5 first responder fitness gurus you should follow on Instagram By: Rachel Engel


Imagine coming back to the station from a grueling outdoor training rotation, or after working a highway incident scene at noon in July. You’re exhausted, dripping with sweat and absolutely parched.

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Across the room, someone sits down in a chair with a frosty, iced glass of the coldest water known to man – or at least, that’s what it looks like to you.

You want that water. It’s the answer to all your current problems.

That’s how fitness influencers work. You want their abs. You want their endurance. You want their lung capacity!

Get motivated and get moving!Get motivated and get moving!
Get motivated and get moving!

Well, you can have it – and they’re here to help. Meet five of the top fitness influencers on Instagram from across public safety. At the end of this article, download a printable poster with motivational quotes you can hang to inspire your fellow responders.

Check out their philosophies, follow their pages, and gear up: it’s time to get fit.

1. Meet Tyler Downes, a.k.a., “The Fit Cop”

After playing soccer in college and earning a degree in criminal justice, Tyler Downes served in the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming a police officer. Fitness is central to his life – he joined the National Guard in 2016 as a recruit fitness instructor and placed first in a 2019 powerlifting competition in his area.

On his Instagram page, Downes shares fitness photos and offers words of inspiration and motivation.

“If you’re an out-of-shape first responder, you’re a liability,” he wrote in an August 2022 post. “When you choose this profession, you lose the right to be unfit. Your life or someone else’s will depend on your physical ability one day.”

Photo/downesstrength via Instagram

2. Meet Aaron Zamzow, a.k.a. “Zam” of Fire Rescue Fitness

If you need some high-energy motivation, Zam is your man. A Wisconsin firefighter-EMT and host of FireRescue1’s new Better Every Shift podcast (have you seen the episode featuring Fire Department Chronicle’s Jason Patton?!), he truly embodies the role of fitness guru. Through instructional videos and labeled exercise photos, Zamzow explains how to do the movements safely and with the proper form.

He also shares a wealth of information, from stats on health and wellness, to the reasons why your excuses for not working out don’t hold water (yes, you!).

“Motivation is what gets you started … a habit is what gets results,” Zamzow wrote in a December 2022 post. “The key to accomplishing your fitness goal starts with a focus on establishing healthy habits first and results second. Regardless of what your overall goal is, here is one of the first habits you need to develop to be a more fit and healthy first responder.”

Photo/getfrf via Instagram
Photo/getfrf via Instagram

3. Meet Jim Moss and Dan Kerrigan of Firefighter Functional Fitness

Jim Moss is a career chief officer, personal trainer, author and advocate. He co-wrote the book, “Firefighting Functional Fitness: The Essential Guide to Optimal Firefighter Performance and Longevity”.

Dan Kerrigan, the other half of the Firefighter Functional Fitness byline, is a career chief officer, certified peer and group fitness trainer, and a Russian kettlebell instructor.

Their book offers fitness advice from a firefighting perspective, and coaches readers on how to prepare for the needs of the fireground by exercising like they’re there.

Photo/Firefighter Functional Fitness via Instagram

4. Meet Ted and Emily of the Fit Responder

This husband-and-wife duo are on a mission to make first responders the fittest professionals in the country. The couple met on the job as police deputies and are both personal trainers and fitness coaches, as well as busy parents managing their family of four children.

Through their program, Fit Responder, the couple offers pre-program consultations and customizable nutrition, fitness and healthy living plans for participants.

Many of their social posts focus on the idea of putting in the effort regardless of circumstances – that anyone can achieve a fit mindset.

“Every day I see some comment that first responders are ‘doomed’ to be unfit because we are sedentary, have crazy shift work and long days, stress, juggling family, mandatory overtime,” they wrote in a July 2022 post. “None of that needs to be a total roadblock.”


5. Meet Brittany Knight of BK Fitness

Firefighter, personal trainer and nutritional coach Brittany Knight encourages her followers to see the trees, and not the forest – aim to lose one pound, as a first step, instead of focusing on that coveted 20. Her uplifting words, shared with videos and pictures of her flexing, lifting or just grinning at the camera, come across as a soothing pep talk.

“There is no need to 0 to 100 to reach your goal,” she wrote in a January post. “Break it down. Keep it simple. Stay consistent. All foods fit, even when trying to lose weight.”

She added one more very, very important reminder: “And don’t forget to check your smoke alarms!”

Photo/b.knight4 via Instagram

Fill out the form below to download a printable poster with motivational quotes to share with your colleagues.