Archived Story

SMC fitness supervisor promotes healthy living

Published 6:19pm Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dowagiac firefighters first need to save their own lives.

“More than half of on-duty fatalities for firefighters are due to heart attacks and strokes,” said Southwestern Michigan College fitness center supervisor Stephanie Munson, who spoke at Wolverine Mutual Insurance Co.’s 42nd annual Dowagiac Fire Department dinner April 26 at Timberline, Indian Lake.

“Many risk factors contribute. History, age, gender, obesity, diet, but the one that I want to hit tonight is physical activity. Your job is very demanding, and I know you know that because you live it on a daily basis.

Stephanie Munson

“Three qualities I consider to be part of your job responsibilities,” she said, “are strength, stamina and agility. Muscular strength is crucial because the added weight of protective clothing you wear and equipment definitely makes your job more challenging.  Stamina, or endurance, is another quality required of you. Your department depends on you for hours upon hours at a fire. Agility combines balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength and endurance. Athletes condition and train for their sport. I consider you guys athletes.

You need to condition and train to perform well at your job. I challenge you to save your own life by reducing your risk for heart disease. Become more active and challenge each other.”

Munson, with SMC for six years, also teaches physical education classes.

She grew up in Decatur, earned a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Grand Valley State University and lives in Dowagiac with her husband and two children.

Four firefighters, Tony Stewart, Ethan Pasternak, Robert Nelson and Robert Smith, won memberships to the SMC fitness center renovated three years ago.

Memberships otherwise cost $150 for three months, $200 for six months and $350 for a year.

Munson said the center offers a cardio-vascular area with treadmills, ellipticals, recumbent bicycles, a stair stepper and a summit trainer, which can change step depths.

Three areas promote strength training, including Cybex machines and free weights — her favorite. The resistance pool is like an underwater treadmill. Adjust the current and swim in place or hang on to the bar and kick your feet. It’s about three feet deep, so some walk.

Two racquetball courts from the old Zollar Center remain from prior to the Student Activities Center, plus the full-size gymnasium. A 35-foot rock climbing wall was added for climbing with safety harnesses or bouldering without. “I like that more because it reminds me of climbing a jungle gym as a kid,” Munson said. “I’m not relying on someone else to keep me safe with ropes.”

Group fitness is offered, such as yoga or Zumba. Outside, there is a three-mile community trail system.

Laughter ripples around the dining room.

Munson remembers firefighters are well-acquainted with the trails after being summoned to them to extinguish a blaze the night before.

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