Personally, I am not a puritan or an extremist when it comes to fitness. It’s something I have always done and I think it has helped me enormously in life, career and sports.
I know some will say “buggered if I’m going to the gym just to shoot tin chickens on a Sunday” “Taking it too seriously” etc – but there are shooters who are interested in improving and this is for them. However, I don’t want anyone to think I am pontificating here – it’s simply a thought and conversation provoking article on one aspect of our sport.
We all know that the body is simply a machine which will perform and recover more efficiently when it is tuned and maintained correctly.
Of course, anyone can shoot an air rifle at tin chickens the same way that within reason anyone can walk a couple of miles. The difference is how efficiently each individual’s body copes with the exertion of that walk and the resulting effects upon it in terms of recovery and ability to cope with extra demands shortly afterwards.
I don’t think anyone can disagree that shooting FT is physically demanding and we all need to recover quickly from those demands to steadily hold, aim and shoot the rifle.
I weighed my kit yesterday and worked out most of us are man-handling equipment weighing over a stone (14lb or 6.3 Kgs) for three or four hours around an average FT competition course.
So, we would perhaps agree that a minimum level of physical strength and fitness is required simply to get us through a competition. It is then a ‘given’ that the more our physical strength, health and general fitness are above that minimum required, then other connected aspects of shooting must improve incrementally?
(eg, more fitness / strength = less effort = reduced fatigue = lower heart rate = lower respiration = more stability = more concentration and focus etc.)
Yes, many shooters compete in FT without any physical training, preparation or consideration of how their personal fitness impacts upon their performance and nor are they bothered.
Other shooters will already have a reasonable level of fitness and strength gained through having a physical occupation such as a tradesman, daily moving and using substantial equipment and materials etc.
However, if you are someone who has a sedentary lifestyle but needs to improve your FT scores, then in addition to actually shooting the gun and having positive mental skills / attitude, doing some physical exercise and adopting a healthy lifestyle WILL increase your competition performances. How?
Cardiovascular training benefits.
Increases respiratory efficiency, lowers your heart rate and increases recovery times from exertion. This helps you to recover from the effort of getting into position with the gun and getting the heart rate down quicker ready for aiming. Weight management.
Those who exercise regularly tend to have better control of their blood sugars and do not see as many blood sugar swings as those who don’t.
Increasing the power and endurance of muscles involved in FT and will make for less effort handling the rifle and getting around the course, up and down from the bag. In turn, you can make use of the energy saved for keeping stable in a positional shoot. A stronger core will help prevent those niggling injuries to backs and shoulders.
Increases joint stability and posture.
There’s lots of moaning and groaning by shooters getting into and out of sitting position with the gun. Keeping your body flexible and increasing your range of motion will help finding and maintaining comfortable shooting positions and reduce the likelihood of pulling a muscle whilst doing so.
Eating and drinking.
Yep, I like the occasional big mac and a regular pint, but a mega curry and six pints the night before a shoot ain’t gonna improve your scores. For me personally, we are what we eat and it’s about everything in moderation. We all know the story so I ain’t gonna patronise you with a lecture – the info is out there.
Keeping hydrated is a massive plus for any sport. Dehydration causes fatigue, which leads to poor performance. Furthermore, since the muscles are mostly made up of water, muscle function is heavily dependent upon hydration.
You don’t have to buy lycra leggings (though Martin Calpin would look bonny in them) and become a gym rat to get all these benefits. Even minimal physical efforts and some thought to a diet can bring large rewards to your sport.
In the next article, I’ll look at easy techniques to help with all the areas discussed. (and get some photos of Martin in Lycra doing a lap at Anston)