About us

Daren Gardiner

Legacy Member

Daren Gardiner is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist with the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) and currently holds the position of Leader, Health and Wellness. In his current role he has oversight over CFD’s Wellness Centre and it’s staff, which serves the entire uniformed membership of the department providing services such as annual occupational medicals. Daren joined CFD in 2004 and over the course of his career he has been involved in all aspects of CFD’s wellness and fitness operations. He was an instrumental member of the team that founded CFD’s Wellness Centre, which specializes in assessing fire fighters’ physical fitness and mental and physical health by employing best practices and current research.

Further, Daren has administered fitness assessments, conducted lifestyle counselling, and designed and implemented exercise programs for countless incumbent members. He would like to humbly believe that his work has had, and continues to have, a positive impact by promoting and influencing lifestyle change and injury reduction among CFD’s membership. Darren has had the great fortunate to collaborate with other great, like-minded staff in various divisions such as Training, Safety, Ability Management, and Operations to successfully implement many great programs that promote and support fire fighter well-being and resiliency. His work at CFD has been an exemplar for how departments can support the health and wellness of their members across their careers.

Daren enjoys participating in a wide variety of activities including snowshoeing, running, weight training, biking, squash, and walking. There are three main things that motivate him to be active. The first, is seeing the performance benefits that result from his taking part in the various activities mentioned above, such as being able to still run with recruits at 50 years of age. The second would be the health benefits that come along with living an active lifestyle, which afford him the ability to participate in various activities with his family and friends without thinking twice. Last, but not least, is the social aspect and the relationships he has developed and been able to maintain through his recreational and competitive physical pursuits.

For Daren, there are particular habits that he has instilled which he finds help him maintain and enhance his personal wellness and fitness. For example, he has adopted the mindset that some physical activity is better than no physical activity, which has been critical for helping him fit in exercise even when time is limited. Eating in a healthy, balanced way that is not too restrictive and emphasizes proper hydration has also helped Daren maintain consistency in his physical activity and make him feel his best. Lastly, spending time being mindful and calm are behaviors that he is starting to build back in his life and reinforce as lasting habits.

Reflecting on his experiences, Daren would advise departments looking to invest in the wellness and fitness of their members to not be dissuaded in the face of challenges, whether real or perceived. For example, every department will differ in terms of the budget and resources they have available for wellness. However, even if resources are limited, there are still numerous creative, wellness and fitness models that departments can apply. Reaching out to other neighbouring departments for ideas and support can be a good first step. Daren would also emphasize to departmental leaders that health and wellness initiatives can have positive impacts on the performance, injury risk, and mental health of fire fighters and making investments in their most valuable resource will pay off. For the individual fire fighter looking to invest in their wellness and fitness he would advise to keep things simple and to initially focus of developing habits through simple changes. By using this approach, small changes will gradually lead to bigger changes and bigger outcomes.

Daren would also recommend that fire fighters establish goals that are relevant to their lives in combination with a plan, which can guide them in attaining their goals. Staying flexible when planning, however, is critical. A good plan should have multiple contingencies to account for how a fire fighter responds when things don’t go as anticipated. Lastly, finding support from another like-minded member to share in the pursuit and help with accountability can be a powerful way to make lasting changes.


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