Dan Kerrigan, Firefighter

"It is not so much that the workouts change, for me it is more that I think about how I can incorporate the BlastMask into them where it benefits the most, which is normally to add an additional challenge to existing functional workouts. "

It can never be overstated that physical fitness is key to a firefighter’s readiness, performance, and survivability. Stress and overexertion are consistently among the most common causes of the line of duty deaths each year. While it is important to train in all aspects of firefighting, one area that is often missed is training your cardiorespiratory endurance. We spoke to Dan Kerrigan co-author with Jim Moss of Firefighter Functional Fitness about BlastMask and its use to train your lungs.

Q. When did you first learn about BlastMask and what attracted you to it?

I first learned of BlastMask about the same time as we were finishing the writing of our book, Firefighter Functional Fitness. Jim and I had the pleasure of meeting Collin and Justin in person early on at a couple of conferences after Collin reached out. What really attracted me is the replication it offers in terms of the restrictions we have when we work while using SCBA. We know that wearing an SCBA and breathing from it reduces cardiovascular capacity up to 22% and decreases power output up to 20% (Evers, Peterson, Jones, 2005. “The Influence of the SCBA on Ventilator Function and Maximal Exercise). The BlastMask allows us to take those restrictions into the gym with us and train at a level that can improve our VO2 Max over time. It is a training implement that is performance-based, which directly correlates with the Firefighter Functional Fitness philosophy.

Q. How did you start using BlastMask? (Did you easily and quickly incorporate it into your workout routines or did you adjust your routines to compliment using BlastMask)

For me, as soon as I met the guys, I acquired one and it went right into my gym bag along with an old SCBA mask. I typically incorporate it into workouts based on the goal of the session. So, when it comes to high intensity interval training to improve cardiovascular capacity, that is where we can add it into the mix occasionally for an added challenge. It can also increase the intensity of a workout when you have less time to train, so it goes to efficiency as well.

Q. Have your workouts changed since using BlastMask? If so, how?

It is not so much that the workouts change, for me it is more that I think about how I can incorporate the BlastMask into them where it benefits the most, which is normally to add additional challenge to existing functional workouts. 

Q. What immediate and gradual benefits have you experienced?

Increased cardiovascular capacity both in the short term and over the long term. I would also argue that it also goes to improved muscular endurance as well. My belief is that most of what we do on the fireground takes place in the “anaerobic state” of the fitness continuum. Firefighters need to be able to work at a moderate to elevated level of intensity for extended periods of time and increase our ability to transport oxygen to the tissues that need it and how efficiently we do so improve our ability in that regard. I like to use the analogy that if we want to get stronger, we need to lift heavier things from time to time, so, if we want to increase our work capacity and muscular endurance, we need to improve our ability to transport and use oxygen efficiently. Using the BlastMask helps us tremendously in that regard. 

Q. Have you shared your use with others in your department and are they using BlastMask?

I recommend it everywhere we teach. At my previous department, I purchased them and added them to our fitness equipment along with some spare SCBA masks so that our firefighters had those tools available for their workouts. As we are completing the construction of our new fire station at the department I am in now (which will include a fitness center), I will do the same. The BlastMask is a natural complement to our book as well, in fact, we have packaged the two together in the past and offered them as a set. 

Q. What recommendations would you give to a new user?

The biggest recommendation I can give is that like anything in fitness and health, start small, be patient and you will set yourself up for success. The BlastMask will restrict your breathing to the extent that certain workouts they are used to completing in a certain amount of time will take more effort and time. Use the new challenge as motivation to get yourself back to the metrics or benchmarks you were used to achieving without the use of the BlastMask. When you do, you will know that you have made a tremendous improvement in your cardiovascular fitness.