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Firefighter Combat Challenge: The Toughest 2 Minutes in Sports

Forget the Tough Mudder. Fitness trainer and firefighter Michael Medeiros answers our questions about this 5-stage obstacle course—and how insanely fit you need to be to compete.

You’ve heard about multi-mile obstacle course challenges like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash. You know they take a crazy amount of training and mental toughness. But these races are nothing compared to the insane, muscle-demanding, explosive cardio threshold it takes to finish the Scott Safety Firefighter Combat Challenge—five obstacles crushed into a course that takes only about 120 seconds. It’s billed as the toughest two minutes in sports. Why? Because this isn’t an obstacle course just anybody can do. These guys aren’t just athletes. And staying fit is much more than just a job. For them, the difference between good fitness and great fitness can mean the difference between life and death.

Founded in 1991 by Paul Davis, Ph. D., an exercise physiologist and former firefighter himself, the Combat Challenge is an obstacle course where U.S. and Canadian firefighters race through 5 stages wearing nearly 50 pounds of gear. They blow anywhere from 100-250 calories per course run, depending on their size and speed. (FYI: When they’re fighting actual fires, they burn anywhere from 540 to 800 calories an hour.) The challenge promotes firefighter fitness and shows just how rigorous the profession is.

In 2013, the challenge will institute a civilian competition category so anyone can try to beat it. To get a taste, watch top firefighters go head to head in the World Cup championships held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina from November 12-17.

We checked in with nationally certified fitness trainer and competing firefighter Michael Medeiros to get a handle on just how tough the Combat Challenge is—and the badass level of fitness it takes to compete.

MF: What really makes this challenge so difficult?

Michael Medeiros: It’s called the toughest two minutes in sports because of the amount of work the body does in such a short time. You go through so many physiological changes and mental stress breakdown. Plus, you combat the resistance of every task loaded with heavy gear.  NFL football players tried it many years ago against firefighters, and they had a super rough time with it—mostly when they tried to go at full speed. Most people and firefighters who attempt this challenge at a moderate speed can finish, but the same folks who try it at top speed—even your elite fitness athletes—fail half way through.

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