Winners use exercise, diet to slay fitness challenge at Anaheim Fire & Rescue


Firefighter Ali Khairi hadn’t planned to enter Anaheim Fire & Rescue’s fitness competition this year, but when he was challenged by friend and Fire Capt. Grant Riley, he couldn’t refuse.

Fourteen weeks later, Khairi and the entire “Wellness SUX” team at Station 10 were victorious. The name? It stands for Wellness, Strength, Unity, and Excellence.

The team was made up of Capt. Colin Wood, Khairi, and Firefighter/Paramedic Jeremy Keith.

Nearly all members lost a minimum of 20 pounds, as well as strengthened friendships and camaraderie. Winners were chosen based on weigh-ins and body fat percentage.

“It’s about team camaraderie and to push each other so that we can be more fit for the job,” Khairi said.

Fitness challenge winner Khairi Ali of Anaheim Fire & Rescue.
Photo by Stephen Carr/Behind the Badge

“When you do it as a group it’s motivating,” said former Community Engagement Manager Elsa Covarrubias.

Khairi, who lost 26 pounds and was the challenge’s individual award winner, stuck to a strict diet of oatmeal, protein shakes, fish, and broccoli, with cardio workouts every day of the 14 weeks. This was his third time winning the individual fitness challenge at Anaheim Fire & Rescue.

“You have to be completely disciplined,” Khairi said. “When it comes to competition, I’m really obsessed.”

Not everyone committed to that diet, however. Wood and Keith ate what they dubbed the “never-ending salad” every day for lunch, adding chicken, carrots, bell peppers, and more lettuce as the salad diminished.

Station 10 exercised as a team at least twice a day, Wood said, doing weight lifting and cardio circuit-training workouts. This helps them in their jobs as they’re lifting patients, carrying heavy equipment, and running to emergency calls.

On days that members of the team felt tired or unmotivated, the firefighters would buoy one another’s spirits so that no Wellness SUX team member would be left behind.

“There were times that we didn’t want to do it,” Khairi said. “Then Jeremy was like, ‘You gotta do it.’”

Fitness challenge winner Khairi Ali of Anaheim Fire & Rescue.
Photo by Stephen Carr/Behind the Badge

During the challenge, Keith noticed his stamina increasing. He said he was “just seeing results not only physically but also being able to perform better in the job.”

For Keith, getting in shape was a family affair. He worked out with his kids and encouraged them to stay fit with him. By the end of the challenge, he’d lost 28 pounds.

But, Keith said, health hinges on what you do after the challenge ends.

“If it’s just to lose weight and win, and then you stop working out, then obviously it doesn’t benefit you at all,” Keith said. “But if you change your lifestyle, change your routine as far as working out, change your diet, it all adds up and you will get those results that you want.

“It’s awesome we won,” Keith said.

The team at Station 10 celebrated their victory with an indulgence – they stopped at The Habit for burgers and fries.