Are you fit to fire?

Andy McLachlan reminds us that in order to help keep ourselves shooting straight, we need to stay fit in both mind and body

Youngsters also benefit from the shooting experience

One of the many advantages to enjoying time spent outside shooting, and one that we very often fail to recognise, is the positive side-effects that our bodies enjoy as a bonus of shooting.

Taking part in an outdoor shooting activity such as airgun competition allows us the opportunity to use muscle groups that are often left sadly underused in many of our usual daily activities, particularly if we are office-based. It’s a sad fact of modern life that for many of us, physical exercise is something that we now must work at if we want to enjoy the many obvious benefits it will bring. In our ancient past, our ancestors needed to remain physically fit and active to survive the challenges of their everyday lives, be that hunting mammoths or legging it from a sabre-toothed tiger.

Fortunately, the modern world – certainly for those of us living in the West – does not rely so much on our individual abilities to run faster than anybody else to capture our next meal. The problem is, of course, that our bodies are still wired up just as our ancestors’ were. Our bodies produce the chemical adrenalin that is necessary for our limbs to deliver bursts of energy when we need them. As we don’t have to avoid being eaten by predators in the modern world, the adrenalin we still produce when we feel threatened by our overbearing boss has to go somewhere. In the long-ago days of my own early working life, such threats were an everyday part of working. Fortunately, young people today are far less likely to have to experience the very real fears of upsetting somebody who could and often did make your life very miserable indeed.

The major physical effects of having to deal daily with both physical and mental pressures are a well-known cause of the killer that is stress. All that adrenalin that we produce when we feel threatened is designed to let us run like the wind, which is not something that many of us do when we feel under pressure nowadays. This can and does lead to a build-up of chemicals in the brain which have a negative effect on our ability to deal with the pressures of our environment, very often leading to fatigue and depression.

I am not a trained medical person, but having experienced over a long period of time the pressures that the modern world is capable of inflicting upon many of us, it is hardly surprising that so many of us suffer from debilitating periods whereby we find it hard to motivate ourselves to do anything.

Keeping fit is a positive by-product of regular competition

“So what the devil has all of this to do with shooting some targets,” I hear you ask? Well, there is something we can do that is both enjoyable and results in many positive side-effects, both for our physical and mental wellbeing. No prizes for guessing that shooting on a regular basis is just the type of activity that allows any built-up stress to dissipate and for our bodies to enjoy some respite from any actual or presumed pressures.

I also find that fishing has a similar effect upon me. Both activities allow me to focus totally on what I like to do. That might involve trying to work out how far a target is from my position, or casting a lure into a tricky flooding rock pool in search of a bass. People who don’t partake in these activities often presume that we spend all our down-time thinking about the problems of daily life. Personally, the only time I can escape the drudgery of modern life is when I become totally focused on either fishing or shooting and I can escape from reality.

This is not to say that an individual should become irresponsible and avoid the realities of their daily life; just that for those of us who have discovered activities such as shooting or fishing, we are able, on occasion, to enjoy some relatively stress-free time in the company of like-minded people, or even alone if that’s what we prefer.

For those of us who regularly attend outdoor airgun competition shooting, a certain level of fitness will help when travelling to and from individual shooting pegs, particularly in winter when mud is involved. The ability to control breathing is of course a basic requirement when we compose our shots. If we are breathing as if we’ve just sprinted away from said sabre-tooth, our ability to place the shot is severely limited to say the least.

There are of course more traditional ways of staying fit…

For those among the shooting fraternity who are fit, young and leap about like animated gazelles, this is not a problem. If you are like me, though – old and fat – you will require a certain amount of exercise on a regular basis to allow you the opportunity of competing. It has to be said that for many people, the mere act of getting around on a full-length 30-shot course of fire, particularly if hills are involved, will prove to be a formidable task.

If an individual shoots full competition courses on a weekly basis, however, it is surprising how quickly the body improves its level of fitness. Shooters who wheezed and gasped their way around a course will, following just a few weeks of ‘conditioning’, find themselves quickly able to breathe relatively easily and not have to wait five minutes before they are composed enough to take on a tricky shot.

We now begin to discover that not only are we actually enjoying our weekly wander around a target course, but our bodies are not complaining quite as loudly as they did only a few weeks earlier. In my opinion, this can only improve the general feeling of wellbeing that can be discovered by taking on any hobby that involves a certain amount of physical activity.

It might take longer to learn the skills required to be competitive with the top shooters, but at least you won’t feel as physically tired when attempting to do so!

I honestly believe that the physical benefits of just enjoying yourself when outside and in the company of like-minded people is one of the major attractions and physical positives that are a by-product of enjoying any sport.

So if you enjoy your shooting, but have yet to take on the challenges of the great outdoors, you should give it a try. Not only will it improve your level of physical and mental fitness, you are guaranteed to enjoy yourself in the process!

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