September 13, 2015
By Laura Walker for Run & Gun Obstacle Course (no longer active)
Like any race—that is, if you want to win it—the Run & Gun Challenge comes with a certain amount of stress because of the pressure to finish in the fastest time. You’re climbing slippery walls, crawling on your belly, dodging live electrical wires, and your heart rate is going to be high (up to 90% of your maximum). You’ll be breathing hard and sweating with adrenaline pumping through your veins.
While this is happening, you encounter an obstacle in which you have to shoot a target with accuracy. If you’ve ever shot a gun before, you know that one of the key elements to hitting the target is the ability to relax and hold steady. Not an easy thing to do when you’ve just been hurdling steel barrels and lugging sand bags.
Although biathlons require cross-country skiing and target shooting while the Run & Gun Challenge involves dirt, rubber, and a lot of high-fiving, similar skills are called upon in both events. The Run & Gun Challenge includes two obstacles that require hitting targets with a gun, the first of which is a Glock 9-mm pistol.
Shooting the target can be quite difficult because your hands will have to be very steady even though you’ve just been running, leaping, rolling, and climbing; your heart rate is likely near its max, you’re panting like a dog in the hot sun, and you have sweat dripping into your eyes.
The final shooting challenge of the race is done with a rifle, which can be a little easier than shooting a handgun because you have more points of contact between the gun and your body (back-grip, fore-grip, butt, and cheek rest). This and the long barrel help with aim, but if your chest is still heaving, you might as well shoot blind because if you can’t be still while shooting, you’re probably not going to hit the target.
So, what should you do to keep your cool for the Run & Gun Challenge? Here are a few strategies biathletes use for race day.
- Train: Practice running and jumping for several minutes until your heart rate is about 80% of max, then abruptly stop and consciously try to slow your breathing and heart rate quickly.
- Breathe deeply: Inhaling and exhaling deeply can slow your heart rate. Another technique long-distance athletes use to breathe more slowly is to relax the stomach on the inhale and force the exhale by pulling the abdomen in. This creates a larger volume of air going out, which results in a larger volume of air coming in, thus not having to take as many breaths.
- Control pace and focus: Try to maintain an even pace throughout the race rather than use all your energy in the beginning to get a head start. However, keep your focus on the moment at hand rather than thinking ahead to the next obstacle.
- Enjoy! Not all races are about winning. Run & Gun is supposed to be fun.