Sam Briggs on Returning to Firefighting: “I honestly believe I was born to be a firefighter”
Looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, Sam Briggs took a rather long break from her initial career to be a CrossFit athlete. From 2004 up until 2013, Briggs, a UK native, worked for the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service. Briggs held a number of roles at various posts during this time, and as everyone knows, in 2013 she won the CrossFit Games.
Now living in the US, Briggs is back as a firefighter, recently sworn in this August at the City of Hamilton’s Fire Department, so on completion of the academy in December she’ll “be out on the pumps” as a Firefighter slash emergency medical technician.
Briggs explained what it is that makes firefighters so unique, and why she is returning to her previous career that she put on hold to chase her CrossFit Games career dreams.
- “Not everyone is wired to go into a burning building when everyone else is running out,” said the 40-year-old who is now a nine-time CrossFit Games competitor. “To have the ability to be very aware of the dangers but to be able to zone in on the job in hand and be able to potentially save someone’s life is a special gift that shouldn’t be wasted. Some people are born to be writers or chefs, they have something innate in them that drives them to write or cook, I honestly feel I was born to be a firefighter.”
While CrossFit is an individual sport (outside of the team competition), Briggs said working as a firefighter means being a part of a team and trusting them to the utmost at very critical times during the job.
- “I love working as part of a team too. The bond you create with your crew is like nothing else. You have to trust them with your life and know that you have their life in your hands too.”
However Briggs said there are definitely some mental and physical similarities between the two.
“When you’re at a fire the job is physically demanding, just walking around in your fire kit and breathing apparatus is an additional 60 pounds then add on all the hose and equipment you’re dragging and you’re already breathing heavy and sweating buckets before you’re even in the fire.”
Running into a burning building, added Briggs, may at times feel like a really challenging WOD, or in trying to compete at an event after a few days of slogging through previous workouts.
“Many jobs are intense bursts of work with little recovery before you’re then working again to make equipment up or make the scene safe.
“Mentally, especially if you’ve had a busy day or been working a large fire for several hours, you’re tired and your head is telling you to stop and rest. You have to have that mental resilience to overcome those thoughts and stay focussed on the task in hand.”
Briggs recently called it a career, and a rather illustrious one, detailing her decision exclusively to Morning Chalk Up, where she spoke about why she loves CrossFit so much and why she decided to take a break from her first career to follow her passion, temporarily.
- “I guess I’d like to be known as someone who’s willing to hurt when needed, but has fun doing so. Not necessarily competing injured, (as I have too many times and wouldn’t recommend), but as someone willing to go deep into the pain cave and have the ability to laugh and joke about it afterwards. I started CrossFit because I had so much fun and I’ve always tried to show that in my training and competing. It’s because I have had so much fun it’s hard to finally step away from this sport. I like to think of it as grit and not stubbornness.”