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Fit to Work
Page 6 of 6


Training for the Pack Test

Start training at least 4 to 6 weeks before you are scheduled to take the test. For work hardening, you may want to train in the boots you will wear on the job. Ankle-height hiking or sport shoes must be worn during the test for ankle protection.

Photo of a woman hiking with a pack on.Begin by hiking a 3-mile flat course without a pack. When you can cover the course in less than 45 minutes, add a pack with about 25 pounds. Increase the weight until you can hike 3 miles in 45 minutes while carrying 45 pounds.

Also, hike hills with a pack to build leg strength and endurance. Jog the flat course without a pack to build aerobic fitness. Do overdistance for stamina, and cross-train with mountain biking and weights to build endurance and strength

Work Hardening

Aerobic and muscular fitness training are two key elements in your preseason preparation. Work hardening is the third.

Work hardening is a gradual progression of work-specific activities designed to bring you to the job ready to deliver a good day's work. While fitness training provides the foundation for work capacity it is not substitute for job-specific work hardening. Work hardening ensures that the body structures used on the job are tough and ready to go. Feet are work-hardened when you hike and work in the boots you'll use in the field. Hike up and down hills and sidehills at the pace you'll use on the job. Do some extended hikes with a loaded pack to prepare for carrying loads.




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If you will be a firefighter, you should do some work with a tool like the Pulaski. There is no substitute exercise to prepare the back and upper body for prolonged work in the position demanded by such hand tools. This work will also toughen your hands so you won't get blisters the first day on the job. Come to the job hardened and ready to go.

The Bottom Line

Aerobic and muscular fitness training, work-hardening, and Pack Test training prepare you to meet the demands of any rigorous assignment from the very first day on the job. You will be able to work safely and more productively thanks to your preparation and hard work.

For more information see: Sharkey, Brain, Fitness and Work Capacity (NFES 1596), 1997.

Silhouette of firefighrers walking up a hill.