Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oh! My Back!

CrossFit continues to attract amateur athletes, wishing to improve their performance and make changes in their lifestyle. While exercise does come with some risk, the greater risk is in remaining sedentary.

Here’s an interview with Dr. Stuart McGill, professor of spine mechanics, University of Waterloo, Ontario on the subject of safety and techniques in high intensity training such as CrossFit.


Hammer Time

Trusty Cook – Model #10, 9.6 pound shot-filled polyethylene
(by Ron Beckman)

The sledgehammers used for the Firefighter Combat Challenge are manufactured with a steel rod inside the handle welded to a hollow steel tube inside the head filled with welding slag, or metal shot.  The polyethylene injection molding process fills in voids and surrounds the metal components held in a mold during the process and produces a very durable dead blow hammer that weights 9.6 pounds.

For placing these hammers into service for competition, several slight modifications are needed in order to allow officials to monitor their correct use under the Rules.

There are five (5) small ⅛” (2mm) holes on each hammer on the handle and the head resulting from the injection process.  Duct tape is used to cover each of these holes so that hand placement can be watched, as well as foregoing any possible debris loss (of the shot inside the head) onto the Keiser Force Machine while conducting the forcible entry evolution during the Challenge.

The polyethylene is very slick and the tape does not stick readily to the hammer surfaces.  A belt sander, sand paper, or other roughing tool must be used to rough up the area circumfrencial on the handle in order to cover the holes, as well as the area on one side of the head.   There are three areas on the handle and two holes along the depression on one side of the head.  Once the light sanding is completed, clean the areas with denatured alcohol.  Black tape is used on the hole closest to the head of the tool to indicate incorrect (too high) hand placement.  All other holes are covered by red tape.  A “patch” of red tape approximately 5” (w) X 2” (h) is placed over the holes on the head area.  A razor knife is used to trim the tape so that the tape fits neatly into the depression cast on the side of the head.

Once the taping of the holes is done, the hammer is subjected to pre-loading.  Fifteen hard strikes are delivered per side of the hammer onto the end of a Keiser beam standing vertically upright.  A concrete curb may be substituted for the Keiser beam.  A date is written on the head area of each hammer with a “Sharpie” marker documenting the date that it was placed into service.

The hammer is now ready to be used officially for competitions.  The hammer is pre-loaded before each run by delivering one (1) solid strike to one side of the head before it is set on the ground.  The pre-loaded side of the hammer (head) is faced towards the outside of the course so that each competitor can choose to use the pre-loaded side for the first strike.  The middle section of tape on the handle is also used as an indicator for proper positioning of the hammer at the ready resting against the Keiser beam.  This allows for a precise and consistent 11° from plumb (vertical) angle so that each competitor can grab the tool for driving the beam during the evolution.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Don't Lower Standards for Female Firefighters

By Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D.
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 10:42 AM

If you’re ever trapped in a burning building, just pray the fire fighter climbing up to rescue you isn’t Rebecca Wax. Or someone like her, who’s been given an EZ pass through firefighting training for the sake of gender equity.

This week Wax, who repeatedly flunked the rigorous physical test required by the New York City Fire Department, will be allowed to graduate anyway, according to the New York Post. All over the nation, fire departments are easing physical standards to increase the number of women firefighters. It’s roiling fire departments, and the turmoil is a preview of what’s to come for the U.S. military, which has committed to opening all combat roles to women by 2016.

Wax tried six times to pass New York’s Functional Skills Test within the 17 minute 50 second deadline. Five times she couldn’t finish at all; on the sixth try she needed 22 minutes.

Women’s groups claim the test is needlessly difficult and unfairly bars women. Trainees wearing fifty pounds of gear and breathing through an air tank must climb six stories, raise ladders, break down doors, and drag a dummy through a dark tunnel, all at breakneck speed. Sounds like fire fighting.

The test is tougher than most cities require, but New York city buildings are higher. Nevertheless, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro gave Wax a pass because she had good performance on other measures, including academic tests.

Nigro wants to significantly boost the number of women in the FDNY, now only 0.5 percent, and he wants to do it before he’s staring at a court order.

Court orders are compelling Chicago to relax its standards. Two federal class action lawsuits brought by women who flunked Chicago’s firefighting tests claimed that the exams required more than what is actually needed to be an effective fire fighter.

Women account for 3.4 percent of the Chicago force, compared with 5.7 percent of fire fighters nationally. Chicago authorities settled the case last month, admitting into training women who had previously failed and paying millions to others no longer eligible.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti is plainly unhappy with this year’s all male class of firefighting graduates. There were four women among the 44 recruits who started last December, but they all dropped out.

Desperate to diversify, Garcetti paid the RAND Corporation a whopping $270,000 for advice. RAND’s brilliant insight was that L.A. should recruit women athletes who can take the grueling training. Duh!

That’s what San Marcos California learned upon hiring Siene Freeman. Several other female recruits had washed out, but for her — a former marathoner, and weight lifter — the training was a piece of cake.

Municipalities who already have women firefighters are being hit with lawsuits for another reason, sexual harassment. This year alone, Philadelphia, Tampa, and at least a dozen other cities are being sued for allowing a culture of bawdy, suggestive behavior. Tampa’s Fire Department Personnel Chief, known as “Uncle Touchy,” just resigned after admitting he had hugged, massaged, and flirted with female firefighters.

Many departments face the practical problem that firefighters — male and female — work 24 hour shifts, and sleep in an open bunk room, with no privacy curtains or separate changing area. Hardly conducive for a professional working environment.

Nigro says he is going to remedy these problems in New York. Then again, the Tampa female firefighters are fanning the flames. To raise money for burn victims, they put out a calendar. The trouble is, some even posed in bikinis. That's sending a mixed message.

The touchy issue of women in traditional men’s occupations will be center stage this fall, when the Pentagon will announce its “gender-neutral” rules for all military assignments. Some feminists argue that the Marine Corps’ grueling Combat Endurance Test is more of an “initiation rite” than a fair appraisal of physical ability — just like Wax’s supporters are arguing in New York.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey ominously announced at a Pentagon briefing that if  “a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain . . . does it really have to be that high?”

Military brass are too ready to lower standards, never mind the consequences on the battle field. Is that really a victory for women?

Betsy McCaughey is a patient advocate, constitutional scholar, syndicated columnist, regular contributor on Fox News and CNBC, and former lieutenant governor of New York. In 1993 she read the 1,362-page Clinton health bill, warned the nation what it said, and made history. McCaughey earned her Ph.D. in constitutional history from Columbia University. She is author of "Beating Obamacare 2014" and "Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution."