Four out of five firefighters nationwide are overweight or obese, and roughly half of all firefighters who die in the line of duty each year are killed by heart attacks.

But now a group of health-conscious firefighters is trying to change that with a charity they founded called 555 Fitness, which provides daily workout plans – and even free exercise equipment – to thousands of firefighters across the country.

The workouts are designed to not only burn fat and build cardiovascular endurance, but also to prepare firefighters for the challenge of wearing 65 pounds of gear as they climb staircases, break through walls, and crawl through smoke and fire to carry out rescues.

Recently, we caught up with Lieutenant Robert Piparo — the vice president of 555 Fitness and a certified CrossFit coach — at the New Brunswick Fire Department in New Jersey. After a grueling workout at the station, we sat down with Lieutenant Piparo to learn more about functional-fitness-style workouts, how they are helping firefighters save lives and why just about anyone can do them, including you. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

Why are so many firefighters out of shape?

People have this image of the firefighter running out of a burning building holding a baby in this super athletic state. But we’re just your everyday Americans who have chosen to do a very dangerous job. And we fall into the same pitfalls as everyone else. We work crazy schedules and our sleep cycles are very interrupted.