by Stephen Miwa
Husband, fireman, triathlete, CrossFit athlete, and powerlifter- how many people in this world can say that they are all of those? I know only one - Dave Grady.
Growing up in a small town, Dave always pictured his options for college being between three choices: business school, medical school, or law school. He decided to go for business and marketing. Upon graduation, Dave went to work in corporate America, and he hated it. “Every single day, I looked out over a sea of cubicles and thought about how unfulfilling it was,” says Grady. He met a fireman through one of his friends who told Dave many stories about the profession. That’s when he decided to give firefighting a try. Dave wanted to do more than just increase the profits of large corporations. He wanted to make a real difference in people’s lives. “Most people die when they are 25, and they aren’t buried until they are 80.” Grady continues, referencing people’s complete career fulfillment, “That wasn’t going to be me.” In 2009, Dave became a fireman in Bellwood, IL, and in 2014 he moved to Cicero, IL where he has been ever since.
Not a day goes by without excitement, anticipation, and camaraderie- whether at the firehouse or the gym. He explains that he works in 24 hour shifts- starting and ending at 7:30am. The morning starts by checking all the gear. From coats, pants, and helmets to air packs, hoses, and trucks. Then, a cook for the shift is designated. “Firemen usually eat pretty well, but I like to make sure that I take care of myself.” Because of this, he tells me that he volunteers to be the cook most of the time, getting to choose healthy and well-balanced meals that allow him to continue to live a healthy and strong lifestyle. Department training follows lunch. This can be anything from classroom work to setting a fire in the training building. Once afternoon training is complete, there is time to work out and then dinner after that. “You can plan anything you want: your meal, your workout; the rest of your evening, but then you get a call and you can be out for any length of time.” Grady continues, “No day is ever the same which is the exact opposite of the corporate world, and I love that unpredictability.” (Photo by Larry Shapiro)
Dave picked up rugby, MMA, and jiu-jitsu in college, but decided to stop doing them when he got on the fire department due to the higher injury rates. That’s when, on half a dare from one of his friends, Dave leapt into the endurance sports world. It began by signing up for the Chicago marathon having never ran more than 3 miles. Before he had even run the marathon, another friend of his convinced him to sign up for an Ironman race on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, in 2011. He had never completed a lap in a pool and he did not own a bike, but he signed up. A couple weeks after signing up for the Ironman, Dave ran the Chicago marathon. He was floored by how hard it was. Dave recalls his thoughts after finishing the race and thinking about his upcoming Ironman, “I have to do that AFTER biking 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles?!?” Luckily, Dave ran into a guy on the train who was wearing an Ironman hat, and that man introduced him to some coaches in the city. “They made it dummy proof,” Dave tells me about his coaches. “Every workout was planned, and all I had to do was follow that plan. That got me through to race day.”
Never being one to stop working, four days after he completed Ironman Madison Dave started CrossFit. Within three months, Dave participated in his first competition, and the following summer the gym that he was with made it to regionals. Over the next couple years he focused on CrossFit, but then transitioned back to focusing on triathlons, this time working on the shorter distance events. Dave tells me how he qualified for nationals at the Olympic distance in his age group, “The harder it is, the better I do. I grew up farming, bailing hay. It was my work ethic- trained to not stop until you’re done. So, the harder you work, the sooner you’re done. That has always worked well for triathlons.” Since then, powerlifting has become the next sport added to the ever growing list. Consisting of just squatting, bench pressing, and deadlifting, Dave figured that he would give that a try. His base in strength sports and the direct benefit of strength training to his job made powerlifting that much more important. Just a couple of months into training, he competed and placed 3rd in his age group. He is training now for an upcoming meet where he hopes to add to his already impressive athletic resume and qualify for nationals…in this sport, too.
When asked the question about how the variety of sports and high level competition has impacted his job, Grady states:
“Firefighting is a job where how good of shape you are in actually makes a difference. It can be a life or death situation when you are out on the job… whether that is your life, your partner’s life, or a civilian’s life. Being in shape for my job, I take very seriously. I’ve never let myself get out of shape. That’s the big thing, I’ve never taken months off.”
Dave has become his fire department’s workout role model. He sets up and runs outlined daily workouts for his coworkers when they have the time to do them. He gives them the opportunity to get and stay fit to make the most of their careers as well.
As his coworkers have watched his progression through injuries, rehabilitation and return to competition, Dave is the person that people come to if they are hurting. “In addition to fixing me, injury prevention has been the big thing that Achieve has taught me, and I have been able to take that knowledge and help other people.” Educating patients about their diagnosis, biomechanics, and pain management solutions what makes Achieve stand out above their peers. Dave listens intently to this education and the explanation of various items including muscle recovery, treatment of strains, joint health and more. He knows that firefighting is a tough job and that it will take its toll on his body. However, stretching, rolling, and working out is his plan to combat this. “I don’t want to retire and limp off the job. I have seen that enough times, and I don’t want to be one of those guys. I want to walk off looking good, feeling good, and having a strong body. Otherwise, what’s the point if you can’t enjoy your retirement years.”
It takes effort, time, focus and persistence to make each day count, and Dave is a master of these. It is a good bet that Dave’s always-active lifestyle, coupled with his proper treatment of his body, will make his enjoyable retirement years happen. That is, of course, if he can ever stop working without starting something new.