Teambuilding activity ideas … there is no shortage of innovative options for building high team performance. “Firewalking” is one of the more extreme ideas listed on this website.
This page contains a comprehensive explanation of firewalking as a team building activity.
We’ve also included a couple of videos so you can get a sense of what the experience is like.
Firewalk events have gained popularity and visibility in the corporate world in recent times, in America, Europe and across the globe.
A firewalk is a modern version of an ancient tradition. Many cultures have practiced it in different forms, including walking on hot stones, on lava, and through burning fires.
Image courtesy of Ross Goodman
It may surprise you to hear that 'firewalks' are common in places like India and Sri Lanka. In India, people walk on charcoals before idols to prove their “innocence” of a crime or an act of evil. If they emerge unscathed, they are innocent. If their feet get burned, then they’re guilty.
In short, a firewalk was and is an ultimate test of an individual's inner strength.
Teambuilding activity ideas such as the firewalk are powerful ways to motivate and inspire people.
Just imagine standing before a carpet of red-hot charcoals.
What emotion are you experiencing? Fear, right?
Well, at least that's what 99% of people feel!
The beauty of this activity is that it helps individuals conquer their fears and understand that they can do much more than they thought themselves capable of doing.
Teambuilding Activity Ideas:
Firewalking is a powerful team building activity, which can be used to improve goal setting, empower individuals, and help participants think outside the box.
Because it’s a fairly extreme activity, it leaves a 'searing' impression on everyone who does it (pun intended!).
Many well-established organizations like Microsoft, American Express, Coca Cola, and AT&T use firewalk seminars to inspire and encourage their employees. Particularly those in middle and upper management echelons. Confident individuals make better leaders and better team members.
Teambuilding activity ideas such as firewalk sessions can help participants to:
Although primarily designed to motivate individuals, a firewalk can also help improve team motivation. If the entire team participates, it should result in a more positive overall team outlook.
Image courtesy of Ross Goodman
The 'fire' in a firewalk session symbolizes anything and everything in your belief system that prevents you from being all that you can be. It pushes you to re-assess your limits and discover how far you will go to achieve your goals.
While there are many teambuilding activity ideas for motivation, it's difficult to find one that is as powerful as a successful firewalk.
A firewalk session is almost always held at night, so that the fire is clearly visible. It includes a couple of hours of training, including visualization techniques.
The fire is built beforehand, giving it several hours to reduce to red-hot embers. It is normally said to be around 1200° Fahrenheit. The fire is then raked to create a level field of up to 10 meters to walk on. Once it is ready, you will be invited to walk bare feet across the burning coals.
Some people even dance across, but if you are thinking of quickly running over the coals, let me tell you that no self-respecting firewalker will ever do that!
Trainers will advise on the ideal speed to walk. They will also suggest techniques to help you complete the firewalk, such as visualizing calm and cool scenes, or repeating words like "cool moss" while walking over the coals.
After the firewalk, you can expect to be part of a de-briefing and experience-sharing session. Et voila! You will have completed your first firewalk!
A firewalk session is one of the teambuilding activity ideas worth considering if you are seeking to improve workplace motivation. It is designed to create a shift in participants' minds, allowing them to break free from their fears and enabling them to make life-changing decisions more easily. It will make participants re-evaluate their strengths and limitations, and the mental and emotional barriers that prevent them from achieving their true potential. It can be a powerful catalyst to motivate and inspire individuals, and also help teams bond together.
It is normally conducted for groups of 20-25 people or less. The maximum number of participants is usually 100. If anyone is younger than 18 years of age, it is important to check that they will be allowed to participate in the activity (some firewalking organizers do not permit this).
This activity must be conducted by certified firewalking instructors. They must be professionally trained and should be experienced and equipped to administer First Aid. In addition to the trainer, the presence of firewatchers, spotters, and other support staff is mandatory, in order to provide adequate safety support for the entire event.
The cost of a fire walking event will vary, depending on the number of participants. It is usually charged on a 'per head' basis, as some participants may withdraw at the last minute.
As firewalking is an extreme activity, it is natural for you to have some apprehensions. The following are some of the common questions on participants' minds before they embark on a firewalk:
Image courtesy of Dadjanda
Most event organizers will require participants to sign a liability waiver before the start of the program.
However, burns or injuries are uncommon if all instructions are strictly adhered to.
There are chances of minor blisters that arise when embers get trapped between the toes and are not shaken off properly.
As far as the actual experience goes, most firewalkers describe it as similar to walking on hot sand or eggshells.
I’ve seen an estimate that about 2 million people have done a firewalk, the majority without any injury or incident.
However, if you’re organizing the event you should be aware that serious injuries have occurred. I think the worst I read about was where 20 managers from Kentucky Fried Chicken were taken to hospital in 2002 after a firewalking event did not go as planned. There are reports of motivational firms being fined in court for firewalks that were determined to have not been conducted properly.
This is one of those teambuilding activity ideas where you ABSOLUTELY MUST examine in detail the background and experience of the training company you choose.
Talk to past clients, and ask plenty of questions about preparation and safety procedures. This will not be an issue for any reputable firm. Your goal should be to ensure you avoid any ‘cowboys’ out there who may not manage the inherent risk properly.
Do I need to prepare for it?
Mentally, yes. Physically, there is nothing much you need to do apart from following the training provided by instructors at the workshop. Please don't turn up drunk though! Instructors will immediately disqualify anyone who is in an inebriated condition or is thought to be unfit to participate.
What kind of clothing can I wear?
Wear comfortable, casual clothes that are no longer than 3/4th of your leg. Shorts are ideal as there are high chances of your clothes getting stained with ash. Of course, you cannot do the firewalk with your shoes on! But, carry footwear that is easy to remove and a towel to wipe the ash and dirt off your feet after the firewalk.
Does it involve hypnotism?
An emphatic NO. You have to walk across the coals with all your senses intact! Hypnotism is not used at any stage of a firewalk session.
What if I don't want to participate at the last minute?
The firewalk is a voluntary act. No participant will ever be forced to participate, even if they wish to withdraw at the last minute. Other participants are also actively discouraged from coercing reluctant team members or individuals into doing the firewalk.
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