When people are asked what they think the leading cause of death amongst firefighters is, the most popular response is fire; while fire deaths do happen among those first responders, it is far from the leading cause of their deaths. The leading culprit in this profession is cardiac arrest; this is followed by car accidents and fire coming in third.
Recently, Columbia Southern University had the opportunity to catch up with 555, one of our newest learning partners. The goal of this charity organization is to reduce the cardiac arrest and disease in firefighters by providing free workouts, nutritional advice and fitness equipment to firefighters in need. We caught up with Robert “Pip” Piparo, the man behind the organization.
How did you get involved with 555 Fitness?
Pip: I originally started as a Facebook follower when this was all just an idea as a way to give back to the fire service community. I soon became friends with the founder and he started bouncing his thoughts and ideas off of me. He later asked me if I would help him get the ball really rolling. Fast forward two years and I am now the director of the not-for-profit organization.
You appear to be a busy guy. What motivates you to keep going?
I’m not sure if busy is the correct word to describe me. I am a lieutenant with the New Brunswick Fire Department in New Jersey, a paramedic with Raritan Bay EMS, a coach at Endorphin CrossFit in Middlesex, a husband to Mrs. Pip and a dad to two little boys. Oh yeah, and I run 555 Fitness! What really motivates me to keep going is the messages, emails, and comments from firefighters around the world saying that they believe in our mission, that they support us and are extremely happy to see firefighters challenging the “status quo.” At times, I think I want to give it all up and then suddenly, an email will come in from someone who says we have helped them become healthier, that we inspired them to take their personal or department’s fitness to a new level.
How well-received is the goal of 555 Fitness by those who are not particularly fond of adopting a fit lifestyle?
Let’s say that there is a fair amount of nay-sayers in the fire service to begin with and 555 Fitness has definitely been met with our fair share of critics. A lot of times, though, they have just been misinformed about our mission. We are not peddling a product or a particular “brand” of fitness. While we do believe a “functional fitness” style of training works the best for the fire service, we support anyone who puts their personal fitness level at a high priority. So, whether you are slamming around barbells in a “Box” (what they call a CrossFit gym), running marathons or playing dodgeball, if you are working up a sweat (or want to!), we are here to support you.
What are some goals you would like to reach in the near future with your organization?
If you told me two years ago when I made the first Instagram post for 555 Fitness that we would have given out more than $20,000 in functional fitness equipment and have more than 50,000 social media followers, I would have said you were crazy. Had you told me that we would also have a successful apparel brand to help raise funds, I would have laughed you out of the room but, it is all true. For 2016, our goal is to bring awareness to the need for firefighter fitness. We have become the not-for-profit partner of an amazing event called the Firefighter Throwdown, which will be held at Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) next April. We will be there with them to raise awareness. We also have been asked to speak and provide free workouts at several other fire service events throughout the year. All of this will help us to further our mission while raising enough funds to continue our current grant program and expand to have one serving the emergency medical services community.
If a firefighter is interested in focusing on their fitness but their station is not interested, how would you recommend they get started?
This question is asked to us quite often and we always provide a simple, one-word answer: “START.” That’s all you have to do. Just start working out, while you’re on duty or in the station. Show the guys you work with that you are committed to being fit for duty. Soon, others are bound to join in. Some people have just been waiting for another person to start, so once one person does, please excuse the expression, it catches on like wildfire. Soon, four or five people are working out together, challenging one another, and developing a greater bond. Because you gave everything you had to the workout, your coworkers will see that when the time comes, you will give everything you have on the field, as well.
If you would like to learn more about 555 Fitness or donate to their cause, visit www.555fitness.com