How to stay fit to carry on shooting

Amid the multiple lockdowns and other restrictions, Ethan Lowry has some advice about how we can all stay fit so we can carry on shooting.

What a year it was. And this one didn’t get off to a great start either. The start of the year is a time of renewal. A time whereby we aspire to progress and better ourselves. We tend to focus on our fitness or address those few extra pounds that accumulated over the Christmas period.

However, with 2020 being the year that it was, those of us in lockdown started accumulating those extra pounds around springtime. In the last year, obesity and unhealthy eating practices, which have been shown to cause a significant increase in the chance of death in Covid-19 patients, have increased among the UK population.

It’s now been a year since the United Kingdom entered its first period of lockdown. Throughout 2020 we experienced multiple periods of restrictions, which varied in length and severity depending on where you lived, and that’s been pretty much the way of things this year too. 

Regardless, most individuals have experienced a significant reduction in their daily activity. Most assume that daily activity equates to vigorous exercise, but it also includes the thousands of steps around the office, the walk to the car or to lunch, or the physical aspects of the job itself.

Coupled with this, many of us faced restrictions in how we would normally exercise outside of work. Gyms were closed, team sports ceased, even individualised training had to change. And even the trip to the club or range has been either halted completely or severely curtailed. 

Most of us didn’t make any changes in our eating patterns, and many began to snack more, lean towards unhealthy choices, and home alcohol consumption and fast food deliveries increased. It’s easy to see how these drastic and sustained changes over the past year would have contributed significantly to a sedentary lifestyle and an overweight population, and that’s no good for us or for our sport of shooting airguns.

What can we do?

Finding an alternative means of exercise or the will to actually perform it can be difficult during such circumstances. It can often feel futile and nihilistic, not to mention actually facilitating it in the first instance. Although often forgotten about in the wider policy decisions, those of us involved in field sports find it equally as infuriating as those involved in more conventional sports. 

The cynic may wonder why anyone involved in field sports should need to worry, however those who think such things have obviously never spent a morning managing rabbits or a night out after rats, or even the mental and physical fatigue of competition shooting.

Those involved in field sports need to maintain our general health, fitness, weight and skills as much as anyone else over these difficult times. As already mentioned however, facilitating this can be a different story altogether. So what can we do? Anything is always better than nothing!

It might surprise you how little energy you need to sit in your home office all day. And if our usual avenues for exercise are restricted, we need to find alternatives as soon as possible. 

Obviously, continue to meet your appropriate deadlines, but always continue to move. We must remember that those trips to the warehouse, walking to the water cooler, picking up documents from the printer or unloading the delivery are all tasks that add up in energy usage. 

First and foremost if you’re working from home, your number one goal is to take regular breaks. Every 45-60 minutes simply stand up, stretch and walk around your kitchen, touch your toes a few times and after five minutes or so, return to work. 

It goes without saying that these alternatives usually won’t equate to the energy you expend in a normal day, so we usually have to supplement this with something extra. This means taking advantage of the extra time we have at home. Not travelling to work doesn’t just save us some extra petrol money, but it also usually saves us having to get up as early in the morning. 

This is a wonderful realisation, but a dangerous habit to pursue. During what would have been your morning commute, use this as an opportunity to get moving!

Normal avenues for exercise are widely restricted. But with the advent of the internet, websites like YouTube and services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams it’s as simple as blocking out some dedicated time each day to follow some home-based routines. Discipline and other responsibilities are your only hurdles here. 

But what if you’re not interested in conventional exercise? What if squats and jumping jacks bore you to death? Luckily there are many ways to turn our sport of airgun shooting into a more exercise-intensive endeavour.

  • Get out and about. As field sports enthusiasts we will always have the great outdoors. Bearing in mind any Covid-related restrictions in your area, use this time to really explore your local walks, trails and your land, or land you have permission to shoot over. Aim for a certain number of steps on each trip out the door: 5,000, 10,000, 15,000+. Or aim for a certain length of time: 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 120 minutes. Regardless, your goal is to keep it consistent. Many smartphones and fitness watches have pedometers or various other health trackers on them, so it’s extremely easy to do so.
  • Invest in similar pursuits. Many airgun shooters take their fancy to a bit of pest control: magpies, crows or woodpigeons. Usually our avian knowledge stops here, but turning your hand (or eye) to a bit of bird watching can be an excellent way in which to improve our knowledge and interest in the topic. Again many of us will also have some binoculars which can be easily used for such a purpose. Doing so will not only give you some new-found respect and admiration for our feathered friends, but it will help keep those long morning or afternoon walks interesting!
  • Lend a helping hand where possible. Many of us are lucky to have a permission over a farmer’s land, which we use for sporting purposes or some range practice. Over the years we usually have availed of this completely free of charge, with no thought towards the kind people who give us such permissions. This past year due to both Covid-19 and our good old friend Brexit, farmers have not had it easy. Many of us are skilled not only with an airgun, but with our hands in general. If you’re out on your permission in the near future, keep an eye out for fences that need fixing, stones that need moving, trees that have fallen, and offer to help manage this. By no means am I advocating a weekly or weekend volunteer contract, although I’m sure many of our farming friends would love this! But as a means of thanks, offer to help out for a day or half-day. It could be the very thing that someone needs more than anything else during these uncertain times.
  • Take a dog for a walk. Many in our community are lucky enough to have at least one four-legged friend who lives with them. Maybe they retrieve for you when you are out shooting, or maybe they are just family pets. Regardless, during this difficult period your dog will be forever in your debt with all that extra time. Use this added time to get training that dog to perfection. Play with them and walk them regularly. A well-exercised dog means a well-exercised owner, and if you’re on your own they can make exercising that bit more tolerable.

There are many reasons to exercise and stay active in general, but Covid-19 has provided a myriad of additional reasons we never had to face before. Covid-19 is a further reason to maintain a healthy fitness and an appropriate weight.

The evidence clearly shows that those who live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight are much less likely to become infected and much less likely to suffer from it. Respecting any government restrictions aside, there are an abundance of resources at home that can be applied. Make sure to use any of this extra free time to your advantage and most importantly do remember that actually doing something is always better than doing nothing. 

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