It’s amazing how much time and money we spend perfecting our gear to shave a few seconds or add a few points to our scores. In focusing on perfecting and maintaining our equipment, we often forget what drives it: our body. Sure, better composition could cut our gaps by a tenth, but shaving 10 pounds off our waistline will likely take five seconds on a step. For many reasons, it is imperative that we take care of ourselves as well as our favorite firearms.
Number one is cardiovascular health. Breathing easier is obviously going to help you navigate easier and faster through a range of fire, but there are plenty of slow-fire benefits as well. Hitting the treadmill or elliptical a few times a week will eventually lower your heart rate, which will reduce the amount of beats you might see in a high magnification bezel. Plus, the more your cardio improves, the more you can extend your natural breathing pause, allowing you to perfect a sight picture for longer periods and break the trigger. The epitome of this concept can be seen watching biathlon shooters run a course. Cross-country skiing can have a huge impact on your breathing. however, with enough training, these athletes can run to a shooting position and shoot 50-meter targets as small as 45 mm (1.77 in) under power. While good shooting basics and a high-end rifle play a major role in their success, keeping that sight anywhere near the target wouldn’t be possible if a competitor was out of breath.
Strength training is also essential. The more robust our muscles are, the less they will be stressed during basic manipulations and maneuvers. I like to emphasize core conditioning because these muscle groups are often overlooked. Simple sit-ups, leg raises, or crunches will help strengthen both your abs and your obliques, making it easier to twist and bend into positions that might be needed to complete a shooting course. If getting into these positions is more manageable, you’ll get there faster and can even consider other ways to perform specific maneuvers. For example, when I’m not at my best, sitting with ankles crossed or legs open becomes very tempting, but when I go to the gym non-stop for a good stretch, I cross my legs and drop into a cross-legged position without hesitation.
Building your leg muscles bleeds into both of the aforementioned fitness categories because muscle wheels carry the body more effectively than chicken thighs. I know that when I don’t skip stage day for a few months, I can go through an IPSC course without feeling like I just took a sprint. However, over the months when the most strenuous leg exercise I performed was a vigorous lap around the buffet, I sweat just trying to get my gun belt on. As your legs can be used to make you either very mobile or very still, it is also beneficial to strengthen them for stability. Your legs and core work in tandem to keep you still, and if you put a little extra mass into them, they’ll help reduce your swing zone when shooting casually. Just one day a week filled with squats, deadlifts, or even steep jogs will pay dividends in no time.
To clean up your pistol presentation and handgun accuracy, consider working on your arms, back, and shoulders. It’s obvious that these are the main groups that support a full-strength gun, but few know how quickly the benefits of light strength training can be reaped. While resistance training with heavy weights will get the job done much more effectively, a three-day routine of push-ups, pull-ups, and pull-ups will still add substantial stability to your shooting rig in a short amount of time.
If adding muscle to our body and increasing its efficiency is likened to wielding our favorite running gun, then hydration is the means by which we maintain it. Without adequate fluid intake, your muscles will begin to fail and you will feel undue weakness simply because the muscles are protecting themselves against injury. Chief among them are the muscles that control your eyes. Even mild dehydration can cause blurry vision, making an accurate sight picture nearly impossible. Be sure to pack enough water to get you through the game. There are different ideas about how much water an adult needs; I’ve always been a fan of ½ oz per pound of bodyweight, per day. This is a good starting point and varies from person to person, which is essential as we all have different needs.
Always consult a physician before beginning or modifying an exercise routine, especially if you have had any concerning medical events. However, once your doctor gives you the all-clear, go ahead with it. The exercises I have described will help you in more than shooting sports; they will enhance your daily life. A decent exercise routine will make everyday tasks easier and help you get more done throughout the day. And remember, if you exercise, you’ll likely live longer, which means more time to train.