How to Be a Good EMT

The simple answer to this eternal question is: you have to take care of yourself.

I’m about to blow your mind.

Too much Domino’s Pizza is not a good thing.

I’ve been on my First Aid Squad’s Sunday Night Crew for about two years, now, and every week is usually fairly similar.

I show up to the building half-running because I always underestimate the amount of time it takes to drive there from my house, 3 towns away. I throw down my multiple bags of work clothes, gym clothes, EMS clothes, and my purse, and head upstairs to the locker rooms with my EMS clothes bag, exclaiming to the soon-departing Day Crew that “I’m going to put on pants!”

It takes all of a minute and a half to put on my uniform and head back downstairs to the Day Room, where I’ll be hanging out with my crew for the rest of the night. We check the rigs, making sure we have all the equipment we need, we watch whatever sci-fi movie our Crew Chief has brought on DVD that night, and usually order some dinner from one of the restaurants downtown. This is EMS, so maybe throw in an emergency here and there, but the night is usually pretty chill.

At 11pm, our Crew Chief and the High School Juniors would go home, leaving four twenty-something year olds to have free reign of our headquarters. When we all first started on the crew, this meant pizza and more tv, so we’d place our weekly order to Domino’s and put on whatever was trending on Netflix while we waited for it to arrive. We’d maybe have a friend or two from other crews show up to join the party once in awhile, making it even more necessary to order a “snack.” This whole routine went on Every. Single. Week. for about six months until we all decided “okay, we feel gross, let’s not order pizza anymore.” Being up into all hours of the night also meant we really weren’t sleeping. We’d all go to bed somewhere around 1 am and inevitably get rudely woken up several times by our pager tones.

Needless to say, I gained a TON of weight, partly because of all the pizza, bread sticks, soda, and lava cakes, but also because, I’d eat disgustingly every other day of the week, I have sensitivities to gluten and dairy that I didn’t know about, I wasn’t exercising as much as I had in college where I was on my varsity rowing team, and I wasn’t sleeping. All-in-all, I wasn’t doing too hot and something had to change.

In EMS if you’re not at the top of your game, people can get hurt. At first glance, this can seem like an exaggeration, but think about it. We drive these massive trucks through all kinds of traffic. We use equipment that weighs a TON. We walk into situations that can turn dangerous in a split second so we need to be aware of what’s going on around us. We do a lot of physical activity- walking, climbing stairs, lifting, etc. We need to be alert and we need to be fit.

So here’s where yoga comes in. Maybe once in awhile, forgo the Domino’s in favor of something that will make you feel satisfied and healthy rather than bloated and gross. Get some sleep so you’re not lethargic and unaware of your surroundings. (I know I get foggy with no sleep!) But most of all, MOVE! Whether that’s yoga, running, lifting weights, playing basketball, or whatever else peaks your fancy, moving your body will make such a difference in lifting your mood, upping your energy levels throughout the day, speeding up your metabolism, and making you feel more productive.

So what if you’re a volunteer EMT who works a full-time job and doesn’t have time to exercise? Most people in the yoga world would likely say “of course you have time! You just need to make time!” which, admittedly, I did say in a previous post on this site. My stance is that yes, you do need to make time for it, but yes, you’re right, it’s hard to do so. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’m still there! So here’s what you do-

  • You stop watching Netflix an hour earlier than you normally would
  • You do some sort of movement for 30 minutes
    • Crunches
    • Push-ups
    • A quick yoga video or sequence
    • Stretches
    • Dance
    • Anything!
  • You go to bed 30 minutes before you normally would

BAM- you feel better.

Seriously- in just one hour, you accomplished two goals- get some movement into your day, and get more sleep! The hope is that eventually you’ll get to increase both, but just 30 minutes can be a massive improvement to start.

That being said, I’m nowhere near perfect- I always stay up way too late and I’ll be really good about doing yoga or some other form of movement or exercise for about three days, then drop off for a day or two, then come back to it, then repeat the cycle. It’s challenging to make the time when all you want to do is continue to binge-watch “The Good Place.” I totally get it. It’s all about balance.

Give it a shot, let me know how it goes!


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