate each other and break through stagnancy and plateaus by constantly switching our workout programs, either by the type of training method (blitz/pyramid/split-routine) or tinkering with our sets and repetitions every couple of months. And it worked. We would train four to five days each week, leaving two to three random days for recovery.
As for cardio, I’ve always been a bit of a freak in this area, so it was never an issue. We preceded every workout with a cardio session -- some brief, some more lengthy, but I never made cardio my focus.
Ironic as it sounds, an average one-mile run burns a little over 100 calories. Sorry for the letdown. More importantly, being in good cardio condition -- besides the cardiac benefits -- helps to raise your resting metabolic rate, which is the ability to burn calories while the body’s at rest.
Nutrition was probably the difficult thing to stick with. Working in a firehouse, food is readily available. And this guy loves to eat. Constantly. Our meal portions are hearty and generous, and not always the lowest in calories. But I still chose to clear my plate, no matter what was put in front of me.
When it comes to food, I have very little self-control at work, no matter how hard I try. But my most intense focus were meals during my time off -- keeping my overall fat content under control and my saturated fats close to zero. I’m a big nutritional label reader. That’s what happens growing up in a household with a mother who was always into cooking heart-healthy meals. Thanks, Mom.
Supplements? Nope, not one. And no performance-enhancing drugs either. Several years ago, the ingestion of a relatively safe legal dietary supplement -- in its pure form -- put my body into metabolic shock and landed me in the emergency room. My potassium, which helps controls heart function, was dangerously low. The following months of doctors’ visits and testing were awful. Never again.
I recently reached out to my calendar colleagues to get a look inside their training techniques. A handful of their responses were interesting. Mr. May, Al Coombs, implemented kickboxing and various leg-lift exercises to help achieve core body definition, while Mr. January, Recordo Demetrius, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, enjoyed utilizing outdoor strength training by flipping truck tires, pounding sledgehammers and rolling logs. Mr. April, Ralph Ciccarelli, and Mr. March, Robert Morgan, are both personal trainers. Ciccarelli trained in a circuit format to keep his heart rate constantly elevated, while Morgan drank distilled water to help flush excess sodium from his body. Lastly, Mr. September, Noel Reyes, trained on replicated obstacle courses, in preparation for his appearances on "American Ninja Warrior."
But most importantly, no matter how hard we trained or what we looked like, the calendar proceeds benefit the FDNY Foundation, which is the “official not-for-profit [arm] of the FDNY established to promote fire safety in New York City and the professional development, training and education of members of the FDNY,” according to the foundation’s website. The 2013 calendar raised almost $200,000.
Check out the FDNY Foundation and see what they stand for. They’re a phenomenal organization, doing great things for the FDNY, its members and families.
The 2014 FDNY Calendar of Heroes:
Cover: Firefighter Jose Cordero, Engine 257, Brooklyn
January: Firefighter Recordo Demetrius, Engine 304, Queens
February: Firefighter Shane Clarke, Engine 9, Manhattan
March: Firefighter Robert Morgan, Engine 325, Queens
April: Firefighter Ralph Ciccarelli, Ladder 135, Queens
May: Firefighter Al Coombs, Engine 224, Brooklyn
June: Lt. Brian Garguilo, Ladder 76, Staten Island
July: Firefighter Anthony Picozzi, Ladder 84, Staten Island
August: Firefighter Brian Dessart, Ladder 121, Queens
September: Firefighter Noel Reyes, Ladder 128, Queens
October: Firefighter Rob Derrig, Ladder 133, Queens
November: Firefighter Anthony Holz, Engine 5, Manhattan
December: FF Joe Guarneri, Ladder 79, Staten Island
Brian T. Dessart is a nationally accredited Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a New York State Critical Care Emergency Medical Technician and an FDNY firefighter. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter: @briandessart.