COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Firefighters with the Columbus Division of Fire are undergoing training this week to make sure they’re taking care of themselves, both physically and mentally.

The three day workshops hope to give the firefighters new ways to handle the stresses of the jobs or of just every day life.

“So we focus on strength conditioning, mental resiliency, nutrition, sleep and PT/PTSD focus,” said Ian Crumley with O2X, the training and education company behind the workshops. “So really what we do is we design custom programs to support first responders both law enforcement, fire and then military for the specific purpose of supporting these individuals through the life of their careers.”

02X was founded by former Navy Seals, focused on small changes first responders – or anyone – could make in their every day lives. Those small changes can add up to a big improvement in physical and emotional wellbeing.

“Every job that they’re doing, it’s important to have just the understanding of what they’re exposed to and then how to process and deal with some of the traumas that they’re exposed to,” Crumley said. “So really, just having the knowledge of how to sleep correctly, how to eat properly and how to be resilient to ultimately serve their populations sets at the highest possible level.”

On Tuesday, a group of 40 firefighters could be seen doing yoga at the Division of fire’s training academy, a sight rarely seen…if ever.

“Firefighters, police officers. We’re typically type-A. We don’t like to deal with the squishy side of things, the feelings. Very few of these guys have done yoga before so this is brand new material for all of them,” said Tim Gribble, a Columbus firefighter.

But even a little yoga can make a big difference.

“The power of yoga… to be able to sort of calm and relax and detach and also the physical aspect of just strengthening the body. Getting some mobility back and flexibility back which is really important – specifically for the firefighters doing the work that they do, having that mobility. Building that core strength and having that longevity to be able to do their job,” Crumley said.

“Firefighters have a lot of overuse injuries in the shoulders, low back and knees. So the flows that we’re going through right now are specifically targeted to strengthen those areas and help us work through that range of motion, Gribble said. “These jobs put us under load a lot and we’re operating in very awkward, unusual positions, so this is helping us both from an injury prevention standpoint but also a rehabilitative standpoint as well.”

Gribble first saw the courses in Cincinnati last year ad worked to bring them to Columbus.

He says he still uses some of the techniques he saw in the one class he observed last year.

“Every drive, both too work and on the way back home I breathe very deliberately for 5 minutes and its helped bring a new state of awareness to just kind of where I’m at both with job stresses, personal stresses…and just helps keep me grounded,” Gribble said.

Gribble says the division already provides resources for first responders to care for themselves…but are discussing making some of the special course work part of their normal routines.

“We’re taking a comprehensive approach to physical and mental wellness and providing these resources to our members so they can take it back to their respective firehouses, the different precincts and spread the word about taking care of ourselves,” Gribble said. 
”A lot of what we do to do our jobs better for the people, it comes down to this very basic stuff right here and deliberately choosing to take care of ourselves so we can serve the citizens better…it’s a force multiplier for all of us.”

In the meantime, the hope is they’ll use some of the lessons learned in their downtime…or even at home.

“If it fits in their lifestyle and it’s something that’s of value to them, absolutely,” Crumley said. “Yoga’s obviously not something that everybody’s going to be into but I think the really cool thing that we see is a lot of firefighters and specifically law enforcement that might think yoga is hippie dippie. This is actually something that provides a lot of value in their own life because it’s something different and it really does pay dividends.”

The workshop is paid for by AT&T’s FirstNet team, which a spokesperson described as a public-safety-specific communications network.