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Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Craig Yanantuono and fellow firefighter Keith Eckels played a heavy game of catch to work their arms and abs.
Pulling their fat out of the fire
Jina Papadoniou
Keith Eckels, left, and Kevin Smith now tote kegs for reasons other than personal enjoyment.

A group of Baldwin firefighters has teamed up with Kristie Lengel, 23, owner of Baldwin’s LEARN fitness, to get serious — not about fire prevention or the latest firefighting techniques, but rather about their own health and wellness.

Ten firemen have signed up for a full three-month belly-busting program, though their ranks swell to 15 or more on a class-to-class basis. The firefighters weigh in at the start of every other session — they meet three times a week — and then proceed through a variety of nontraditional drills and exercises aimed at helping them improve the fitness they need to battle blazes.

As is the norm at LEARN — Learning Exercise, Activity and the Right Nutrition — working out isn’t the only item on the firefighters’ schedule. They are also figuring out what to eat, how to count calories and how to make better nutritional choices throughout their lives.

Lengel, a Lynbrook resident, said she was moved to offer the program — which is available at a discount to BFD members and their families — by her father’s and brother’s experiences as firefighters. “I was inspired by my father and brother, who are in the Fire Department in Lynbrook,” she said. “I know Fire Department guys can have poor habits in terms of eating and drinking. [Former chief] Kevin Smith is a good friend of mine. He does a lot of bartending. He’s always visiting people. He and the others decided it was time to start getting serious about their health.”

Fitness, Lengel says, is important to everyone, but for firefighters it can be a matter of life or death. They carry heavy equipment into burning buildings, and need to be in shape to ensure not only their own safety, but the safety of those they are protecting. She has designed their program with these goals in mind.

“We’re not a gym,” Lengel explained of the LEARN approach to overall wellness. “We don’t use machines. There’s no bench-pressing going on. But believe me, the guys are getting their butts kicked.”


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