Carrying a firearm is a lifestyle choice made because of a desire to live a life that terminates naturally, not at the hands of a criminal.
But, statistically speaking, you are much more likely to die of heart disease than at the hands of an attacker. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that in 2011 there were 4.7 murders for every 100,000 citizens in the United States.
Compare this with the CDC's statistics showing 187 per 100,000 Americans died from heart disease in 2016. We shouldn't base all our decisions on statistics alone, but it is safe to say that in general, an unhealthy heart is more likely to kill us than an attacker. But it doesn't have to be a binary choice, don't forsake one for the other.
In fact, using a firearm for self-defense should be fused with a healthy mind and body. A while back Jacob wrote an article which pointed out the important role physical fitness plays in handgun training, and we have numerous articles on the benefits of dryfire. But I wanted to talk about how you can combine the two, to live longer and become a better shooter.
What do you need to commit?
First, try and commit 30 minutes at least a few days a week to improve your heart's health. This session should include a warm-up where you stretch and warm the muscles as well as around 20 minutes where your heart rate is elevated to a cardio or peak zone, thorough any aerobic exercises and then a cool down where you stretch.
Here is a list of simple aerobic exercises that showed up with an internet search. If you have a basement or home gym like me you can work in elliptical, rowing, and/or treadmill machines. I also invested in a Bowflex and workout bag (get them used, people will offer great deals on their workout equipment that is just collecting dust in their home.)
A set of free weights are not super expensive and you can do a ton of good with just some dumbbells.
What do you need to do?
If you have ever seen an infomercial for some physical fitness program, you have likely heard all this before. But here is the difference, this workout targets your heart and muscles, as well as you handgun fundamentals through dryfire.
So don't wear workout clothes (unless you usually do), but instead what you typically wear. Choose something comfortable, but it MUST include your holster and gun. Make sure your gun is empty or even better use the BarrelBlok. If you have a holster that will work with the SIRT trainer, this is also a terrific option.
Now, for obvious reasons, do this at your own home, or in a location where dryfire practice is not going to get the cops called. Set a random timer on your phone, or have some random stimulus, that will trigger you to immediately stop, and go into your perfect draw from concealment, presentation, trigger squeeze and heck, why not include a reload drill.
Get some dryfire practice on the trigger, maybe complete a couple more iterations, holster up and get back to your aerobic/strength exercises, you don't want your heart rate to drop.
Elevating the heart rate and working the body towards exhaustion, prior to performing a physical task is a very common training technique. It is aimed at exposing the difficulties that manifest when our bodies are tired and trying to perform seemingly simple tasks.
Military, law enforcement and advanced handgun classes use this training method. Athletes train to the point of exhaustion and continue because there is a real benefit that comes from this type of training.
By training under the conditions your body is more likely to be exposed to, you give yourself a much better chance of responding appropriately when the time comes.
Once you start doing this, you will likely extend your sessions past the 30 min mark, because it becomes a lot of fun and is very rewarding.
Why should you want to do this?
You likely know the benefits of dry firing and you know the importance of keeping your body and heart healthy. And now you should have a good idea of why training, while our bodies are fatigued, is so great.
Combining these three things allows you to be healthier, and use your gun better, even if you have a packed daily schedule. No more do you have to forsake one for the other. But wait, there's more.
Another thing that will be exposed when you begin to train this way, is deficiencies in your gear. I have seen many holsters come off the belt along with the gun during a draw. Or clips that bend or break under some more strenuous conditions.
When you're dropping down to do push-ups, or jumping jacks, burpees or whatever it may be etc., you're seeing how your gear will perform in a more realistic environment. You certainly don't want to find out your holster won't retain your gun when you're out doing backflips at the bar.
Even more important, if the holster shifts or doesn't properly secure the gun while you perform different exercises, what is the chance it will hold up if you become engaged in a physical fight? Or pick up your child and run to safety?
Here's another thing to think about: Some estimate that 80% of street fights end up on the ground at some point. And, anecdotally from fighting with a lot of people who didn't want to go to jail, it almost ALWAYS ended up on the ground.
So all those awkward positions you find yourself in when you are doing leg lifts, crunches, or push-ups–think about how you will have to draw from these positions and fight to your feet? These are problems you can't practice on the range and, frankly, problems you should task your mind to solve when it is overworked and being tasked to do other things.
By doing these things, you are training your mind along with your body.
Of course, mixed martial arts training is amazingly beneficial. Unfortunately, there are a host of reasons someone may not be able to enroll in a ground-fighting class.
Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives said something like this once, and I think it works well to explain this point: the person who survives the fight is not always the one with the best gear, gun, training, or the toughest. It is the person who can observe the incident for what it is, formulate and execute a plan, and then adapt that plan as the incident unfolds. And do all this better and faster than the opponent.
In other words, you need to be able to pull from a vast memory bank of experiences in order to adapt and prevail. Simple training like this gives your brain the ability to quickly adapt and formulate a plan during a quickly changing incident.
Everyone is at a different place in their firearms path, as well as having different physical fitness goals and limitations. Of course, use common sense, and if appropriate, talk to your doctor about what limitations, if any, you should place on your exercises. Whatever you can do, even if it is 1 day a week, is working you toward a more healthy body, mind, and better gunfighting skills.
Let us know your thoughts, below.