What is it?
When doing any type of aerobic exercise, you use oxygen to help generate power. Your VO2 Max is the maximum ability of your body to take oxygen and send it from your heart to your muscles. It considered by many trainers to be the best indicator of a person’s cardiovascular fitness. The more fit you are, the higher your VO2 Max is. This means that you can work at a higher intensity than someone who is not as well conditioned. Cardiovascular fitness is a top priority in any firefighter fitness program, but it must also be appropriate for the work that we do. Your workout plan must be structured to your work tasks to gain the most benefit.
When your muscles are working harder, the oxygen demand is greater. More oxygen will be consumed for the body’s tissue to continue to perform the work required. The larger the muscles being worked, the greater the amount of oxygen needed. Oxygen demands are also influenced by the environment, PPE, and internal and external stresses. The body can only use so much oxygen and this is referred to as the VO2 Max and is described as the greatest amount of oxygen that can be used at the cellular level for the entire body. When performing strenuous work, you will eventually reach your VO2 Max, at which point you will no longer be able to work any harder.
Why is it important?
Research has determined that firefighters working in high stress situations can operate at or above their maximum heart rate for 30 minutes or longer. One factor that contributes to this dangerously prolonged heart rate is the wearing and use of the SCBA and face piece. This equipment decreases your heart and lung performance anywhere from 15% to 22%.
With a limited air supply and reaching your VO2 Max, you are at the point where you have given all you can. If you are wearing your SCBA and are “on air” and stretching a hoseline into an upper floor apartment fire you are increasing your oxygen demand because of the restricted breathing with the SCBA. When you need to push into the fire room and work past the knockdown you are already reaching your extreme heart rate has already significantly increased. Oxygen is consumed at a higher rate because of the intensity of the activities being performed. If something occurs that requires even more physical effort, will you be able to physically function or have you reached your VO2 Max?
How does BlastMask help?
BlastMask is a training regulator built to simulate the sensation of being “on air.” It is designed to function as close as an actual regulator as possible and includes a bypass valve. The bypass valve was created to operate the same way on the BlastMask as it does on the SCBA model that it is designed to fit. Training in a BlastMask helps develop the muscle memory needed when operating with SCBA. The BlastMask is not a substitute for training on air. Instead, it is a supplement that allows firefighters more time in their masks. BlastMask allows you to train at a level that can improve your VO2 Max over time.