Health and Fitness

Keep pushing to be the best you can be

British Firefighter Challenge competitor Bec Meachin is on a mission; to consistently better herself, mentally and physically, and to support those training to be firefighters in doing the same. FIRE talks to Bec about her push to be the best she can be

Part of Haix sponsored Team GB in last year’s British Firefighter Challenge, Bec has continued training even during the Covid-19 lockdown in order to keep pushing to be the best. We spoke to Bec about her approach to training her body and mind for both endurance challenges and the trials of her ‘day job’.

FIRE: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in the Fire Service?

Bec: I joined Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in September 2016 as an on-call firefighter. In January 2018 I relocated and joined Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service. During my time at Notts I have helped lead and teach on a Fire and Police Cadets Programme and I am the Women in the Fire Service’s rep, helping to encourage and promote women in the Fire Service. I’ve managed to secure a new position with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service as a Wholetime Firefighter Training Instructor, which I start in June, so I’m very excited about that!

FIRE: Which firefighter endurance events have you competed in in the past, and what was the most recent one?

Bec: In 2019 I did my first firefighter event, at the Cheshire Firefighter Challenge, the first regional British Firefighter Challenge (BFC). I then went on to do the main BFC in Watford later in the year. This year I competed in a charity stairs run, the Lorus Stairs Run, 20 floors, and was the first female firefighter to complete this since it’s been running.

FIRE: What drives you to compete in such gruelling events?

Bec: As a firefighter, we never know from day to day what we are going to have to deal with. We might be asleep in bed one minute and fighting a fire the next. I’m only 163cm tall, and weigh 59kg, so have to work on my fitness every single day to be able to achieve the standard the Fire Service requires to be able to carry out all the activities I need to. The firefighter challenges really help focus my training and cover all aspects of what we might need to do at a real incident. As a woman, I do find people ask how I would be able to rescue them in a fire, how I’d be able to be strong enough and fit enough to do the work. Well these challenges help prove to both colleagues and the public that I can do this, and I can achieve.

“I am a big believer that if you have the perseverance to work as hard as you can at something you want, then you can achieve it”

FIRE: Is there a particular event stage (eg stair run, casualty dummy rescue) that you find the most challenging?

Bec: That dummy drag has to be the most challenging! The dummy in the BFC weighs 11kg more than me, and with a BA set on your back and all your kit, it’s very difficult to pick up, let alone drag it 50m! The challenges always put the dummy drag at the end of the event, so you are already exhausted from the rest of it! I practice a lot of deadlifts and squats to try and improve this area!

FIRE: What do you think the benefits of Fire endurance events are for the competitors and the wider firefighting community?

Bec: Everyone who competes in these events are the fittest people I know. They push themselves every day to be better. The camaraderie is amazing, and you are encouraged so much to compete and achieve. It doesn’t matter where you come on the leader board, the fact that you have stepped up to the challenge earns you a lot of respect. The more firefighters who do the challenge, the more others are encouraged to do it. Places go extremely quickly for the challenges, and there are a lot more women competing too, which is great to see. In the end we are doing a job that requires us to be very fit, so practicing for competitions is always going to help with that.

FIRE: Can you tell us a little bit about what sort of training you undertake for each event?

Bec: I am always training, no matter when the next event is, trying to get stronger and fitter! I have my own gym in my back garden, and I’m in it most days! I am lucky enough to have a great coach, who sets me workouts to do. They are a mixture of strength training (I love a good deadlift!), endurance workouts and cardio workouts. A little look at my diary this week, and I have a tyre workout, legs session, deadlifting session, chest and arms session and finish the week off with some more legs! I have a stair master in my gym, so I regularly do some interval training on that, mixing it up with gym kit, fire kit and weight vests. When it gets closer to an event, the best way to practice is to get the actual equipment out and practice the elements of the circuit. Adding just fire kit makes a big difference, so it’s important to practice with the gear.

FIRE: Has the ongoing lockdown situation affected your training regime? Are you still training while at home?

Bec: I am so happy I invested in my own gym! I’ve got everything I need to keep training and pushing myself. I have also been training at the fire station with the actual kit. The thing I have missed is having the one-to-one sessions with my coach, or just having someone to spot you so you push yourself a bit further. But I don’t think it has stopped me working hard and pushing myself every day. We can always do bodyweight work, so there’s no excuse really to keep fitness up!

FIRE: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about you, your training or your job as a firefighter?

Bec: When I first started in the Fire Service I only weighed 52kg and really struggled with the fitness tests, especially the strength side. I struggled to deadlift my own bodyweight. But I’ve worked hard every single day on my fitness, and never stopped. I’ve got fitter, and so much stronger (I can almost deadlift double my weight now, and I weigh a lot more!) I think the competitions have really pushed me to keep working hard at my training so I can be the best I can possibly be. I am a big believer that if you have the perseverance to work as hard as you can at something you want, then you can achieve it. I encourage all men and women to push themselves every day to be better.

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How can mindfulness help you cope with lockdown lifting?

As movement restrictions start lifting, we may fall back into old habits of rushing around on autopilot. The Fire Fighters Charity suggests that mindfulness could be just the thing you need to help maintain a sense of peace

As lockdown restrictions ease, how are you feeling about going back out into the world? Nervous? Worried about what it might look like? Or excited to get some semblance of normality back?

One thing that lockdown has given all of us is time to stop and take stock of what is important. And perhaps, as we look to the next phase of the pandemic, we should also be thinking what good we can take from our time in isolation. What lessons have we learned that we can apply to life whatever it might look like in this next phase?

Well, for many of us, one thing we can try to do is avoid the temptation of thinking and doing in autopilot, being so busy rushing around feeling the pressure to get things done. When we live life like this, we are not present in the moment. Our minds are busy thinking about yesterday, tomorrow, next week or next month. We are too busy being busy.

You may think that multi-tasking is the most efficient way of getting things done. And some people do prefer to have lots of plates spinning. But research has shown that our brains are not as good at handling multiple tasks as we think they are. In fact some studies suggest it actually reduces productivity.

All of this rushing around, mentally processing the many things on our ever-expanding to-do list can impact on our mental wellbeing, potentially leading to an increase in stress and anxiety.

So before we jump back into our busy lives and forget the calm of the last few months (at least, for those of us who have not been working on the frontline) let us look to how mindfulness could just be the self-help tactic we need to maintain good health and wellbeing as we come out of a life in lockdown.

What is Mindfulness?

Maybe you are familiar with the term mindfulness and maybe you are not. But it is quite possible you may have been used elements of it during lockdown, perhaps without even realising. Maybe you spent time sitting in your garden with a cup of tea listening to the birds. Possibly you consciously turned off the news and just concentrated on your breathing to avoid feeling overwhelmed by so much suffering. Or perhaps you have discovered a love for walking around your community, discovering new areas of nature you never knew were there. All of these are mindful behaviours.

Mindfulness aims to reconnect us with ourselves, allowing us to become aware of our emotions, feelings and actions, giving ourselves time and space to do so.

It facilitates a connection with both mind and body, so we can be aware of ourselves alongside what is going on around us. It moves away from the busyness of our minds, and therefore moves away from the stress of it.

How To Do It

Mindfulness can be used in everyday life and does not have to take a lot of time or effort. Here are some examples of mindfulness activities you could try.

Breathing: Breathe in and out as you normally would and notice each inhalation and exhalation, notice your lungs expanding and notice when your mind wanders and bring it back to your breath. How was this different to the breathing you do every day?

Body scan: Spend a minute bringing your awareness to your body. Starting with your feet and moving upwards, notice any sensations, how does it feel where you are sitting/standing? Which part of your body was the easiest and most difficult to focus on? Where did your mind go? You can find guided body scans online.

Mindful walking: Walk slowly, be aware of the sensations on your feet and in the muscles in your legs. Notice what you are thinking, notice where your mind wanders and bring it back to your walking.

Mindful eating: Observe what you are eating and give it your full attention. Notice the textures of the food, smell it, notice the taste and notice the speed at which you chew your food – slow it down!

Mindful listening: Listen to what is around you, be aware of new noises within a minute of mindful listening, or notice if noises change.

Mindful emotions: As you sit, notice your breath. Move your attention to any emotional sensation you may be feeling. Be interested. How does it feel? If it had a shape what shape would it be, is it hot, cold, pleasant or unpleasant? Notice how it changes as you focus your attention on it.

You might also like to try one of our guided relaxations on our website below.

Mindfulness is something we can do every day to reduce stress and anxiety, so why not give it a go? And if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed by the thought of lockdown lifting, why not browse some of our self-help articles or give us a ring. Our Support Line is open from 0900 to 1700 Monday to Friday and can be contacted by calling 0800 389 8820 or making an enquiry online at:

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