This is Aleesha’s story in her own words:

I have always been interested in a career as a first responder—it’s in my family. My mother works with the OPP and my stepfather is a firefighter, so when my local volunteer fire department posted for new members, it was an easy decision to apply. 

I knew I didn’t have the stamina to pass the physical test to become a firefighter – which includes carrying a 45-pound self-contained breathing apparatus on your back for long periods and dragging a 200-pound dummy across a truck bay.

At age 25, I felt tired, depressed, and out of energy. I was carrying some extra weight and felt physically ill and weak a lot of the time.

I signed up with personal trainer, Jasmine Guanzon, at GoodLife Fitness Northwest Plaza in Kingston. Jasmine created a customized workout plan to prepare me for the physical test, including a sandbag carry and a makeshift dummy drag. We focused on building lower body strength and ensuring proper form for every lift. We also did circuits and HIIT training to build cardio endurance.

 

Going into my test, after weeks of training, not only did I feel ready to drag a 200-pound dummy, I was excited to do it. I’m also required to carry ladders, tools and even people of up to 180 pounds on my own while wearing my breathing apparatus on my back. Fitness has made a huge difference in my physical capabilities.

Today, I’m halfway through my Firefighter Level 1 training and am preparing for my Hazmat training in August. I expect to complete my Level 2 training by the end of October and be able to take real fire calls after that. I feel confident and optimistic about the future, not to mention strong enough to succeed in my career.

My goals started small. Things like being able to throw my daughter in the air without getting tired, stop eating fast food and learning proper form at the gym. It was a slow and gradual process, but every single accomplishment meant so much to me, and the confidence began to come through. My entire outlook on life has changed⁠—I have so much to look forward to every day.