The 5 Ways to Overcome the Challenges of FIFO Exercise
We work extensively with FIFO (fly in fly out) workers.
And there’s a common theme.
Long and tiring days of work. Late nights. Early mornings. No days off. And something has to give. And often, that something is exercise.
So how can we deal with the unique challenges of FIFO work, and how can we ensure that we can continue to reach our fitness, health and performance goals in spite of these challenges?
Here are our five tips for FIFO training consistency:
Don’t be ‘all or nothing’:
We often get stuck in an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. We’re either following our exercise program to perfection, or we don’t follow it at all. 100% or 0%. While that may be a great idea in a perfect world, the world of FIFO is far from perfect, and 100% is unrealistic. Only able to do 95%. Great! Only 50%? That’s great too. Only 10%? Guess what, that’s still a lot better than zero! Something is better than nothing. Celebrate the small wins.
Plan for the bad days:
It’s human nature to expect we’ll have more time in the future than we have today. That ‘this swing was hectic, but the next one should settle down’. This is never the way. So instead of planning your exercise program for the ‘easy swing’ you’re hoping for, plan it for the ‘hectic swing’ you know you’ll probably get. Sure, this might mean setting your goals a little lower, but if you’re the sort of person who gets down about missing training, more achievable targets might be just what you need to stay on track.
There’s nothing wrong with maintenance:
We’re all guilty of sometimes feeling like if we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards. But there is such thing as standing still – and that’s not always a bad thing. It’s a common struggle with FIFO workers to feel like because they’re not improving their fitness/health/performance during a swing, there’s no point doing anything at all. The problem with that is that then they DO move backwards, and a lot of their time back home (when they are exercising well) is spent trying to get back to where they were before they left. One step forward at home, one step back on site. One step forward at home, one step back on site. It’s an exhausting process that makes it really difficult to build healthy habits. Instead, let’s aim for one step forward at home, NO steps back on site. One step forward at home, NO steps back on site. Progress.
A forced deload may actually be a good thing:
A ‘deload’ is when we intentionally reduce the volume or intensity of our training to help us take advantage of a previous block of hard training. While a FIFO swing may be more ‘forced’ than ‘intentional’, it can still deliver us a list of benefits:
- Allows ‘supercompensation’ to your last training cycle/phase.
- Muscle recovery.
- Joint recovery.
- Tendon recovery.
- Nervous system recovery.
- Optimises and normalises hormone levels (testosterone and cortisol) for general health.
- Suboptimal training on site can result in better training at home:
There are some real advantages of knowing our training will be impacted by FIFO work. Although you’re working hard on site, reducing pressure on yourself to always train hard can offer mental recovery and ‘recharge’, allowing you to approach training fresh when you get home. And when you are home, you can train even harder than you might if you were home all the time, not only because your body is fresher because of an easier week of training, but because you know you have a recovery week coming up next swing. And you’ll better appreciate the privilege of being able to train hard.
Change your program when you’re on site:
The more consistently and regularly you train, the more you can complete sessions that focus and specialise in one narrow form of fitness. For example, if you’re training a lot, you can afford to devote entire sessions to just strength, or just cardiorespiratory endurance, or just power, or just relative strength and stamina. But if you’re not training as much you need to generalise a little more – following programming that offers ‘concurrent training’ where you’re targeting multiple elements of fitness in one ‘multi-modal’ style session. Your program at home should look very different to your program on site.
Sure, there are challenges that come with FIFO work. But with a little self awareness, planning, and realistic expectations, we can turn these challenges to our advantage.
Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.