Myrtle Beach firefighter is also a workout guru

For Weekly Surge For Weekly SurgeFebruary 12, 2014 

Stephen Schuessler during a firefighters competition. Courtesy photo.

Stephen Schuessler arrived on the Grand Strand more than 20 years ago when he went to work for the Myrtle Beach Fire Department. Originally from Lancaster, Pa., Schuessler says he was working at a job installing hardwood floors, and was looking for a change – something that was going to hold his attention for the rest of his life. At that point, he was already a volunteer firefighter and says he loved doing that. “My father and my grandfather were firefighters, and I grew up with a fire station across the street from us,” he says, adding that he decided to ramp up his game and get paid for what he already loved.

He started putting in applications in places such as Philadelphia and municipalities in Florida. “I actually got crazy and put one in out in L.A.” He got word that Myrtle Beach was hiring. “I had never been here,” he says. “I came down and tested, and a few months later, I got picked up. And I never looked back.” Indeed. He has been Lieutenant with the department for 13 years.

Because he says all City of Myrtle Beach firefighters are required to be EMTs – there is very little downtime between calls because everyone is constantly maintaining their certifications and training in areas such as confined space rescue and other just-in-case scenarios. “Throughout the year we are always doing things like vehicle extrication – cutting up a car [with the Jaws of Life] – and things like that.” Shifts are 24 hours on and 48 hours off.

While competing in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, Schuessler was introduced to a strength and conditioning program called CrossFit. “We were seeing the top guys in the world wearing these shirts that said CrossFit,” he says. “The world champion of the Combat Challenge just happened to be in here one day and he said, ‘Hey, come try this out – you need to do this workout.’ My first CrossFit workout was five minutes and 34 seconds long – and I was laying on the floor, my arms were shaking and I was covered in sweat.” He was hooked from that moment.

He says that CrossFit workouts are short and intense – 15-20 minutes long. “I was able to get more out of that than going to the gym for an hour or 90 minutes. I took CrossFit back to the fire station, because when we fight fires – we are all pumped up. We go into these fires and we work super hard for 20 minutes or 30 minutes at the most.” He says the CrossFit training is much like these bursts of intense work.

He continued to train fellow firefighters in CrossFit and eventually obtained his level one certification and began teaching at CrossFit Myrtle Beach ( www.crossfitmyrtlebeach.com.)

Later, an opportunity arose for him to become owner there.

We mentioned the short and intense workouts, but these are also varied with a concentration on functional movement. And Schuessler says that CrossFit can be for everyone. “It can be what we call ‘scaled.’ I can have a beginner at one end and an elite athlete at the other. We are doing the same workout, but it is scaled to your capability. Everything we do can be modified to where you work your way up to doing the actual movement.”

Always on tap at CrossFit boxes – or gyms – is the Workout of the Day, or WOD. “When you come in, it’s a surprise. Every day is a new workout,” he says. “It makes you do something different all of the time, and it’s what they call muscle confusion.” The idea, according to Schuessler, is that you never want your body to get acclimated to doing one thing. “Your body is going to get used to that. So when your body thinks, ‘oh, I got this,’ we change it. It’s one of those things where you are never in your comfort zone.”

CrossFit training seems to go hand-in-hand with the demands of police, fire and military. “We train because of what we have to do at our jobs. We never know throughout the day when we will be called on to use our abilities. I don’t get to warm up when I have to go climb 20 stories at a hotel. I don’t get to stretch or drink my pre-(workout) drink – especially when I get woken up in the middle of the night. But we also have to be prepared, and to me, CrossFit is the answer.”

Schuessler has two young sons, Nathan and Jack. He enjoys movies and riding his motorcycle. He likes mountain biking, and sometimes hits up the Horry County Bike & Run Park, aka The Hulk. And although he has roots here, he envisions a retirement home in the mountains with a stream. “But I would also come to the beach and have a place. I tell people that this is my home.”

Know of a local with an interesting job or career that should be given the Working 4 a Living treatment? Contact Roger Yale at rgyale@gmail.com.

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