Pinch the training secrets of Australia’s fittest firefighters

Image: Brad Redfern

Aliysa Gibbons spends her working days saving lives and property as a qualified Firefighter for Fire and Rescue NSW. Keeping fit and doing her job go hand-in-hand, says the sport science graduate and qualified Personal Trainer.

So what’s involved in the training and nutrition of one of Australia’s fittest occupations? Discover how Gibbons eats and trains to stay lean and strong year-round.

SFMA: What does an average day look like for you?

Gibbons: I am lucky enough to work as relieving firefighter, meaning I travel to different stations to work, mostly in the west of Sydney. I attend everything from structure fires, car fires, medical incidents, rescue jobs and bushfires, as well as taking part in ongoing education sessions, community engagement and pre-incident planning work. 

We also perform daily equipment and truck checks, and keep on top of station duties. So shifts tend to go quickly.  

My days off usually involve coffee, walking my dog and training.  

SFMA: Did you help fight the bushfires early this year?

Gibbons: I was mainly working in the Blue Mountains during the bushfires – it was an absolutely crazy few months! I was part of many Fire and Rescue NSW strike teams, working long days and nights in the heat and relentless conditions. The community support we received was outstanding. While it was a largely terrible time, it was humbling to work with so many amazing people from so many different organisations.

Image: Sean Backers

SFMA: What’s your average weekly training schedule?

Gibbons: I follow CrossFit training daily, which includes strength, conditioning and skill

work. I also try to squeeze in a couple of distance runs, swims and bikes each week to keep my endurance fitness levels high. For active recovery, I enjoy yoga and stretching. 

I also try to make sure I have at least one rest day – usually a work day – to let my body heal and recover.


SFMA: What lessons have you learnt in the firies that can be translated to the ‘average’ woman’s training?

1. Stay consistent! Keep showing up and putting in the hard work – the rewards will come.
2. Don’t get caught up in comparisons – everyone is running their own race. Focus on yourself and be the best you can be.
3. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. You’ll be surprised at the support you receive. 

SFMA: Why is keeping fit and healthy so important to your firefighting duties?

Gibbons: Firefighting is a physically demanding occupation, and a high degree of strength and endurance is crucial. I want to be the kind of firefighter that I would want at my house if it was ablaze, so staying fit and healthy is extremely important to me.

Image: supplied

I’ve participated in sports from a very young age, but when I found CrossFit five years ago, I fell in love. I loved the variety of functional movements and the challenge it provides day in, day out. CrossFit training easily translates to firefighting duties – from strength and stamina, to lifting, dragging, holding, climbing, and so much more. 

SFMA: How do you keep a positive mindset and stay motivated?

Gibbons: Everyone has their ups and downs, but I think it’s important to surround yourself with likeminded and motivated people who celebrate your ups, help you through your downs and push you to be better. 

I also like to have a plan. I write down what I want to achieve that day and that week – along with long-term goals – and tick each task off as I go. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps to keep you accountable. 

SFMA: Your day on a plate?

Breakfast: Overnight oats with fruit and protein powder OR eggs on toast with spinach.
Lunch: Vegetables, a carbohydrate source (usually sweet potato), and either fish or tofu.
Dinner: A protein (low fat option) and carbohydrate source, with heaps of veggies.
Snacks: True Protein Bar and Danone Yopro Yoghurt with fruit. 

SFMA: Any supplements you swear by?

Gibbons: The only ‘supplement’ I take is a protein powder –  I love True Protein Salted Caramel WPI. They’re an Australian brand, and their protein powders are made with natural ingredients and taste delicious.

Image: supplied

SFMA: What does being a ‘strong’ woman mean to you?

Gibbons: It means so much more than physical strength or looking a certain way. It’s realising that you are capable of doing whatever you set your mind to. It’s about persevering, never giving up, being brave, standing up for yourself and overcoming any obstacle you’re faced with. It’s asking for help if you need it, it’s making sacrifices while pushing for progress and it’s having the confidence to deal with problems head on. 

SFMA: How do you relax and unwind?

Gibbons: I must admit, I am not very good at either of these things. But I love coffee dates, walking the dog, beach trips and reading. 

SFMA: What’s next for you in 2020?

Gibbons: I’ve just started training for a triathlon in October, and I’m looking forward to improving on my times from last year. I’ll be continuing my studies in fire science and I’m also learning sign language! With all that, along with work and training, I think I’ll be plenty busy.

Main image: Brad Redfern

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About Katelyn Swallow 36 Articles
Katelyn Swallow is a journalist, editor and communications professional based in Perth. She is the Editor-in-Chief of STRONG Fitness Magazine Australia, the previous editor of Women's Health and Fitness magazine, and a regular contributor to STRONG in the US.