When a new group of cadets embarked on Hampton Roads Recruit Fire Academy training in January, they probably got more than they bargained for — weekly conditioning with award-winning bodybuilder and trainer, L. D’Shawn Wright.
In a unique partnership with the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety, Wright and his staff of trainers at Body by D Gym and Fitness Center have been appointed as “Fitness Ambassador” to help see through the department’s efforts to improve health and fitness in the workforce, according to a recent social media post.
“Our business is no different than an athlete. We have to be able to immediately respond and to do very strenuous physical activity of various types,” said Steve Kopczynski, the department’s fire chief. “It’s all to ensure that when we are responding that person can do the job and to prevent injury to our personnel through proper lifting techniques and sufficient strength training.”
Firefighters do have a requirement to accomplish a certain amount of exercise during their shift which Kopczynski said was typically led by a shift supervisor, but now is guided or accomplished with instruction from Wright and his team.
The relationship began with proximity as Body by D Gym and Fitness Center neighbors Fire Station 1 in Grafton. It blossomed into a partnership as Kopczynski said they recognized Wright as a “highly sought after fitness trainer” who is active and respected in the community.
Wright has owned his business in York County for about 10 years and said his gym specializes in overall athlete conditioning and just what the department was looking for as they started their new recruits in training.
Cadets are in the gym with Wright at least three days a week doing workouts that will prepare them for their required fitness assessments before academy graduation in May.
Wright said his goals for the cadets go beyond passing the initial test.
“Firefighters should be able to perform that test at any given moment so my job as the fitness ambassador is to ensure they’re physically fit and in shape to be able to do that,” he said. “And I want them to kill this test, I want them to break records.”
Wright said he can best ensure results by applying to their workouts the testing standards and real-life situations firefighters could be faced with.
For example, the “victim rescue” testing event requires an applicant to drag a 175 pound rescue dummy 35 feet around a drum and back again.
While Wright knows adding a new and demanding workout regimen to a routine can be challenging, he said another goal he has is that none of the 12 recruits give up in their training to save lives.
“It’s a true blessing and an honor to get to train real-life heroes and to have a part in their development and fitness, to make sure they’re performing their job to the highest level,” he said.