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Lifeguard Fitness Standards



  • The fitness component of lifeguarding seems to be overlooked by most pool guards, especially those only working summers. My facility has just started incorporating fitness into our in-service training, including a yearly water rescue competency test. What does your facility use as a fitness benchmark for its lifeguards? Do they incorporate swimming into their in-service training?



  • Hi, Randy! Although I'm not an aquatics director, I've been with the same pool for over two years. I've noticed recently that the aquatics director at my facility hasn't taken a serious approach to lifeguard fitness standards as you've mentioned. There are some lifeguards that are overweight, and even some that are probably out the the age range desired. I do believe that facilities or some sort of organization should require certain fitness standards for the sake of the patron's safety.



  • "There are some lifeguards that are overweight, and even some that are probably out the the age range desired." I do believe that facilities or some sort of organization should require certain fitness standards for the sake of the patron's safety.

    I think the amount of lifeguard training given depends on the size and type of facility. Right now I'm working for a pool company and other than briefings on the various facilities we work at, there's no real refresher type training. I did work at a larger facility for a while and whether or not they did training all depended on the aquatics director. Some did nothing, some required laps, some did actual rescue training, some did meetings with talk throughs of hypothetical rescue situations. Most smaller facilities don't seem to test a lifeguard's abilities or provide much inservice training. In many cases, they don't have the time, facilities, and/or personnel to do such training.

    I do agree that employers should do refresher training, however, fitness standards aren't always that important. Most pool situations don't require much fitness to make rescues. The important parts are speed and technique. If you have those, who cares how overweight or old you are. A friend of mine is 30-40 years older than me and about 100 pounds heavier than me and yet still can easily best my lap times simply from years of training and being on a swim team. Older guards are often better than younger ones in terms of both fitness and ability and bring a lot of experience. I've worked with guards and swim instructors who were anywhere from 20 to 40 years older than me. As long as you have the skills, age and weight don't mean a whole lot when your longest distance to cover during a rescue is only 25-35 meters.



  • I was about to make a similar comment in regards to overweight lifeguards. My dear friend is a head lifeguard along side me and she is probably 100 pounds heavier than I am as well. She's chunky. BUT we swam together for years, competitively. She killed the 200 fly and made some awesome time cuts. Her swimming ability and skills far exceed the lifeguards that are "physically fit." It's not about weight or an idea of fitness, it's about ability and skill.



  • To add on, at our pool we hold bimonthly in services that head lifeguards write that address areas we think the lifeguards need attention. We have some good results honestly, but there has to be a good staff of head lifeguards to make this work it's best. We have some people who do very well and write them correctly and on time and others that just throw it together and keep it easy.



  • Maggie C said:

    Hi, Randy! Although I'm not an aquatics director, I've been with the same pool for over two years. I've noticed recently that the aquatics director at my facility hasn't taken a serious approach to lifeguard fitness standards as you've mentioned. There are some lifeguards that are overweight, and even some that are probably out the the age range desired. I do believe that facilities or some sort of organization should require certain fitness standards for the sake of the patron's safety.

    Hi what age range so you consider do c lifeguards. Do you allow adults and one seniors I'd they are certified and competent to guard?



  • greg b said:

    Maggie C said:

    Hi, Randy! Although I'm not an aquatics director, I've been with the same pool for over two years. I've noticed recently that the aquatics director at my facility hasn't taken a serious approach to lifeguard fitness standards as you've mentioned. There are some lifeguards that are overweight, and even some that are probably out the the age range desired. I do believe that facilities or some sort of organization should require certain fitness standards for the sake of the patron's safety.

    Hi what age range so you consider do c lifeguards. Do you allow adults and one seniors I'd they are certified and competent to guard?

    Greg,

    The only identified age requirement at our facility is you must be 15 years old at the time of hire. As a measurement for consideration, I don't define age by the number, but by work experience, maturity, temperament, and skill set knowledge. As long as a candidate is compatible with our needs and goals, it doesn't matter if they're 15 or 85. In fact, I currently employ a wide range of ages spanning from 15 to 53.



  • Maggie C said:

    Hi, Randy! Although I'm not an aquatics director, I've been with the same pool for over two years. I've noticed recently that the aquatics director at my facility hasn't taken a serious approach to lifeguard fitness standards as you've mentioned. There are some lifeguards that are overweight, and even some that are probably out the the age range desired. I do believe that facilities or some sort of organization should require certain fitness standards for the sake of the patron's safety.

    Maggie,

    I am happy to hear that you have noticed the lack of attention given to this aspect of the job and encourage you to bring awareness to the issue by leading through example! I think that developing a culture of fitness within the lifeguard profession needs to begin with the lifeguards themselves. Every shift you're able, get into the water and use lap swimming, aquatics games, and in-water drills to increase your water confidence, stamina, and overall level of fitness. For further thought, having acquired two years of experience, what do you think the minimum fitness standards should be for a pool lifeguard?



  • Andrew E said:

    "There are some lifeguards that are overweight, and even some that are probably out the the age range desired." I do believe that facilities or some sort of organization should require certain fitness standards for the sake of the patron's safety.

    I think the amount of lifeguard training given depends on the size and type of facility. Right now I'm working for a pool company and other than briefings on the various facilities we work at, there's no real refresher type training. I did work at a larger facility for a while and whether or not they did training all depended on the aquatics director. Some did nothing, some required laps, some did actual rescue training, some did meetings with talk throughs of hypothetical rescue situations. Most smaller facilities don't seem to test a lifeguard's abilities or provide much inservice training. In many cases, they don't have the time, facilities, and/or personnel to do such training.

    I do agree that employers should do refresher training, however, fitness standards aren't always that important. Most pool situations don't require much fitness to make rescues. The important parts are speed and technique. If you have those, who cares how overweight or old you are. A friend of mine is 30-40 years older than me and about 100 pounds heavier than me and yet still can easily best my lap times simply from years of training and being on a swim team. Older guards are often better than younger ones in terms of both fitness and ability and bring a lot of experience. I've worked with guards and swim instructors who were anywhere from 20 to 40 years older than me. As long as you have the skills, age and weight don't mean a whole lot when your longest distance to cover during a rescue is only 25-35 meters.

    Andrew,

    I'm glad you related to this topic the way you have expressed. Yours is the mindset that I am trying to change through the fitness initiatives at my facility.

    While speed and technique are important to making a rescue, they are functionally dependent on a person's level of fitness. Remember, a rescue involves much more than making it to the victim. Not only must a lifeguard quickly reach a victim, but get them onto the tube, tow them to safety, lift them out of the water, make a primary assessment, and if necessary, perform Rescue breathing/CPR until EMS arrives and intervenes. If a person is overweight and/or out of shape, they may begin sacrificing speed and technique - taking shortcuts - which could result in additional injuries to the victim or themselves.

    I understand your argument, but caution it centers around the idea of a fresh lifeguard making a single rescue. As emergency responders, we need to train for the worst case scenarios, which no matter the facility size, require a higher standard of fitness.



  • Jennifer H123 said:

    I was about to make a similar comment in regards to overweight lifeguards. My dear friend is a head lifeguard along side me and she is probably 100 pounds heavier than I am as well. She's chunky. BUT we swam together for years, competitively. She killed the 200 fly and made some awesome time cuts. Her swimming ability and skills far exceed the lifeguards that are "physically fit." It's not about weight or an idea of fitness, it's about ability and skill.

    Jennifer,

    I think that you're confusing a larger body shape and being overweight. Someone carry more mass and still be exceptionally fit. For example, strong men train for functional fitness and don't fit the popular perception of being "fit." It sounds like your friend is able to performing at the standard of fitness I'm trying promote. While ability and skill are important, they ride on a foundation of fitness.


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