Fit to Compete
by Janna Reeves
“How does fitness relate to shooting?”
This is a question I get asked on a repeated basis, and a worthy question it is. I shoot competition, and prefer the sport of 3 gun. 3 gun matches can be pretty physically demanding at times for several reasons. We often shoot over 2-3 days in the hotsummer sun, spend 10 hours at a time on the range, and shoot demanding courses offire that challenge you mentally and physically. But even before I shot competition, I found physical fitness to play a role in my shooting abilities.
First, lets take a look at how fitness is defined. I The literal definition is“the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” To me, fitness is a balance between cardiovascular health, strength, and flexibility. I was a personal trainer for several years in my 20’s and I always stressed a well-rounded fitness regime for all my clients. Such an approach to your fitness can be of great benefit on the range, whether you’re shooting competition, participating in classes, or just enjoying some range time.
One of the most noticeable areas for me where fitness and shooting intersect is strength. As a female, I don’t naturally have a hulkish upper body and I guess I’m grateful for that! However, I do want to be hulkish enough to shoulder my 9# competition rifle through a course of fire without fatigue. I have shot with plenty of people – not just ladies – who have difficulty shouldering a rifle for any extended period of time. It leads topoor shooting posture/position, accuracy issues as the gun starts to shake, and general frustration at not being able to make your body accomplish what you want! Strength also plays a role in recoil management. It’s not the only factor in the matter of managing recoil butit certainly does make a difference to have upper body, core, and leg strength. During recoil, your body is taking a sharp hit. The caliber and size of the gun determines how big of a hit you take butit’s pretty obvious why strength would help to absorb andmanage recoil. In competition or tactical type shooting, strength will also allow you tomove explosively on the range or through a course of fire and to navigate any obstacles that you may encounter. In 3 gun,we regularly have to run, jump, crawl, scale walls, crouch, and anything else you can think of, and being strong has been of great benefit in these areas. Strength training isan often overlooked area of fitness when it comes tofemales as they don’t want to“bulk up”but that should be the least of your concerns. Most women donot have a natural tendency toget bulky soeven lifting fairly heavy weights won’t result in a body builder look. You can also focus on using lower weights and doing higher repetitions.
Another area where fitness is crucial in shooting is heart rate and breathing. Have you ever tried to take a precision shot after a period of strenuous cardiovascular activity? It’s tough to break a precise shot when your heart is pounding and you’re breathing heavy! Inmy sport, this is often something we encounter. You may be required to take a 400yard shot from a prone position after you’ve just run a significant distance with all your gear, scaled a wall, or ripped through a course of fire that gets your adrenaline going! Heart rate recovery is basically how fast your heart can return to a normal rate after activity. Obviously, a well conditioned cardiovascular system will allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal much faster. Fortunately, cardiovascular health doesn’t have tobe achieved solely by long stints on the boring treadmill orby running! Myfavorite way isto incorporate interval training into my strength training workouts. This can be achieved either by incorporating a cardio intensive activity (think jump rope, mountain climbers, jumping lunges etc.) for 30-60 seconds into your strength training routine.
Ultimately, a fitter you translates to a more capable shooter, no matter the shooting activity you choose to engage in! I personally try toget a workout in a minimum of 2-3 times a week and they last anhour each. I have recently began working with a personal trainer and find the extra motivationtobe a huge help. However, there is so much information available online now that it’s easy to find solid workout plans todoon your own. You can even accomplish a lot with bodyweight exercises that don’t require spending time in a gym. Earlier I talked about upper body strength and while that isanimportant area to strengthen, I recommend a well-rounded training regime that will also strengthen the lower bodyand core. It’s crucial to remain well balanced in your strength training to help prevent injury andto gain the most benefit from it.
Bonus to all of this – you can open your own pickle jars without assistance and hoist your own ammo cans. Being the fairer sex doesn’t mean we have tobe the weaker sex! Hope to see you on the range….and in the gym!