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Chef Freitag is recovering well from back surgery with the help of his devoted and holy wife, Jenni, and some painkillers. I have volunteered to provide this week’s edition of the Review with the aim of managing certain risks – because the ability to speak in an open forum, with the aid of mind-altering substances, can lead to some interesting results. – so I was told (or seen in a karaoke bar… but that’s another story). In keeping with the theme of injury and recovery, I will discuss my recent Achilles surgery.
Over 9 years ago I was climbing up and down a ladder to clean my pine needle gutters. It was a fairly benign activity, since I was physically active, exercised regularly, and considered myself physically capable of completing this project. However, early the next morning, I got up from bed and immediately fell to my knees due to the extreme pain I felt in my right heel. It was bad enough to warrant a visit to an orthopedic doctor and required me to be in a boot and on crutches for a few months while my Achilles healed. The micro tear that occurred in this tendon was not bad enough for surgery, but was certainly painful and annoying.
Although I allowed time for healing, I didn’t focus on stretching and preventative measures to make sure the tear didn’t happen again. And as you can guess, it took about three years, but history repeated itself. I was doing a light workout which resulted in another tear issue and a boot on crutches for months. Subsequently, after my recovery, again, years later, I had decreased my physical activity following my promotion to Assistant Chief, my flexibility training and workouts had also suffered. .
This last event was my fault. After a year of laziness, I decided to re-engage in training and training. It started slowly, but before long my confidence increased and I started with a more intense program. Part of the new program was box jumps – jumping onto a platform 18 to 24 inches off the ground. Although I completed the program, later that night the Achilles pain was back and this time it required surgery to repair the damage.
After the operation it was difficult to walk again, there were hours and hours of rehabilitation visits, stretching exercises and light impact training. My biggest challenge was changing my behavior towards physical activity and workouts. Although I no longer had pain at rest, I did experience pain when I twisted my foot, placed a hard impact on my heel, or made a reaction movement quick with that foot. Today my day starts with stretching and limbering exercises for my ankles. My workouts start and end with long warm-up and cool-down periods. And even my workouts and physical activity are shadowed with more deliberate movements to minimize the possibility of re-injuring my Achilles. I have a different perspective on what I need to do to be healthy, physically strong, and have the mobility to live life. According to my orthopedist, I am at 60% and it will take another year of diligent effort to reach 100%.
Now let’s move on to today’s lesson. I have a confession to make. I noticed that for two out of the last three years I was getting mentally lazy. The results I (and others) noticed were poor work product, lack of ambition, little or no motivation, an apathetic attitude all of which led to a poor outlook on life. When you think of mental laziness, what does that mean to you? What effects might this have on your attitude, your work, your relationships, and ultimately your life? Are we exercising our mental capacity as well as our physical capacity to meet the challenges of our profession and our lives? Just as you think a person can become physically lazy with the consequences that come with it, you can also become mentally lazy.
Just like with my Achilles, my mental sluggishness grew out of seemingly benign activities that I felt were quite difficult to handle mentally – feeling that life was a little too hard for me, envying others for their lives (or what they had just posted on social media), continuing education or continuing education took too much time and effort, and life was too stressful – so zoning was best.
In all honesty, revealing this is humbling, but there have also been “Achilles’ wound” moments in my journey of mental laziness. The first was right after my divorce – it was easier to dwell on the negative than the positive. I found myself becoming bitter, angry and frustrated and led to more external blame than introspective reflection. It happened over a few years, and I’m sad to say, it took a lot of my mental energy to do anything other than focus on the negative. Sure, I was following and managing life, but I was noticing more bad than good in my world. The second moment of the ‘Achilles injury’ was when we were doing communications training and it came out that I am perceived to be unapproachable, frustrating and have an average resting facial expression (y’all know the term) .
I was encouraged by my boss to work on this “or it will become a detriment to your leadership and your career at CAFMA”. I knew I had things to work on, but I figured my “work attitude” was just who I was…there was no need for real improvement. A moment of my last “Achille” was really painful. One of my kids reminded me that people are always watching and if we want them to follow in our footsteps, we better lead by example and show them the way. What kind of path or example did I provide? Although these “Achilles” moments did not result in mental surgery to undo the damage, they did provide a very clear picture of how mentally lazy I had become and offered an opportunity for change.
Overcoming “ourselves” is not an easy process. It takes time and a lot of effort with a laser focus on self-improvement. And humility… a lot of humility to tell the truth about what really needs to be done. For me, it started with daily mental training in taking small steps towards being grateful for what you have – not envying what you don’t have, seeing things positively over the negative, looking for opportunities and challenges rather than throwing up roadblocks and excuses, hold yourself accountable instead of blaming others, and seek to improve yourself daily (physically and mentally) instead of settling for the status quo. I still have so much to work on, but just as I work daily to improve my physical Achilles, I also focus on my mental workouts.
Mental health has been a top concern for public safety and CAFMA. We offer more support, programs and opportunities than ever before. As an agency, we are looking to improve and support our staff with even more programs and resources, with a focus on providing preventative help, not just post-injury treatment. As individuals, do we help each other by training ourselves mentally? Are we improving our mental fitness by focusing on appreciation, responsibility, extra education and personal goals – or are we just relying on someone else to tell us what to do or are we satisfied with the ” status quo” ? Although life is not fair, not easy, and relentlessly seeks to be a challenge, we can make daily choices to not be mentally lazy. At CAFMA, we provide fitness equipment, real-life training, time to exercise, physical testing, benchmark testing, and personal trainers to prepare for physical rigors and challenging situations. emergency incidents.
Despite all of these resources, it still takes individual effort to commit to training, exercising correctly, exercising long enough, and occasionally asking for help to reach a fitness level. higher physique than sitting in a chair, eating an entire packet of Oreos while watching another person work out (you know who). All fitness and training doesn’t mean that we still can’t be injured or that we will physically fail certain challenges, but we are much better prepared for those challenges and to prevent those injuries than if we did the minimum or nothing. at all. The same applies to choosing to be mentally strong or mentally lazy. At CAFMA, we strive for excellence. The pursuit of excellence includes the thirst to examine our weaknesses to create plans for improvement – individually and as an organization. Again, not easy – humiliating and painful at times – but necessary to become better than yesterday.
I am hopeful that we will work as much on our mental strength as on our physical strength.
“May we never lose our way.”
CAFMA has now presented the CAFMA Connect podcast! Get to know the staff and stay in touch with your local fire department. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on their YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/channel/UCshgJvK9iKOILA-Z3TEDvVQ.
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