Fatigue can be a lot more complicated than just getting tired. It can build quickly or over a long period of time. Learning to recognize and combat the problem before it becomes detrimental to your on-field performance is key

One factor that can play a considerable role in our shooting, but one that goes largely unnoticed, is fatigue. Fatigue can build quickly or over a long period of time. The secret is recognizing and combating the problem before it becomes an issue in your performance.

Fatigue can be a lot more complicated than just feeling tired. Sometimes your scores are just a little off. You may just not be as excited about your shooting or not as “up” for an approaching event as you might usually be. You may feel like you are just robotically going through the paces. These are indications of burnout, a problem I have faced in the past. A problem where a rest is a needed and welcome break.

Fatigue can emerge as a daily occurrence. Just becoming tired at the end of the day can lead to a loss of concentration, and believe it or not, cross-firing, which is a change or shift in eye dominance. I have a seen a number of cases in which shooters shoot well in the morning and poorly in the afternoon, or shoot the first 50 substantially better than the last 50. Some write this off to lack of mental toughness, but as the body fatigues, the first thing that goes is visual acuity, before you even feel tired. As the eyes tire, dominance can for a brief period of time change. There is a reason God gave us two eyes. When one gets tired, the other takes over.

So fighting fatigue can be an integral part of our success. But fatigue affects different people in different ways. This article is not the end-all to the fatigue problems of the world. However, my career has been built around fatigue, given my shooting schedule and travel itineraries. The following is how I try to deal with it.

Days before an event I try to plan periods of rest. This may even, and more often than not, includes passing up an opportunity to practice, instead opting for time to take it easy. This might even involve passing up on a Doubles event, before a tournament begins, if rest is needed more than Doubles targets.

Although I enjoy being with friends, you will not normally see me hanging around at the club after I have shot my event. I head back to the hotel and give my mind a break from all the goings-on at the club. It does wonders for my energy levels.

Although not easily done given everyone’s hectic schedule these days, I try to plan my arrival at any particular tournament to include time to, in a relaxed manner, register and practice, and most importantly, rest. Now, many cannot show up at a tournament a day before the shooting actually commences, but if it’s possible, I do it. Shooting a tournament without the proper preparation and rest can decide the outcome of my performance before I even start shooting, and chances are I will not enjoy the experience nor will I be happy at the end of it.

Exercise is great way to combat fatigue. Although it sounds counterintuitive, exercise will increase your energy. My calendar does not allow me to work out as I have in the past, but I do make a point to find a gym or a treadmill whenever I am at a tournament. Thirty minutes to an hour of cardiovascular exercise each day gets my blood pumping and wakes up my system. Not only is this approach healthy, especially given some of my previous training programs, it makes me feel good. And, it hits fatigue right where it hurts.

What you put in your body has a direct influence on the energy you have when you need it the most. The only thing I inhale more than oxygen is Diet Coke. This caffeine overload is not recommended by or for anybody, but I do try to limit my intake during competition, instead opting for plain old water. Performing in the heat, a common occurrence during our summer season, requires appropriate hydration. Remember, if you do not have to go to the bathroom at any point in time, you’re not drinking enough water.

Heavy meals and alcohol also affect one’s energy levels. Although abstinence is not an option for some, your performance has a direct relationship to how much fun you have, everything in moderation. As I get older, this is becoming my mantra. What I could do 20 years ago and what I can put up with today are two different things.

One thing you generally will not see is me hanging around the club at a shoot, after I have shot. Although I enjoy seeing my friends and spending time with them, extraneous activities and conversations can be draining, especially when my focus is on breaking targets. Once I am done shooting, I will head back to my hotel. Even if it is for an hour, it is worth the break from the club and all that is going on there. A short dip in the pool or an hour in a quiet air-conditioned room does wonders for my energy levels.

This is why we rented an RV for a few years at the World Shoot. Staying on the grounds was great, but we also had a place to escape from everything. After shooting we could immediately digress to our troll-like existence, which suited us just fine. And, we shot well.

Your approach to fighting fatigue may differ from mine. What is important is you recognize your need for rest and preserve energy for when you need it most.

Your approach to combating fatigue and reserving energy levels may differ from mine, but what is important is you recognize your need for rest, and you preserve energy for when you need it most, like shooting Doubles for the Championship. SS

For information about Todd Bender Performance Systems International and for Todd’s 2016 Clinic Schedule, go to the Clinic Schedule Page at toddbenderintl.com or contact Todd Bender at toddbenderintl@gmail.com. For Todd’s newest videos on skeet shooting, contact Sunrise Productions at (800) 862-6399 and see page 53 in this issue.