Bec Meachin is on a mission: to consistently better herself, mentally and physically, and to support those training to be firefighters in doing the same. Part of HAIX-sponsored Team GB in last year’s British Firefighter Challenge, Bec has continued training even during the Covid-19 lockdown in order to keep pushing to be the best. UK Fire took the opportunity to speak to her about her approach to training her body and mind for both endurance challenges and the trials of her ‘day job’.
UK Fire: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the Fire service?
BM: I joined Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in September 2016 as an on-call firefighter. In January 2018 I relocated and joined Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service. During my time at Notts I have helped lead and teach on a Fire and Police Cadets Programme and I am the Women in the Fire Service’s rep, helping to encourage and promote women in the fire service. I’ve managed to secure a new position with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service as a Wholetime Firefighter Training Instructor, which I started in June, so it’s been a really exciting time for me.
UK Fire: Which Firefighter endurance events have you competed in in the past, and what was the most recent one?
BM: In 2019 I did my first Firefighter event, at the Cheshire Firefighter Challenge, the first regional British Firefighter Challenge (BFC). I then went on to do the main BFC in Watford later in the year. This year I competed in a charity stairs run, the Lorus Stairs Run, 20 floors, and was the first female firefighter to complete this since it’s been running.
UK Fire: What drives you to compete in such gruelling events?
BM: As a firefighter, we never know from day to day what we are going to have to deal with. We might be asleep in bed one minute, and fighting a fire the next. I’m only 163cm tall, and weigh 59kg, so I have to work on my fitness every single day to be able to achieve the standard the fire service requires to be able to carry out all the activities I need to. The firefighter challenges really help focus my training, and cover all aspects of what we might need to do at a real incident. As a woman, I do find people ask how I would be able to rescue them in a fire, how I’d be able to be strong enough and fit enough to do the work. Well these challenges help prove to both colleagues and the public that I can do this, and I can achieve.
UK Fire: Is there a particular event stage (e.g. stair run, casualty dummy rescue) that you find the most challenging?
BM: That dummy drag has to be the most challenging! The dummy in the BFC weighs 11kg more than me, and with a BA set on your back and all your kit, it’s very difficult to pick up, let alone drag it 50m! The challenges always put the dummy drag at the end of the event, so you are already exhausted from the rest of it! I practice a lot of deadlifts and squats to try and improve this area!
UK Fire: What do you think the benefits of Fire Endurance events are, both for the competitors and the wider firefighting community?
BM: Everyone who competes in these events are the fittest people I know. They push themselves every day to be better. The camaraderie is amazing, and you are encouraged so much to compete and achieve. It doesn’t matter where you come on the leader board, the fact that you have stepped up to the challenge earns you a lot of respect. The more firefighters who do the challenge, the more others are encouraged to do it. Places go extremely quickly for the challenges, and there are a lot more women competing too, which is great to see. In the end we are doing a job that requires us to be very fit, so practising for competitions is always going to help with that.
UK Fire: Can you tell us a little bit about what sort of training you undertake for each event?
BM: I am always training, no matter when the next event is, trying to get stronger and fitter! I have my own gym in my back garden, and I’m in it most days! I am lucky enough to have a great coach, who sets me workouts to do. They are a mixture of strength training (I love a good deadlift!), endurance workouts and cardio workouts. A little look at my diary this week, and I have a tyre workout, legs session, deadlifting session, chest and arms session and finish the week off with some more legs! I have a stair master in my gym, so I regularly do some interval training on that, mixing it up with gym kit, fire kit and weight vests. When it gets closer to an event, the best way to practise is to get the actual equipment out and practise the elements of the circuit. Adding just my fire kit makes a big difference, so it’s important to practise with the gear.
UK Fire: Has the ongoing lockdown situation affected your training regime? Are you still training while at home?
BM: I am so happy I invested in my own gym! I’ve got everything I need to keep training, and pushing myself. I have also been training at the fire station with the actual kit. The thing I have missed is having the one-to-one sessions with my coach, or just having someone to spot you so you push yourself a bit further. But I don’t think it has stopped me working hard and pushing myself every day. We can always do bodyweight work, so there’s no excuse really to keep fitness up!
UK Fire: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about you, your training or your job as a firefighter?
BM: When I first started in the fire service, I only weighed 52kg, and really struggled with the fitness tests, especially the strength side. I struggled to deadlift my own bodyweight. But I’ve worked hard every single day on my fitness, and never stopped. I’ve got fitter, and so much stronger (I can almost deadlift double my weight now, and I weigh a lot more!) I think the competitions have really pushed me to keep working hard at my training so I can be the best I can possibly be. I am a big believer that if you have the perseverance to work as hard as you can at something you want, then you can achieve it. I encourage all men and women to push themselves every day to be better.
UK Fire: Thank you Bec. It’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you and we wish you every success in the future.
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