Monday, September 13, 2021

A Tribute Workout - By Jim Duggan

Every year, as the Summer winds down, most people look forward to the upcoming Autumn season. The end of August usually brings the anticipation of Labor Day along with the accompanying return to school, work, and Fall weather. However, for members of the Fire Service and especially for members of the NY City Fire Dept., it can be a difficult and challenging time. The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks bring feelings of dread and sadness as we remember the nearly 3,000 Americans murdered on that tragic day, including 23 NYPD Officers, 37 PAPD Officers, and of course the 343 members of the FDNY who made the supreme sacrifice. 

Any anniversary of a significant event causes us to reflect more than usual. "Where were we when it happened?" is a question we often ask ourselves. Time marches on, as it always does. Memories fade, as they sometimes do, which, in a way is a good thing. If we had to live with the acute pain of every past historical event that ever happened, it would be a depressing existence. But as we look past the pain and sadness, we remember the bravery, dedication and sacrifice of those we lost twenty years ago.
Every year, throughout the country, there are tributes, memorials, and ceremonies to mark the anniversary and renew our promise that "We will never forget!" There are also memorial events of a physical nature- 5k runs to honor the memory of Firefighter Steven Siller who, in full firefighting gear, ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel that day to join his unit where he lost his life while saving others. There also memorial Stair Climbs to honor the hundreds of firefighters who ascended the stairs of both towers in an attempt to save as many trapped victims as possible. 

This year, a few days before the anniversary, I decided to honor the memory of my fellow firefighters who were lost that day, with a physical challenge. I've never been much of a runner ( if I were a car, you might say I was build for comfort, not speed), and since I no longer belong to a commercial gym, I no longer have access to a Stairmaster. I decided that a Deadlift Challenge would be the most appropriate means of honoring the 343 fallen heroes, especially considering my love for all things strength-related. I came up with a very simple, yet brutal, workout challenge: 343 Lbs. for 107 reps in one hour, using my special 2" thick-handled Trap Bar. The number "343" naturally represents the 343 FDNY members who were lost that day. The number "107" represents the company I was assigned to twenty years ago, Ladder Co. 107, in East New York, Brooklyn. I decided to complete my "workout" on Friday, September 10, since I would be at various remembrance ceremonies the following day. On the morning of the workout, I decided to weigh myself, and my bodyweight was 231 Lbs., which is significant since my current assignment is Engine Co. 231, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Talk about coincidence. 

For the last month or so, I have been doing kettlebell deadlifts with the goal of reaching 107 reps in as short amount of time as possible. I was introduced to this type of training by my good friend and fellow strength fanatic, Steve Weiner, and I've found it to be intense, and effective. A week before, I did 107 reps with two 144 Lb. kettlebells in 36 minutes, while standing on a two-inch block. However, 343 Lbs on a thick-handled trap bar would be a different story. On Friday, September 10th, at 2PM, I began my workout. I began with several singles, to warm up, and then I did sets of five until I hit 25 reps. At that point, I switched to triples, so that I wouldn't expend too much energy on each set. I kept going at a fairly regular pace until I hit 85. It was at this time that I noticed that I had torn a callus on one of my fingers. Thank you, thick-handled trap bar! I also knew that there was NO way I was going to let that stop me. From 85 onward, I alternated between triples and doubles until I reached my goal of 107 reps. Upon completing my final rep, I checked the time and was slightly disappointed that it had taken me slightly over an hour to complete my workout. I say "slightly" because I was happy that I was able to get through what turned out to be as grueling a workout as I can remember. To say I was sore the next day would be the understatement of the year. My entire body felt as if I had been run over by a truck. At our firehouse remembrance ceremony the following day, each time I performed a hand salute was a new adventure in soreness, as my entire body was aching. But I'm glad I did it. I would like to conclude this article by remembering those we lost twenty years ago. May we never forget. May we also never forget the men and women of our armed Forces who serve and protect our great nation.
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