• From the Field with Jill Craig
    Jill Craig is the Wellness/Fitness Coordinator and Lead Exercise Physiologist for the Austin Fire Department. Craig serves as technical advisor to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and to the task force that authored the IAFF-IAFC Fire Service Wellness-Fitness Initiative.
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  • From the Field BannerFrom the Field | Jill CraigJill Craig, MS 

    Jill Craig, MS, is the Wellness/Fitness Coordinator and Lead Exercise Physiologist for the Austin Fire Department. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Denver and a Master of Science degree in Sports Medicine from Chapman University (Orange, CA). 

    She completed her graduate work in Colorado Springs, CO, home of the Olympic Training Center and the United States Air Force Academy. Craig serves as technical advisor to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and to the task force that authored the IAFF-IAFC Fire Service Wellness-Fitness Initiative. She also participated in the development and validation of the Fire Service Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) and the Peer Fitness Trainer (PFT) Certification curriculum.

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    1. What tactical population do you currently work with?
    I work with career firefighters in Austin, TX.

    2. How did you get started in the TSAC (Tactical Strength and Conditioning) field?
    Having pursued a Master’s degree in Sports Medicine, I began training alpine skiers in Vail, CO. Skiing, like firefighting, is a high-performance activity in an extreme environment. After moving to Austin, the fire service found me. I delivered a proposal to the Austin Fire Department (AFD) to perform their first department-wide fitness assessment, and they brought me on full-time the following year.

    3. What resources do you utilize for continuing education? Are there any resources your recommend staying away from?
    I helped to develop the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Peer Fitness Trainer curriculum, and I teach it, as well. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) manages our certifications and they offer some opportunities. I attend the Redmond Symposium and TSAC Conference each year; and I am a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

    4. If you where hiring someone in your field, what would you look for?
    Attitude can make or break a fitness program. I certainly look at credentials and experience, but would trade those elements for an engaging, patient, energetic, curious, and tactful candidate.

    5. Please describe the regular duties included in your position?
    I head a team of exercise physiologists who perform both clinical duties and athletic training. We see every Austin firefighter every year for a complete medical exam and fitness assessment. I design the academy physical training program for cadets and consult with individuals by appointment to address their goals, concerns, or post-discharge injury rehabilitation. I also manage AFD’s team of Peer Fitness Trainers.

    6. What are the two most important things you have learned; that you wish you knew when you were starting your career?
    It did not take long to discover that firefighters take good care of one another. In my experience, the fire service values brotherhood/sisterhood more than any group. I also learned that firefighters are a “can-do” group of people, and will do what it takes to get the job done. That not only applies to incident response, but to any task set before them. 
    What I had to learn was that they believe they can stand up to the task, whether they are in excellent shape or dismal physical condition. Fortunately, the days of the chubby firefighters playing dominos in the truck bay are almost gone. The firefighters of the “new generation” take their physical performance seriously and buy into the mindset that they are “giving up the right to be unfit.” 
    Had I been exposed to the fire service earlier in my career, I would have known this much earlier and could have benefitted greatly from this knowledge.

    7. What recommendations would you give someone who is looking to start a career in TSAC?
    1. Get a great education in the exercise science field
    2. Keep your mind open to a wide spectrum of training philosophies: Not a single one of them is true, but rather, all of them together inform the truth
    3. Be curious
    4. Resist the tendency to train everyone as you train; let their needs, job requirements, and personal goals drive your purpose
    5. Above all, harm no one

    8. What do you believe are the top three physical requirements for this population that must be addressed in a proper TSAC program?
    I started to answer in terms of specifics like “excellent aerobic work capacity.” But from a more global perspective, I would say good eating habits, good exercise habits, and good sleeping habits.

    9. What steps do you go through when writing a program for the population you work with?
    Screening for safety, assessing for current condition, interviewing for personal goals and preferences, and developing a program that addresses fitness deficits, job requirements, and lifestyle.

    10. What are some critical factors in getting tactical athletes to buy into a strength and conditioning program?
    Stress is a common excuse for poor exercise and diet behavior. An effective tactic is to connect the process of conditioning to family and leisure rather than a dictum from management. For example, who does not want to live long enough to see their children graduate or get married and get to play with their own grandchildren?
  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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