The IAFF has been collaborating with the U.S. Navy on a program to improve the fitness, health and wellness of Navy fire fighters by encouraging them to become more active.
In January 2022, the IAFF launched Integrated Group Navy Fire Instruction, Training and Education (IGNITE), a comprehensive 18-month wellness-fitness program, in collaboration with fire fighters from Navy Region Mid-Atlantic (NRMA).
The IGNITE program involves eight IAFF federal locals in NRMA which spans locations from Virginia to Maine, Indiana and Illinois representing more than 500 federal fire fighters. If successful, the program could be rolled out across U.S. Navy bases worldwide.
Created as an extension of the IAFF’s Fit to Thrive (F2T) program, IGNITE aims to do more than provide exercise routines and nutrition tips. IGNITE involves four distinct but complementary phases to improve members’ wellness and fitness through education, training, mentorship and support directed to the entire organization.
The 18-month program sets out to explore personal, environmental and organizational obstacles that may stand in the way of better habits, from lack of motivation or bureaucracy to time constraints or inaccessibility to equipment.
“Just giving people exercise programs does not work in the long term,” says Founder of Performance Redefined Dave Frost, who has been working with IAFF and Fit to Thrive to design and implement IGNITE. “We have taken the first six months to learn about the unique needs, interests and perceived constraints from everyone who will be involved with the program.”
Initial phases involved gathering information to determine specific conditions and demographics at each facility and then tailoring an implementation strategy to meet these needs. IGNITE also focused on training dozens of frontline ambassadors to promote the program and get members engaged.
One of those ambassadors is Scott Lizotte, president of Cutler Federal Firefighters Local F-316, in Cutler, Maine. Lizotte, who took the multi-week F2T program and has been working diligently to promote IGNITE, says he’s faced numerous barriers to getting members engaged. Getting any program up and running is a challenge within the bureaucracy of a military base, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic that has rendered most communication virtual.
A big challenge, according to Lizotte, is cultural. “Fire fighters must work long and difficult shifts that can make eating healthy and sleeping properly difficult,” he says.
Frost and IAFF officials running F2T say they are taking many lessons from the NRMA launch of this wellness-fitness program, which they hope and expect to roll out across the Navy.