Preparing your body for sport is an important step to ensure you can be at the top of your game. In shooting, the concept of the warm up is often skipped as well as rarely promoted.
Integrating a good structured warm-up routine into your preparation for shooting can be beneficial in preparing your body and mind for the task about to be performed.
The benefits are:
- Injury prevention
- Nutrient and oxygen replenishment
- Waste removal
- Increase of mental alertness
Injury prevention is the key element that people associate with a warm up routine and it is an important factor. Muscular injuries are reduced by increasing the temperature of muscles which makes them more elastic and therefore more flexible and stretchable. During time in position muscles will eventually stretch which can cause changes in position. A good example of this is during a 60 shot prone match shot on single aiming marks (Gehmann boxes or Sius Ascors for example) have you ever felt your position slip or sink? This is most likely due to the fact your muscles are gradually stretching over the match.
All cells within the body need nutrients and oxygen to function; once these are used waste is created and needs to be removed to allow its replacement. By increasing the blood flow around the body you will increase the temperature of your muscles. A by-product of this increase of blood flow will result in nutrient and oxygen replenishment as well as waste removal from cells and tissues in the body, much like emptying a waste bin and replacing the bag making the bin ready for usage again.
With reference to mental alertness, implementation of a warm up as part of your preparations for shooting helps to divert thought processes away from those irrelevant to the activity and focus on the processes about to be undertaken so be sure when you are warming up to focus on your shot processes.
So how should we warm up? The key elements to consider are:
- Raising your heart rate (to increase blood flow)
- Increasing your breathing rate (to increase oxygen/carbon dioxide diffusion)
Now this is contradictory to what is commonly suggested within our sport about being relaxed and lowering heart rate, but from a physiological viewpoint it is the only way to cover the points above. This can be done in an organised method by basically going for a brisk walk of 5 – 10 minutes, obviously avoid having a 100m sprint. Your walk should gradually increase in intensity over the duration and try to integrate movement in your arms as well.
Some athletes integrate listening to an MP3 music player with either music or spoken word tracks into their warm up; why not give it a try?
As for when to do this, it is down to when you are able to fit it in and your own personal preference. One suggestion would be to get changed into underclothes first and then warm up and return to set up the rest of your kit. This would be the most beneficial point in my opinion.
Further steps to take would be stretching and performing some dry firing exercises in a suitable and safe location focusing on the inner position and finding areas of tension within your musculoskeletal system which can be addressed before live firing. We will look at recommended stretches in a future article.