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becomes to beat your score, and you should use the games to practice noticing what your at- tentional patterns are and how you can most effectively regulate your attentional states.

2. Muscle Activity Assuming you will take a few minutes each day to engage in the mental practice of being aware of your attention and in- creasing your attentional control skills, you can easily incorporate noticing what is going on in your muscle system as you become competitive. When you are in- tensely focusing, what happens from your head to your toes? Are you leaning forward, clenching your jaw, tensing your shoulder/ forearm/wrist/fi ngers? See if you can exert mental effort while using only the physical effort that is necessary for the task. Over- working your muscles without mi- cro breaks is one way to end up with a repetitive strain injury. We monitor the resting tension levels of muscle groups in shooters to determine if they have consistent activation patterns across their shots, and if they have brief and effective periods after their shots when they reduce the resting ten- sion to almost zero. You can do this fairly well without equipment by scanning your muscle groups in your mind’s eye to assess rest- ing tension. You can use stretch- ing, tensing/relaxing, or pressing your fi ngers into the muscle to try to minimize tension.

Create a routine of resetting

your posture before you begin and at regular intervals: this can be for anything you do- driving, answering emails, talking on the phone. See if you can make it a habit to maintain an effi cient posture. Sort out how to take on a cognitively challenging task without overusing your muscle system. See how this might re-

late to shooting, specifi cally, are you tensing your jaw and shoul- ders through your shot process? Do you over grip? What are the short-term and long-term effects of these muscular patterns? Take some time this off season to build your awareness and self- regulation skills in your muscular system.

3. Breathing

Just as with building aware- ness of your attention and muscle patterns at rest and during tasks, take note of your breathing. Breathing cues are a common part of a shot routine. Shooters may breathe at differ- ent points during their shot cy- cle; however, they aim to breathe consistently across all shots. As an example, when using a respiration belt to get a rough measure of breathing patterns, we’ve noticed that some shoot- ers have very stable breathing patterns through the early and middle part of a series, but as they move to the last shot, they tend to hold their breath more. We often hold our breath as we intensely concentrate on things,

but in shooting this introduces a variable that can affect your out- come. You can practice building your awareness and regulation of your breathing. Next time you play a cognitive game or send a text or an email, notice what your attention is doing, what your muscles are doing and what your breathing is like. Are you holding your breath when you are trying hard or actively thinking? Outside of shooting, we teach shooters to engage in diaphrag- matic, or belly,

breathing. We

guide them to inhale through the nose, feeling the belly rise as the lungs fi ll with air, and exhale through the mouth, feeling the belly fall as the air fl ows from the lungs. Ensure that the shoulders are not being used to assist in breathing- they are not needed. Keeping the upper body as still as possible, direct your atten- tion to the sensation of the air fl owing in your nose and out of your mouth, and the gentle ris- ing and falling of the belly. Be- yond confi rming that breathing is consistent, we do not address what breathing is like in the shot process, as this is your coach’s

job. You can make note of your breathing patterns and habits outside of shooting through this off season and train your breath- ing self-regulation skills. Trans- fer this awareness and refi ned regulation to your shot process to use as a stable piece of your shot routine.

A few minutes of practice

each day can build your aware- ness and self-regulation skills in attention, muscle control and breathing during the off season. When you ramp up your physi- cal training, you will do so with a more refi ned ability to notice what is happening in your mind and body through your shot cycle and will have improved regula- tion skills to create a consistent pre-shot state. Good Luck.

Year in Review 2013 | USA Shooting News


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