If you asked Michael Coleman a year ago about training for the Firefighter Combat Challenge, he would tell you it was not even a thought. Coleman, a firefighter with the Memphis (TN) Fire Department, had recently faced a sudden medical emergency that nearly devastated him physically and emotionally.
Coleman landed in the hospital for a ruptured appendix and developed kidney failure. He was in the hospital for 16 days when he came out with a new outlook and a desire to reinvent himself.
“I had done regular workouts before but nothing intense,” Coleman said. He wanted to prove he could make a comeback, but he was also dealing with depression. “I came out of the hospital using a walker and a cane and barely able to lift 10 pounds. I felt like I needed a focus to get back on track and get my strength back.” Then he saw the Combat Challenge information. He felt like it supercharged his drive. After working out during his recovery, he was placed on light duty and eventually assigned back to shift work.
After his first Combat Challenge on the beach in Pensacola, Fla., Coleman caught the bug and now is a teammate with other Memphis firefighters on the Bluff City Combat Challenge Team. He saw BlastMask on social media and fire service pages, as well as people using it while doing functional fitness workouts. He reached out to the company for more information.
Coleman and the team started using BlastMask after their first competition. “I realized the huge challenge we had ahead of us, and I wanted as much help as possible getting the team fit after that first competition,” he said. “I felt like I was going to die or pass out. At that point, I realized it is not that I am not fit enough. It is my breathing that is the most important part.”
Coleman and others started doing regular steps, walking up and down the training tower and walking around while wearing the BlastMask. “We saw how much we could improve so we started wearing them while doing grunt work, like using the rowing machine and running, exercises that are taxing,” he said. They continued with the next competition in their sights.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., firefighter challenge was their first competition after training with BlastMask and their improvement was significant. “The difference between pre-BlastMask and post-BlastMask is night and day,” Coleman said. This difference is also noticeable at work.
“I can do a lot more on the fireground without having to take a break or refill my bottle because it has allowed me to strengthen my lungs to where I have a lot more quality work inside a fire or at the scene of an incident. It has really allowed me to last a lot longer on the fireground,” Coleman said. His teammates and coworkers agree.
“Everybody loves it and they’ve been raving about it. I think it would benefit the fire service in general for all the rookies coming through to use BlastMask,” Coleman said. “At least you understand the need for it because I don’t think that is stressed enough. The fire will tax your body and having a better respiratory drive will help you a lot more not just in your fire service career but in your outside life as well.”