Exercise Science Majors Putting Out Fires

Dec 1, 2016

by Jasmine Bratton '19 | Student Life Reporter

Whether it's a life-threatening situation like a burning house, or a less alarming one like a cat stuck in a tree, there's no doubt that firefighters have to be in the best physical shape to tackle these occurrences.

To prepare the Lakeland Fire Department (LFD) for any level of unpredictable dangers, exercise science major Stephanie Carrillo Chavez '17 has spent this semester interning at the local brigade, making sure that Lakeland's rescuers are ready for action.

As their personal physical trainer, Chavez uses kettlebells to build each rescuer’s muscle strength, the main source of power needed to draw resilience and power in an instant.

Chavez, a certified kettlebell instructor, is expanding an existing internship program that ensures firefighters are danger-ready. Demonstrating the expertise of a fitness professional, the senior is developing her own ten-week program that focuses on improving their mobility while also providing convenience.

Like any advanced fitness instructor, Stephanie shows confidence and determination to get her students in the best shape possible.

“A kettlebell is simple. It’s cost effective, space effective, and time effective as well,” Chavez said. “It's like you’re carrying a bag, with a dumbbell-like weight connected to a handle."

Chavez makes it a point to stay up to date with the trends in the field to optimize the type of training rescuers need to perform most effectively while on the job.

“Within my research, I found out they need postural control for different situations, so it's just a matter of what finding out what kettle swings do to improve and enhance how firefighters work.”

Guiding a controlled, eager group, Chavez’s razor-sharp focus is evident when she flows from one exercise to another, brilliantly juggling between a friendly faced and highly seasoned trainer.

Confidently commanding each session, Chavez also leads by example, switching from double-handed kettle swings to single-handed, while also keeping out a eye for any notable changes in her students’ movement. Patient and encouraging, she serves as a great teacher for the firefighters.

“The exercises are great for our job, because it increases our flexibility and our endurance, and we really need it for what we’re expected to do as firefighters,” nine-year veteran firefighter Damian Motsinger said. “I definitely feel that her work is extremely beneficial to all of us here.”

Chavez understands that the workout is unusual for firefighters, but finds that the LFD rescuers have been incredibly accepting of the new workout, and are already reporting self improvement, describing themselves as more mobile and activity ready. The study is still in the beginning stage, but Chavez can see more concrete benefits to come.

“The internship has made me really welcome to the idea of working with teams, and personally I’m falling more in love with the idea of being a health professional,” Chavez said.

“The internship has made me really welcome to the idea of working with teams, and personally I’m falling more in love with the idea of being a health professional.”
Stephanie Chavez '17

Chavez’s research is already on schedule to be presented at a number of conferences, including the Gulf Coast Fitness Expo and the April Fiat Lux Research Colloquium at FSC. Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Dr. Sara Terrell believes that Chavez’s success is similar to others in her major, as Florida Southern encourages students to pick internships that resonate with them, leading to great achievements in their fields.

“We use the internships for our students to explore the area of exercise and allied health that they’re most interested in,” Terrell said. “What’s great about exercise science is that it can springboard students to a variety of different careers. I encourage students to pick internships that they’re passionate about would want to pursue when they’re done.”

Chavez has made great strides with the LFD and has greatly advanced her personal experience by building  this distinctly effective exercise program. Using the knowledge gained from the exercise science major here at Florida Southern, Chavez has paved her own road of success.

“What Stephanie did was take it a step forward,” Terrell said. “She has turned this into a research project, she has done extensive study on what fire fighters experience, and she’s done extensive research on different exercise interventions. Stephanie will go on to grad school, and this internship is going to definitely help prepare her for the next steps in her career.”