January 31st, 2017

Physical Training for Older Shooters

The following article by Tom Alves describes a very practical approach to physical training for those of us who are not as young and spry as we once were. Tom shows us how to give our bodies at least some of the maintenance we give our rifles. While we all realize that our rifles will outlive us, let’s see if we can’t narrow the margin a bit with some personal maintenance that just might help the shooting too!
This article originally appeared in the Rifleman’s Journal, and appears with permission of GS Arizona.

A Suggested Training Approach for Older Shooters

By Tom Alves
Most articles and discussions regarding competitive shooting center around equipment. Now and then one will come across an article about training such as the recent one from the AMTU posted on www.6mmbr.com/. If you break the articles down they often discuss “core strength” and durability. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate on those points with a bit different perspective. Many of the articles you will read in books about position shooting and the one mentioned before are directed more toward the younger generation of shooters in their 20’s. If you look down the line at a typical high power match these days you are likely to see quite a few folks who are in their middle 30’s and up. Many people in that age range have had broken bones and wear and tear on their joints so a training program needs to take that into account. For instance, while jogging for an extended period for heart and lung conditioning – often called cardio exercises – may be the recommended approach for younger folks, it may be totally inappropriate for older people. The procedure to repair meniscus tears in knees is one of the most frequently performed operations in this country. Another approach one often sees in training to improve core strength is the use of weight machines which isolate certain muscle groups in their operation. I would like to suggest an alternative approach that not only does not require special equipment but uses the body’s muscles in a coordinated fashion in the same way they are used in our natural movements. So, let’s set down some criteria:

1. The approach has to be low impact to conserve joints.

2. One goal is to improve the strength of the core muscles which are the muscles of our trunk that keep us erect and from where all movements initiate.

3. Along with core strength we need flexibility and full range of motion.

4. We want to improve our lung and heart function so we can have a good flow of oxygen going to our organs and muscles to reduce the rate at which we become fatigued during a competitive event.

Before I continue I believe it is appropriate for the reader to understand that I am a fellow shooter and this is a program I have designed for myself based on considerable reading and experience over a number of years. I am not a medical doctor, a formally trained exercise professional or any other type of specialist in the field. Consequently, this information is offered with the advice that you consult your medical advisor or similar authority before you embark on this or any similar regimen.

I will start with core strength and flexibility. Pilates exercises are resistance exercises that can incorporate the use of resistance bands, light weights and the weight of your body parts in order to strengthen the muscles in the abdomen, back, hips, chest and shoulders. The exercises can be performed alone but I recommend attending classes put on by a certified instructor who will ensure that you perform a balanced routine meaning you work on the front and back and both sides of your trunk. As to flexibility, yoga complements Pilates exercises and they are often taught together. In practical terms yoga strengthens through resistance using the weight of the body and increases flexibility by stretching the various muscle groups in a coordinated fashion. Some yoga exercises also work on balance which is helpful in position shooting and life in general. Again, I suggest attending formal yoga classes since an instructor can help you address such things as a joint misalignment. As an example, my right leg healed improperly after the femur was broken and my right foot splays out putting undue load on my left knee. There are a number of books available on Pilates and yoga and some of them get pretty involved; I leave that to the reader to explore. I will list some reference material at the end of the article that I have found useful.

Finally, heart and lung improvement. In order to exercise the heart and lungs while not abusing the joints, particularly the knees and hips, one has to resort to something other than jogging. Walking, bicycling, elliptical machines and swimming may be alternative methods you’d like to consider. Based on my reading, in order to get the most benefit it is important to exercise so that the pulse rate becomes elevated for periods of time rather than kept at a constant rate. The process I use, called PACE, is promoted by Al Sears, MD, http://www.alsearsmd.com/. It is interval training for the non-athlete. In simple terms one exercises, using whatever equipment one desires, to achieve a heart rate in which you are slightly above your ability to bring enough oxygen into your body to sustain the activity for an extended period. This is similar to wind sprints for a sprinter or a football player. After each episode you must rest until you have achieved recovery, meaning you can catch your breath easily. A series of three sets is recommended which covers a total time of about 20 minutes.

As a result of this training program I have experienced increased strength in my legs and trunk, less joint stiffness, lower blood pressure, and lower resting pulse rate. I will be 64 in June of this year. The Pilates/yoga classes are usually attended 2 to 3 times a week and the interval training performed twice a week.

Before I close I would like to touch briefly on two other related subjects: hydration and visual training. When one is exerting oneself, the body produces perspiration to keep the body’s temperature at an acceptable level. As one perspires the blood gets thicker and the ocular fluid in one’s eyes thickens as well. The heart has to work harder to supply oxygen and nutrients to the body so visual and cognitive functions degrade and fatigue sets in rapidly. Essential chemicals called electrolytes are also carried out of the body with the perspiration. As a result, it is necessary to replace moisture and electrolytes to maintain basic health and a competitive level of performance. If one goes on the Internet there is a multitude of articles on hydration. Due to the kindness of my lead Pilates/yoga instructor, Ms. Annette Garrison, I have a pretty comprehensive article on various aspects of hydration that I have included, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/hyponatremia-other-side-hydration-story , for your information.

Last I want to mention visual performance training. The New Position Rifle Shooting, A Comprehensive Guide To Better Target Shooting by Bill Pullum and Frank Hanenkrat mentions sports vision training amongst other aspects of vision in competitive shooting. If one goes on the Internet you will find training programs directed at golfers, baseball and football players. There is one site that has a demo which, if one looks at it for long, it is obviously very similar to a shooting gallery video game. The training involves rapid recognition and hand-eye coordination. Another source of visual training exercises, along with a wealth of other information, is the book Prone And Long Range Rifle Shooting by Nancy Tompkins.

Hopefully, I have provided some information which will be helpful in improving shooting performance and extending the time you can participate at a competitive level. It is important that you proceed at your own pace. I have pushed myself too hard in the interval training and now have to back off a bit. In closing I would like to thank Annette Garrison and GS Arizona for their help, considerable patience and encouragement.

Additional Reference Material

1. Framework by Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD
This is required reading for anybody who has suffered an injury like a torn meniscus or has muscular skeletal issues. This is the book that led me to Pilates/yoga

2 P. A. C. E., The Twelve Minute Fitness Revolution by Al Sears, MD
The approach I use to interval training. I am sure there are other sources.

3. Physical Conditioning For Highpower Shooting by SGT Walter E. Craig, USAMTU

4. Rifle, Steps To Success by Launi Meili

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December 6th, 2013

Wind-Reading Tips from G. Salazar

German Salazar wind readingIn response to questions from a fellow F-Class shooter, G. Salazar offered some expert advice in an article entitled: Basics: A Few Wind Reading Tips. Here are highlights from that essay. You can read the entire article on Salazar’s Rifleman’s Journal Website. Salazar cautions that: “I certainly am not attempting to make this short item into a comprehensive lesson in wind reading, but there may be a nugget or two in here for the newer shooter. There is, however, no substitute for range time and coaching.”

Preliminary Matters — Holding Off vs. Knob-Turning
Let’s begin by eliminating one topic altogether — I realize that the predominant method of wind correction in F-Class is holding-off with the crosshairs of your scope rather than adjusting the windage knob. I am a firm believer in aiming at the center and turning the knob as needed, but we’ll leave that for another time and focus on seeing what the wind is doing.

The Wave — Wind Cycles and Shot Timing
I find that most shooters begin to shoot immediately when the time commences rather than waiting for an appropriate moment in the cycle, this often leads to lost points early on. If you’ve been scoring prior to shooting, hopefully you’ve observing the flags and your shooter’s shot placement. It’s a very useful way of gaining some insight into the day’s wind patterns before shooting.

 Salazar wind readingMy technique is based on the understanding of wind as a cyclical wave motion. That statement alone should give you plenty to think about[.] Imagine for a moment, a surfer. He waits for a gentle swell, gets moving on it and rides it through it’s growth and ultimately its crescendo and hopefully avoids being swallowed in its crash. Wind typically behaves in the same fashion as that wave and a smart shooter behaves as does the surfer — get on early in the wave, ride through the major change and get off at the right moment. Knowing when to stop shooting is every bit as important as shooting quickly through the predictable portion of the wave; getting back on to the next wave is a matter of delicate judgment and timing.

When you are on that rising (or falling) wave, the idea is to shoot very quickly to minimize the amount of change between shots and to make a small adjustment on each shot. Too many shooters waste time trying to analyze the exact amount of the change, by which time it has changed even more! Get on with it, click or hold over a set amount and fire the next shot quickly. This is the foundation of how I shoot and it is very effective as long as you know when to start, when to stop and you have a good man working the target – a slow marker is the death of this method.

Watch Shots from Other Shooters
We all watch the wind flags, of course, and the trees if your range is so blessed (ours are fairly barren), and many other small wind indicators. Watching the shots of your fellow shooter can also be a very useful tool and should be observed whenever possible. When a good shooter next to you comes up with a poor shot, it should signal you to stop and reassess conditions as they may not be what they appear.

German Salazar wind reading

While scoring for another shooter, take a moment to scan the line of targets. You’ll be surprised at how most of the shot markers move in unison to one side and then the other. The sad truth is that most shooters are behind the changes in the wind and they will get carried to either side of the bull as the wind changes. You’ll see this in the targets as they come up, and once learned, you’ll find that the line of targets is as useful as another row of flags.

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