Justin Herzog is a competitive Crossfitter and a San Diego firefighter. He did us a solid earlier with his epic review of the TRX Training Kit. Plus, he’s got a hell of a handlebar mustache. Let’s see where his motivation to be the best firefighter he can be comes from.
I grew up playing all kinds of team sports and dreamed about playing in the pros. It didn’t exactly work out for me, though.
But when I noticed the firehouse down the street from where I lived, I saw an alternative. I was 21 years old, and I figured if I wasn’t going to become a pro centerfielder or strong safety, I’d better find something else I was good at.
I walked into the station one day, started volunteering, and I got hooked after my very first fire. I volunteered for eight months before packing it up for California to go pro.
There’s been a common tendency in my family toward lives of service. My brother is a Navy pilot and my dad served in the Air Force. I decided to make my impact in the way I knew best.
Before establishing myself in my career, I discovered something which I think makes me even better at my job. I felt it was important that I be physically fit for the tough demands of my job, so I started looking for a workout program that would help me prepare.
I consider myself an ambassador to promote firefighter fitness. Our job is extremely difficult, and on our hardest, busiest days, we get our asses kicked.
I started doing Crossfit’s daily workouts on my own, casually working my way into it. They seemed like perfect workouts, exactly what I was looking for. In the summer of ’09, I got hired to work for the San Diego Fire Department, and during the four months of academy training, we did Crossfit three times a week. Later, I met Captain Justus Norgord, owner of Crossfit Inland Valley in Temecula. From there, I was hooked. A few months later, he recommended I join Crossfit Invictus.
I’ve since become a competitive Crossfitter, and I know that being good at this makes me a better firefighter. I’ve competed in the US Police Fire Games Throwdown and the California Firefighter Olympics Crossfit Competition.
The reason for my enthusiasm is because I consider myself an ambassador to promote firefighter fitness. Our job is extremely difficult, and on our hardest, busiest days, we get our asses kicked. Injuries are common on fires, traffic incidents, and rescues. Just carrying all the gear is its own workout. And our hearts take the brunt of this workload, especially at fires in hyperthermic conditions. You’ve got 50 to 100 extra pounds on you, your adrenaline is racing, urgency is screaming at you, and your body is draining with every step.
Every year in America, 40 to 50 firefighters die from cardiac events. These deaths occur en route to calls, on the scene itself, or during the hours that follow.
Crossfit, and workout programs like it, are proven to make our hearts stronger. They prepare us for the unknown. I am unable to control what happens to my heart physiologically when I am pulling a hose through a flaming building, but I can simulate a related amount of stress on my heart in practice. I can put it through the paces so that when I’m working a fire at 3 a.m. in 1000-degree temperatures, I can be safe.
Every year in America, 40 firefighters dies from cardiac events. Our workouts aim to make our hearts stronger.
So I see my responsibility to my family, my crew, my department, and to the citizens of San Diego to prepare my body and my heart. If I don’t keep myself in the best shape I can be in, I am in a way failing them.
I want to be a catalyst and an example for prioritizing physical fitness in the fire service. If I can serve as that example, then we as a team can be better prepared to do our jobs. And as a team, we can reduce the number of casualties that we see. It all starts with one person, and from there it moves up to your crew, your station, your battalion, and the entire department.
It’s absolutely vital that a crew trusts in itself to have each other’s backs. We must know our jobs and be excellent at them and we MUST be prepared to be there for each other through thick and thin. When we respond to and operate at incidents, trust is either built or lost. The same is true when we train together and when we work out together.
There are countless things I love about being a fireman, but to sum them up, I’d say there’s a great contentment in knowing that I’m doing exactly what I was put here on Earth to do. Now, there still remains even more that I want to do, but I know that for one thing, I was made to be a fireman. To have the chance to make a difference in my community, to extinguish a fire, to stave off disaster, or even better, so save a life, is a gift. I am a very fortunate man.