Dr. Zanis is off to the Olympic Trials for target shooting and wanted to share his thoughts on the top three qualities that make for successful shooting athletes.
I get asked this question all the time by many of my clients…and while there are many variables that play into making a great athlete, there seems to be a handful of factors that make a shooting athlete shine out on the range.
These variables makes the difference between making a final and always being one target or one tenth of a point out of the running. These traits leads to a consistent, and that key word there is consistent,
accumulation of medals vs. an occasional win. Consistent, GREAT scores are achieved by those who manage stress the best, and the following attributes are key to being successful.
1) Having a Consistent Movement Practice
I want you to think about the last competition you participated in…what happened when you found yourself on the bubble of making a final? Where was your head at when you noticed yourself slipping a little. How did you feel inside your body when everything came down to a shoot off?
Thoughts racing, heart pounding, palms sweating, short shallow breaths…these are all signs of an overactive nervous system…one that is shaky, unable to handle the pressure.
If this is you, I want to as you one question. Do you have a consistent movement practice?
Do you challenge yourself consistently in the gym, on your yoga mat, or out on the round pounding pavement each week? Physical stressors like these have way more value than just changing your
physical body. Yes, physical training does help reduce likelihood of pain and injury, and improves the efficiency and economy of your movement. But, it also teaches your nervous system how to handle stress in a controlled environment.
Then, when you find yourself in a novel highly competitive situations filled with unknown variables like wind, poor lighting, gun malfunctions, pain, soreness, tightness…you have the skills to battle through…
You have built your tolerance up to a level where these types of stressors become inconsequential and you can return to your body, return to breath, return to the high level of performance you expect out of yourself…leading to more consistent wins and more consistent medals. So get out there and move your body! Your mind will thank you.
2) Nutrition and Hydration
Have you ever felt lethargic or tired during a competition? Maybe your eyes seem to lose focus, or a slight headache develops. Do you feel like you can’t just seem to recover well, or you’re constantly sore with achy joints? These are all signs that you may not be fueling yourself appropriately. To function well, our body and brain need to have the right kind and amount of nutrients available to it at all times. The most overlooked is often water. Adequate hydration is essential for healthy muscle tissue, keeping your joints lubricated, and your nerves firing on all cylinders. Without enough water, we can become foggy headed, lose focus, and our movement patterns slow down…which never helps when trying to concentrate down range or maintain quick reaction time for targets that are flying over 65mph. Second to water is protein intake. The building blocks of protein are amino acids and these are nutrients that help you grow and repair. Ironically, this is the one macronutrient I see most athletes neglecting. Aside from not being able to recover well, low protein intake will also have a dramatic effect on your hormones, which can affect your energy, mood, drive, and motivation. So, make sure there is a big slab of meat with every one of your meals!
3) Solid Sleep Practice
How easy is it to find yourself scrolling on your phone late at night? Or are you someone who enjoys staying out late and having a few drinks? We are all human and sometimes we engage in these activities to “shut our brains off” or disengage from a hard workday. However, these practices to drastically impact the quality of our sleep.
Staring into screens all night long sends a message to the brain that the sun is still shining, effectively keeping the brain awake and “activated” all night even if you can fall asleep. Staying up late, with or without alcohol consumption, will disrupt our circadian rhythm. So, it is important to set and stay consistent with a sleep schedule that you make routine and repeatable. Alcohol, on the other hand, is essentially a poison that the body has to process. Consumption, especially in excess, will lead to chronic inflammation, lower pain sensitivity, and an inability to full recover…leaving the body and mind feeling “beat up” and
unable to operate at full capacity. Embodying these three traits will build a solid foundation from which to work from! Focusing your time and energy with movement, nutrition, and sleep will provide a huge return on your investment and set the stage for a shooting career that is not only filled with success, but health longevity, and vitality.