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Question: How should I warm up when I’m at a tournament? Should I do anything special?

Warm-ups are like bellybuttons: everybody’s got one. Everyone enters a warm-up with different expectations and for different purposes. Some less experienced competitors will actually pre-judge how their round will go based on their warm-up performance. There is no “silver bullet” warm-up and, due to a myriad of factors, some warm-ups work better for some people than for others. Here are a few thoughts on warming up for a competition.

The purpose of a warm-up should be to: 1) get in the right mental state, 2) get your body and eyes limbered up, and 3) get your eyes and your gun – as an extension of your hands – working well together.

Get in the right mental state:

Being in a confident and positive state of mind as you move into a competition is important. I find that a lack of confidence going into a round or even a stand will tempt me to second-guess my lead or weaken my visual focus.

How one puts oneself into a positive and confident state of mind before competition differs from one person to the next. For some, it’s hypnotherapy (see For others, it’s listening to relaxation tapes or certain types of music on the way over to the shooting grounds. There are plenty of books and tapes out there to get you started.

Get your body limbered up:

This doesn’t take much. Touch your toes a few times, stretch your quads, rotate your torso, stretch your arms over your head and behind your back — whatever gets the blood flowing a bit and limbers you up.

Loosen up the eyes:

The eyes are the “window to the brain.” When shooters get tense or nervous, the movement of the eyes is restricted, and they tend to move less fluidly. Before your round, stand erect with your eyes and head on the horizon (straight ahead). Holding your head still, move your eyes back and forth to the farthest limit of your periphery: first back and forth between 9 o’clock (to the extreme left) and 3 o’clock (extreme right), then 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock, then 12 o’clock (to the sky) and back to the horizon (straight ahead). Do this about 15 times each.

If you don’t currently have a pre-competition warm-up, try this one, then adapt it and make it your own.

5 stand warm-up:

Most clubs use a 5-stand as the warm-up on tournament day. The purpose of shooting a 5-stand warm-up should be to get your eyes and your gun working together. During your warm-up, make sure you are “focusing small,” looking for a specific spot on the target. Make sure you are moving the gun to the target with both hands, with the front hand in the lead. As you engage each target, stick to your pre-shot routine, your breathing and visualizing.

Success or failure of your warm-up should NOT be judged by how many targets you break at the 5-stand. Instead, you should determine the success of your warm-up by how well your eyes are moving to the target and how well your hands and gun are synchronizing with the target.

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