Friday, May 17, 2013

Firefighter gets healthy after life-changing event

From the North Oaks News

By Kathy Laur/Editor

The death of a parent is difficult to imagine for those who haven’t gone through that loss, and the idea that you could die someday in the same way can be scary — maybe even alarming enough to inspire you to make some significant lifestyle changes.

North Oaks resident Jeff Rhein experienced this firsthand with the death of his father at the young age of 64 from prostate cancer in September 2011. Both of his grandfathers also had prostate cancer at the time of their deaths.

Most prostate cancers are slow-growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers. Globally, it is the sixth-leading cause of cancer-related death in men. In the United States it is the second. Many men with prostate cancer never have symptoms or undergo therapy, and eventually die of other unrelated causes. Numerous factors, among them genetics and diet, have been implicated in the development of prostate cancer.

During the last year of his father’s life, Rhein was extremely motivated to get in shape.  Having to travel often for work as a territory manager for a company that manufactures fire apparatus (trucks), he was eating poorly and wasn’t exercising. Also employed as a firefighter on the Lake Johanna Fire Department, Rhein set a goal to train for a competition called the “Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge,” which is held several times a year. Firefighters around the world participate in the demanding, five-event physical challenge and try to complete the course with the fastest time. Competition events include a stair climb with a high-rise pack, hose hoist, forcible entry, hose advance, and a victim rescue. The primary purpose for the Scott Challenge is to promote physical fitness, an essential part of structural firefighting.

“Originally, I was planning on doing the competition the first week in October 2011,” Rhein said, “but with my dad’s passing in September, it had to be postponed. I’m now planning on doing the competition in April in Indianapolis.”

Rhein plans to compete in memory of his dad. “He went through some tough last months on this earth and for me, mentally having a mission and a goal to compete in the challenge and finish helped me immensely to get through that time,” Rhein said.

In his early 20’s, Rhein worked out 2 to 3 hours a day and was diligent about his eating habits. Between the ages of 25 and 40, his life seemed to be about everything but fitness. Family, work, house, vacations, etc. all took precedence over his health. At that point in his life, he was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed 268 pounds.
Jeff Rhein, Regional VP Pierce Manufacturing

Rhein now hits the gym by 5:15 a.m. at least six days a week and stays at hotels with workout facilities in them or nearby. “It’s really about planning more than anything,” he says. He includes 30 minutes of cardio and resistance training into his workouts and mixes it up weekly. Now at 194 pounds, he has begun his final phase of training for the contest: he exercises in his heavy firefighting gear.
Rhein feels obligated to do his part in an effort to inform men, especially those over the age of 40, about prostate cancer and staying physically fit. He said, “Any doctor will tell you to cut back on the obvious stuff and exercise, but everyone has their own way of doing that. Finding that balance and making it a lifestyle change is what will make you successful.”

Jeff’s “Before” photo

Editor’s note: Jeff finished with gas in his tank at the FDIC this year and is looking forward to going sub 2 in the not too distant future. 

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