Fire departments and their firefighters all over the globe are facing many problems such as high rates of cancer, injuries, hypertension, cardiac disease, chronic stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep apnea, and even suicide. Over the past year, the Boston (MA) Fire Department (BFD), under the leadership of Commissioner Joseph Finn, implemented a new program for his personnel to take these issues head on: the O2X Human Performance (HP) program.
O2X offers unique, innovative programs to mitigate these issues and teaches firefighters the importance of overall mental and physical wellness. O2X consists of a team of United States/United Kingdom Special Operations veterans (with more than 50-plus years of collective experience), collegiate athletes, and 25-plus world-class HP specialists with experience training everyone from Olympic athletes to teams of special operations forces. The O2X mission is to be the world’s leader in maximizing HP.
In June 2016, O2X conducted a four-day HP workshop for 50 BFD firefighters. On the first day, a diverse group filled the classroom. The attendees were both new and experienced and ranged from 25 to 60 years old. They held varied jobs within the BFD and represented all ranks. They hailed from houses all over the city, from Dorchester to Engine 33 and Ladder 15 on Boylston Street. They sat in the classroom at the Boston Fire Academy on Moon Island, the same place where it all began for them as recruits.
They spent four days learning about the O2X framework of “Complete Human Performance.” The skepticism that naturally exists with any new program soon lifted once they heard from top HP experts who focused on nutrition, conditioning, sleep, stress, and resilience.The next four days consisted of classroom education, hands-on practicals, physical training, active and engaging discussions, and even a healthy cooking class!
The O2X HP program was customized based on in-depth knowledge of issues plaguing firefighters. High operational tempos, work and life challenges of a high-risk job, injuries, and the challenges of sustaining high levels of performance are experiences that helped shape O2X’s curriculum and delivered significant changes to the BFD.
|(1) Photo courtesy of O2X.|
So what is HP? It is the systematic approach to improving individual and organizational performance by making steady, incremental improvements in physical training, stress identification and mitigation, nutrition planning, recovery, and development. This methodical approach defines the O2X systematic philosophy and is the reason the company’s four founders came together: They have a shared passion for helping others push themselves to achieve higher levels of performance.
Creating a HP program led O2X to help thousands of firefighters and corporate employees by increasing their overall health and focus on performance. O2X has also helped first responders, collegiate sports teams, and corporate organizations achieve higher performance levels through customized workshops and an online performance support program. At this time, O2X has trained more than 400 Boston firefighters during nine workshops that also reached more than 1,500 firefighters through its online program; it is now part of the training curriculum for incoming fire recruits during the first week of the BFD academy. The O2X online program provides a daily stream of nutrition tips, workouts, and performance and motivation information; a performance tracker helps users form healthy habits through competition. After firefighters leave the workshop, the O2X discussion board then provides reach-back support for questions participants might have in any HP area. The online program also has a library of nutrition tips, recipes, workout programs, and instructional videos.
O2X is dedicated to helping firefighters achieve maximum performance. O2X is backed by cutting edge research and science to work with “tactical athletes,” a term that is more in line with how we’d like firefighters to view themselves. This approach is at the forefront of how firefighters will become more mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to perform more efficiently at work and at home.
Whether you are a new recruit or a 30-year veteran, it’s never too late. As the old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.” O2X’s goal is for you to finish your career as strong as when you started and enjoy that much-deserved retirement.
ADAM LA REAU is the co-founder of O2X, which designs training and continuing education plans for corporate, athletic, and municipal groups and individuals.
CRAIG COFFEY is the co-founder of O2X.
BROOKE BALLINGER is a marketing coordinator intern at O2X.
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