By Anthony Kuipers
Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho
PULLMAN, Wash. — A Pullman firefighter and former competitive bodybuilder is currently the top-ranked participant in a national fitness magazine contest.
If she wins the contest, April Manyon hopes to use her success to help her fellow first responders.
Manyon, 39, is competing to become Ms. Health and Fitness, a competition sponsored by the magazine Health and Fitness Hers. The winner of the contest receives a $20,000 prize.
The competition requires online voters to pick the health enthusiast they want to see move on to the next round. The competition of 50 participants has been narrowed to 20, and the public can vote online at www.mshealthandfitness.com/2019/april-2.
Manyon said if she earns the prize money, she will donate a portion to organizations aiming to help first responders like her. One, 555 Fitness, provides a training program to firefighters to promote health and prevent injuries. The other, Next Rung, provides resources to first responders who may be struggling with mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Manyon said mental health is a serious concern among firefighters because in order to do their job effectively, they have to disconnect emotionally from the stressful situations they deal with.
“You can be empathetic, but you can’t be emotional,” she said.
Manyon has found, at times, it is hard to switch off the firefighter mentality and reconnect with her emotions when she is at home with her three daughters. It is an issue she has been working to manage, she said.
Manyon says exercising has a therapeutic effect, in addition to keeping her physically healthy.
“It’s my emotional outlet,” she said.
Manyon works out twice a day and has recently taken up CrossFit. She heads to the gym before her children wake up, and then exercises at the fire station when she is at work.
She started working out as a teenager and participated in bodybuilding competitions, which Manyon said required her to consume about 3,500 to 4,000 calories a day to bulk up.
Passion for fitness runs in her family. Manyon said her father, now in his 60s, participates in CrossFit himself. He also helped inspire her to become a first responder. He worked as a law enforcement officer and a firefighter in his career, and Manyon saw how important his work was to their community.
Manyon knew she wanted to join a profession that contributes daily to helping society. Being a firefighter and advance EMT allows her to do that.
“If I’m (at work), I’m here for the community,” she said.
Manyon was a firefighter in North Carolina before moving to the Palouse to be closer to her three daughters. She started with the Pullman Fire Department in January.
She believes fitness will help her be there for her community for a long time. With such a physically demanding job, cardiovascular disease is common among first responders, and the best way to combat that is through diet and exercise, she said.
Staying fit also makes them better suited to strap on 100 pounds of gear and endure high body temperatures.
“If we aren’t healthy, we can’t take care of the public,” she said.
Voting in the Ms. Health & Fitness contest continues into August. Round 2 voting ends July 10. The winner will be announced Aug. 21 and, if she wins, Manyon will be invited to a Health and Fitness Hers photoshoot.
©2019 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)