• Nick Holderbaum

A Firefighter Must-Have

I used to force myself to workout on little to no sleep. Powering through wasn’t hard. It gave me a false sense of accomplishment and a hit of dopamine. Chronic stress was wreaking havoc internally, leading to illness multiple times each year. It’s no secret, first responders are stressed out and sleep like shit. I miss sleep. We are often worse off than the people we transport to the hospital. So, what can we do to improve our sleep habits? How are we supposed to know if our bodies are overworked and in need of rest? Every first responder can benefit from tracking their sleep and readiness to train. Good news is the Oura Ring does it all.

By tracking your sleep, heart rate variability, body temp, daily activity, inactivity, and steps and calories, you can improve your performance, sleep better, manage your stress, and recover faster. The Oura ring tells you when it’s time for peak performance efforts or when it’s time for rest and recovery. Aligning your workouts with your energy levels is key in injury and illness prevention. I use a combination of heart rate variability (HRV) and my primal intuition to make smarter training decisions and to sleep better. Oura has the added bonus of being a comfortable ring that you can wear 24/7 and not a clunky chest strap or watch. Yes, there are different sizes if you are concerned about it fitting on your sausage fingers!

The folks at Oura had incredible results working with new recruits at Berkeley Fire Department by helping them track their activity and sleep. As a full-time firefighter/paramedic, I think they did a tremendous job with this program. The issue of cost and scalability remains. In the words of Warren Buffett, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” Skeptical about wearing an electronic ring in the intense environments that we get in? Use common sense. Don’t wear the ring into burning buildings or when deadlifting. Problem solved. I appreciate healthy skepticism from those that have taken the time to be informed, but if you do your research, you will find this technology is the future.

We need to provide new recruits with long-term tools for better health and performance to carry with them for the rest of their careers. Show them how to manage sleep and stress with data from the Oura ring to back it up and they can thrive. This bottom-up approach can help shift first responder culture towards health and longevity. Technology aside, prioritize your health now. Until you can get your hands on an Oura ring, there are strategies you can implement starting today to improve sleep, manage stress, and live a healthier life. Honor your circadian code by going to sleep and waking up at the same time everyday. Try to get 30 minutes of sunshine per day and avoid artificial light after sundown. Take naps before 3 pm. Recognize when you’re feeling stressed and breathe deeply until it passes. Be mindful. Experience life moment-to-moment without future planning. Your health, your hands.

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