All about shooting : Physical Fitness

This post is to introduce the beginners to the concept of fitness related to 10M Air Pistol Shooting through my experience. This is NOT a How-to post. As you move towards higher levels, it is advised to get professional sports physiotherapist and psychologist to help you early on.

My Dad and I share an interesting bond. We claim that we understand each other like no other person in this world would (which is true). And that is precisely the reason why we argue like no other father-daughter duo would.

A very frequent bone of contention between us is ‘fitness’.

Consider this :

2002

15-yo Me: “Baba I want to be a cricketer like the Younger Sibling.”
Dad         : “You are not fit enough.”

Trekking. Me, Dad, and younger sibling at Nainital for a rock climbing camp.

2008

21-yo Me: “Baba I want to take up tennis. As a hobby.”
Dad         : “You are not fit enough.”

Trekking. Again at the Nainital rock climbing camp.

2015

28-yo Me: “Baba I am going to join shooting.”
Dad         : “You are not fit enough.”

Trekking. At Lonavala.

I looked at him dumbfounded. I just had to stand there for 2 hours and lift a 1000g pistol. I warmed up before the session and stretched after. What’s the big deal? It is not an out and out physical sport like Tennis or Cricket. What is Dad driving at?

Cut to 2016 : My second State-level match in Nashik.

I shot 11 points less than the required qualification score of 335, with one shot in the first ring – a 1! I attributed the score to the fact that I hadn’t trained enough yet.

My parents were with me in the match. When we walked out of the range, I asked my Dad for an analysis.

He said that he doesn’t know much about the sport, but it is interesting, and I did well, and I will do better when I was fit enough. 

This time I heeded him and asked him to explain in detail.

He said that even though primarily shooting is a mental sport, you need to go out and do some physical activity so that you are not fatigued during your sessions. Even top-level Chess players swim and run. Gone are the days when unfit players were acceptable in Cricket. If anyone manages to get in the Team despite physical shortcomings, they fade away in the longer run with occasional moments where (just) their talent makes them shine.

I bought it.

But when I saw final matches in women’s 10M Air Pistol, I could see players of all shapes and sizes and they did not look to me as if they’d be doing a lot of physical activity outside of shooting. Only one European shooter mentioned doing Yoga in one of the interviews.

Here’s where I was wrong. Never judge anyone based on appearances. 

Then, I didn’t know that. So I went to my Coach with my dilemma.

My father thinks I am not fit enough. I see International Players who I think are not fit enough. So why exactly am I not scoring?

He looked at me with half a smile. I now realise how juvenile my question might have seemed, coming from an apparently mature individual. He told me that I do not require serious gymming, but swimming, running will help, and I could talk to the in-house physio if I wanted.

A year passed by. I never talked to the in-house physio. I did not pursue anything additional than what I was doing on the range. I scraped through the Pre-Nationals and Nationals of 2016.

Then I saw the movie Dangal. As superficial as it sounds, my eyes were opened.

I needed to be more serious about my sport. And I did get serious in everything I did in shooting, except fitness. It gave me results, good ones too, but somewhere I knew something was missing and I always felt lost as to what.

I knew I had to exercise but what, how, when?

2017 : 1 year 2 months after the fateful Nashik match.

I met our consultant physiotherapist, who is currently training International athletes. A lot of my myths were busted, and I got the real no-frills perspective on physical fitness in shooting.

You guys, the real article starts here!

So here’s the long and short of it :

Physical fitness training in shooting is to help develop mental strength.

The crux of it is running. That too, slow running. All other exercises a shooter does (warm up, stretches, cool down) is to aid him/her in building the stamina required for running.

Why slow running?

  1. The completion of even one session of running fills you with confidence.
  2. It gives a sense of achievement.
  3. Completing each running session trains the shooter to finish what he/she started no matter what.
  4. Regular running streaks help make winning a habit.
  5. It helps improve your lung capacity. (This one’s my addition.)

Layman tips

  1. Always run or exercise after your shooting session.
  2. Your exercise regimen should be : Day 1 Run, Day 2 Full body stretching, Day 3 Rest AND Repeat.
  3. Start with 20 mins on 400m track – in which you do basic body exercises, brisk walk for 5 mins, slow run for 20 mins, and finish with an additional round of brisk walk. Gradually, when you feel like it, increase to 30 mins.
  4. Substitute running with 40 mins walk a week before competition.
  5. Do not go by my word for it. This is just to give you an idea of the kind of fitness an average shooter needs.

Meet your physio and talk to him/her about running, its benefits, and what other physical fitness measures you need to take.

 

All about shooting : Overcoming self-doubt

In sport, being grounded is an important quality.

It keeps you realistic when you are soaring high in success and propels you higher when you feel down in the dumps.

However, for beginners, it is a double-edged sword.

Being grounded in just the right amount can work wonders while being excessively grounded to the point of inferiority complex can severely damage their aggression and ambition – which are the key ingredients for success.

There are two types of grounded beginners according to me :

1. Confident

They are excited at the prospect of learning something new.

They start slow and steady, go on improving each day, and are content with the progress they are making with the knowledge they have gathered so far.

They are not bothered by what others are doing. However, they actively seek out information that will help them improve their technique and other supporting abilities.

In competitions, they know exactly where they stand and do their own thing without being intimidated by the presence of stalwarts or other seasoned players.

On the range : They will be found doing their own thing calmly. They allocate separate time (that does not interfere with their practice) for discussions with their Coach and peers. They enter the range cheerfully, and walk out with a smile after completing their practice sessions.

2. Self-doubters

They are intimidated at the prospect of learning something new.

When they start, they have too many questions and are always unhappy with their results. Most of their practice sessions go by in lamenting that they do not know enough. Instead of taking in the offered step-by-step guidance, they keep focusing on what others are doing and what makes the others click.

They spend much time networking, but this consists of one sided cribbing about their present situation and discussing how the stalwarts have got all the amenities to make it big. They do not derive any useful information out of it.

In competitions, all their puffed up confidence disappears and they’re paralysed with mortal fear of taking shots. If the seasoned players are present, they automatically write themselves off the list of serious competitors.

On the range : They will be found chatting up anybody who’s willing to converse – seniors, juniors, or Coaches. They rarely finish their practice sessions. They enter the range with a nervous smile or in a sulky mood and exit in a similar fashion.

What is the root cause of self-doubt? 

Self-doubters are often more intelligent and knowledgeable than the confident ones.

‘Knowledge is Power’ – we have been taught in schools. However, the very knowledge makes them acutely conscious of the fact that there is a lot that they don’t know. They know that there is so much to know that they wouldn’t get to all nuances of 10m Air Pistol shooting in their entire lifetime, let alone the other branches of the sport!

This overwhelms them so much, that they resort to constantly underestimating the basic knowledge that they already possess. The knowledge, if implemented consistently, would be enough to take them to higher levels where they can further improve by self-learning and expert coaching.

The million dollar question – How to overcome self-doubt?

Self-doubt is often a direct result of the tendency to overcomplicate.

If you can dumb yourself down for set durations, say in practice sessions, exercise sessions, visualisation time, and even competitions, self-doubt will not make an appearance.

Img Courtesy : The Awkward Yeti

Dumbing down is an art. It does not mean that you shut down all your logical faculties.

Instead, you shut down your inquisitive side just long enough to allow you to focus on what you are doing at the moment, so that you do what is required of you in the practice sessions or competition, and not think about what more is required of you to accomplish more than what you are achieving at present.

After practice or competition, you switch on your inquisitive side and use it to analyse the ‘takeways’, ‘need to dos’ and ‘questions’ for yourself, and for the discussions with your Coach. This way, you are dissociating your inquisitive nature from self-doubt.

Now, inquisitiveness will be your ally rather than a detractor. 

When you master (Do I see you doubting yourself again at this decisive word that establishes you as an authority on a given subject? Then go over this section again and read this when you are a regular at switching on and off your dumb side.) dumbing down and can switch it on and off at will, you will see that your results have improved significantly. This will also get rid of the ‘impostor syndrome’ that stems from too much knowledge (and very little real work) and is an equal cause of self-doubt.

Footnote

  1. Although this post is mainly for beginners, even seasoned shooters experience self-doubt at various points of time due to similar or other reasons. Recovering is easier for them because they have string of successes to validate their expertise in shooting.
  2. Not all self-doubt is bad. Sometimes, it is an outcome of the shooters ability to stay grounded while experiencing a fine streak of back to back successes. As long as the shooter has mastered dumbing down, it doesn’t hurt to remind oneself of the long way that remains to be travelled. It provides the zeal to achieve more.
  3. The ideal shooter will never fall directly into one of the two beginner types I have highlighted. Because a confident starter may fall into the trap of becoming over confident and complacent, while a self-doubting starter may develop an inferiority complex and become an underachiever.

    The ideal shooter has a healthy mix of confidence and self-doubt, and knows when to use both to his/her advantage.

 

 

 

Dangal – an eye opener

I watched Dangal yesterday.

As you might know if you happen to visit this blog often, I have taken up shooting professionally in 2016. Seeing the Phogat sisters slog at 5 AM in the morning, I was considerably moved. This is what hard work looks like.

When Geeta Phogat went on thrashing one after another contender in the National Championships – with no other worthy challenger, my mind went back to the National Shooting Championship Competitions (NSCC) that I had just been a part of. There was a vast difference between entry-level athletes, regular athletes and the world class athletes.

Was the difference only in skill? No. The primary difference is ‘how seriously do you take your sport?’

The difference is truly revealed when a National level Champion moves to the International circles. It’s like climbing the highest local peak (in a plateau area) and immediately having to climb Mount Everest in all its harshest climatic glory without any necessary training. It is a rude shock – for those who let their focus slip after becoming a known name in the Nationals.

Every scene in the movie, coupled with the memory of every shot I took at the NSCC has given me a much needed rude awakening. Let’s face it – shooting 40-60 pellets a day after some limbering exercises, feigned meditation and 30 mins of holding doesn’t a world class shooter make.

Geeta and Babita’s Dad quit his job to devote his 100% to coaching them. I have quit my job to devote my 100% to becoming a good shooter. Not having a working day creates an illusion of having ample time on your hands. You do every little household chore that you think needs to be done, you make time to accommodate almost all requests of friends and family, and with the time that remains – you make hay while the sun shines – you goof off! (Reading every other ’10 things…’ article, scanning FB feeds with no agenda in mind, etc. I can think of a million things that I don’t want to or shouldn’t do and I am doing.)

I need to become ‘hanikarak’ for myself and start working towards the goal that I have set for myself. It ain’t easy, but it ain’t hard too. I was one of the ‘mediocre’ athletes in NSCC (who are labelled aspiring along with all the real aspiring deals out there. I might add, there are even ‘renowned shots’ who are mediocre, but let’s not get into that.)

Abhinav Bindra laments the increasing number of wildcards, which render the NSCC less reputable, and make it tough for the seasoned athletes to concentrate on their game. I might not completely agree, but I get where he’s coming from. If there is no serious competition, it can be disheartening for the International-level athletes to compete with little or no serious competition. (Then there is also the lack of glamour that they deserve at the medal distribution. There is hardly any crowd to see and snap them at the podium, but I digress.) The bottomline is most Indians – players, coaches, sports officials and bystanders alike – take our sports too lightly.

I had gone easy on myself since I knew I got into the Nationals. I just wanted the ‘feel’ of the games. There’s nothing wrong in it, but going easy should not mean not living up to your everyday potential. The week before the Nationals, we had a family event, and I kinda ignored my training. Probably I would not have, if I were younger, and did not have any other responsibilities. Is this true? I ask myself, and the answer is a resounding NO.

I have always found a way to not give enough and justify it. At times it is the lack of guidance, lack of confidence, lack of energy, lack of time and above all – the unwarranted sense of contentment that I use as blinds to stop the reality glaring me in the eyes. The reality is – I ain’t doing enough!

I need to take a leaf out of Dangal, and start prepping with a willing heart. My eyes have been opened. Let’s do this!

My first shooting match – MAWC

I played my first MAWC (in 10m Air Pistol) organised by the Maharashtra Rifle Association (MRA) this Saturday.

I learned shooting for 3 months last year. This June, I continued from where I had left.

As a novice, it was very difficult to find information about how to go about the match on the internet. Hence, I log my takeaways here for any shooter to find.

  1. The match is total 1.30 hrs, with sighting time. Make sure you reach at least an hour and a half beforehand.
  2. Take permissions for the smallest of things like changing cylinders. The range officers are very cooperative and will guide you throughout. However, this means that they will be strict too if you disobey the range/safety rules.
  3. Take care of hydration and make sure you eat before the match.
  4. It is totally easy to hit straight 10s if you calibrate your pistol right.
  5. Try to fill cylinders beforehand from the range you practice on, because there may or may not be availability of air pressure in the cylinders at the MRA.

If you have questions, please feel free to ask in the comments. Happy shooting!