Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fitness and nutrition in the fire service - My transformation journey - By Brad Chicoine

Brad Chicoine is a paramedic/firefighter with the City of Saco Fire Department. He is a resident of Windham. He is promoting healthy diets and exercise among first responders by sharing his story and transformation.
His goal is to help motivate and make people realize that anyone can make a positive change to their health but it does not happen overnight. 

My story. My job. My transformation. 

In the fall of 2009, after being in the Saco Fire Department for a little over three years, I realized that I had become a product of the typical firehouse atmosphere. I found it very easy, when not training or on 911 emergency calls, to just relax with my crew and eat. Not only did I have the best job in the world, but the public always brought in delicious desserts for us. I was married and had a 2-year-old daughter at home with a baby boy on the way. Life was good right?


I was physically in the worst condition of my life and I was only 26 years old. I knew that I had to do something soon. I decided that the first step was to incorporate a physical fitness program into my daily routine, but didn’t really know how I was going to find the time. 

“For a firefighter to give more than the average citizen, he must be physically strong enough to perform such tasks as rescuing victims, moving equipment, and advancing hoseline much more easily.” - FireEngineering.com. 

So I researched and read anything/everything that had to do with physical fitness. At this point I weighed just over 190 pounds and my uniforms were now not fitting me properly. I was also too embarrassed to tell my fire chief that my structural firefighting gear did not fit me either. I convinced myself that by simply using the elliptical, lifting weights, and jogging, I would solve all my problems. 


After two years of sporadic training, in 2011, I had lost 20 pounds but I still weighed over 170 pounds. My best friend Mark Boutin, who had recently competed in a bodybuilding contest, asked me if I would be interested in training with him. I figured I had nothing to lose because what I was currently doing was not getting me the results I wanted. I trained with Mark for the next two years and learned the proper way to lift weights and the importance of nutrition (how to properly count macros -fat/carb/protein). I was shocked when he said that I had the discipline and motivation to compete in a bodybuilding contest someday.

I laughed at him. 

“Each firefighter needs to take an active role in managing his health. Incorporating a healthy eating plan along with a regular exercise regimen into his schedule enables a member to focus more on the tasks at hand when performing the job.” -FireEngineering.com.
In January of 2013, I was talking about physical fitness with a fellow paramedic who mentioned that he worked with an EMT in Old Orchard Beach who was a female bodybuilder. In March of 2013, I finally met Morgan Swinburne of MOTIVATION by MORGAN – Personal Training and Nutritional Services. She was in fact an EMT, personal trainer and nutritionist! How awesome is that? I asked her if she would be willing to train me so I could compete in a bodybuilding contest in 2014 and she confidently replied, “Of course, let’s get to work.” 

It was the best decision I ever made! 

Over 180 pounds.
Together we decided that I would train for an all-natural bodybuilding competition, called The Spirit of America, in Carver, Massachusetts in April 2014. I contacted my friend Mark to see if he would be willing to compete with me and he agreed! I now had a professional trainer, a buddy to help keep me focused, and a goal to strive for. No turning back.

T-Minus 13 months. 

Over the next year Morgan improved my diet while further educating me about nutrition and post-competition diet sustainability. She tracked my progress through weekly weigh-ins, Saturday morning progress photos, and monthly body fat percentage totals. She designed workouts that would allow me to put on lean muscle mass while losing weight. 

Month after month, day after day, my physique morphed before my very eyes. My progress was starting to be noticed by my friends, family, and co-workers. I felt great. I looked better than I ever had in my life. I met the physical demands of my job with ease by excelling at all tasks on the fire ground and I had to order new uniforms because of my dramatic physique change! 

The morning of April 19, 2014, arrived and I was very anxious. I could not believe that I was going to actually step on stage and have eight total strangers judge me solely on my physique. 

Game time.

Right before I was about to step on stage in front of a crowd of over 500 people, my trainer Morgan asked me, “do you remember over a year ago I told you that I would not put you on stage unless you were ready?” I nodded my head. She smiled and said, “Congratulations, you are stage ready. Enjoy the moment, you earned it!” 

I came in fourth place and Mark came in second place in the Men’s Physique Division. 

Being EMTs and firefighters, it is our job to help people. We can’t do this day in and day out if we don’t take care of ourselves first. Even though my physical and mental transformation was achieved through the discipline of bodybuilding, there are many other ways to get healthy. We just need to find a way to include a healthy diet and exercise into our busy shifts when on duty as well as our personal lives when we are off duty. Our job depends on it. We owe to our families, our fellow brothers and sisters in the fire service, and the citizens in the communities that we serve.


  1. Great job Brad! You use to work out all the time but, when we get comfortable in life things change sometimes...

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  3. What a great example you are setting for others! Congrats on your transformation Brad.