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Getting rid of "warm up" nerves/jitters


PrimaryBruce
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I've been shooting for about 8 years now, so certainly not new to shooting at all. No matter what, I get those shaky hands (I guess it's nervousness or maybe just excitement jitters?) until I get through 2-3 mags, which is why I call it warm up jitters. Even if it's just a range trip and not a competition. Anyone else get this? Remedies?

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Had this for years. Adrenalin gets too high and hands start shaking.

I find it quite effective to drink a fresh orange juice and eat some candy/pastry half an hour before I use the gun.

(I have mild hypoglycaemia, so my blood sugar might get too low because of the adrenalin).

Talking to some old shooters they said that in the '80s (when they were competing) it was very common to have some sugar cubes before each match (apparently the blood sugar cycle has the effect of calming the nerves)

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I was listening to a podcast (and now I don't remember which one, Ben Stoeger's maybe?) which at some point addressed this issue, the "first stage jitters".

This was an interesting one to me, because I get them at every major match at the first stage, stomach flutters, heart racing, shaky knees, etc. The podcast had a brilliant insight, or at least I thought it was brilliant. What you are experiencing is your body getting into fight or flight mode. Your body is trying to shut off functions not needed for a fight, turning up your heart rate and breathing to get you pumped up and ready for what is coming, blood is being pumped into the muscles, etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response

Once I started thinking of it this way, I decided to embrace it. My body is trying to get me ready to go faster, stronger, further. Sure, some of its choices might be poor (damn it, I don't need you to loosen my bowels and bladder right now, that might work on the savanna but its embarrassing on the range), some of the loss of fine motor control and the shaking aren't going to come in handy, but just being aware that this is what is going on means you can stop fighting it and adjust your reactions to it.

I now welcome it, while still dreading it a bit. Better knowing what is going on, means I can work on accepting the positives and mitigating the negatives.

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Had this for years. Adrenalin gets too high and hands start shaking.

I find it quite effective to drink a fresh orange juice and eat some candy/pastry half an hour before I use the gun.

(I have mild hypoglycaemia, so my blood sugar might get too low because of the adrenalin).

Talking to some old shooters they said that in the '80s (when they were competing) it was very common to have some sugar cubes before each match (apparently the blood sugar cycle has the effect of calming the nerves)

I'll have to give this a shot, thanks for the response!

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I was listening to a podcast (and now I don't remember which one, Ben Stoeger's maybe?) which at some point addressed this issue, the "first stage jitters".

This was an interesting one to me, because I get them at every major match at the first stage, stomach flutters, heart racing, shaky knees, etc. The podcast had a brilliant insight, or at least I thought it was brilliant. What you are experiencing is your body getting into fight or flight mode. Your body is trying to shut off functions not needed for a fight, turning up your heart rate and breathing to get you pumped up and ready for what is coming, blood is being pumped into the muscles, etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response

Once I started thinking of it this way, I decided to embrace it. My body is trying to get me ready to go faster, stronger, further. Sure, some of its choices might be poor (damn it, I don't need you to loosen my bowels and bladder right now, that might work on the savanna but its embarrassing on the range), some of the loss of fine motor control and the shaking aren't going to come in handy, but just being aware that this is what is going on means you can stop fighting it and adjust your reactions to it.

I now welcome it, while still dreading it a bit. Better knowing what is going on, means I can work on accepting the positives and mitigating the negatives.

Hm, none of that ever even crossed my mind. Pretty cool! It is nice to know what's going on, but it is disruptive to say the least the first few mags. lol

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Might mean that you're either shooting too infrequently (make a BIG deal out of it when you go)

or you're shooting a very powerful/noisy/hard recoiling gun???

Or your ear protection is insufficient.

Try running a few mags of .22 ammo double muffed at the beginning, or get out to the range

more often. :cheers:

Reminds me of the guy in a class telling everyone he has sex once a year, and they asked

him why he was so excited - is reply - "Tonights the night". It's exciting enough if you have'

sex every day, but once a year, and it's a Really BIG deal .... :devil:

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Might mean that you're either shooting too infrequently (make a BIG deal out of it when you go)

or you're shooting a very powerful/noisy/hard recoiling gun???

Or your ear protection is insufficient.

Try running a few mags of .22 ammo double muffed at the beginning, or get out to the range

more often. :cheers:

Reminds me of the guy in a class telling everyone he has sex once a year, and they asked

him why he was so excited - is reply - "Tonights the night". It's exciting enough if you have'

sex every day, but once a year, and it's a Really BIG deal .... :devil:

Not getting to the range enough is certainly an issue. 2-3 times a month isn't near what I'd like to be able to do. But, not having a range close by, etc, makes it tougher to get to the range as often as I'd like. It's basically just enough to keep basic skills up.

Edited by bruceg
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I experience these too to an extent. Interesting about the blood sugar concept.

It was glanced over already, but I did notice an improvement in my shooting, especially my blinking / flinching, when I went to double plugging at every match. (foamies under muffs) The quieter gun really makes it seem like you're running around with an airsoft gun!

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I experience these too to an extent. Interesting about the blood sugar concept.

It was glanced over already, but I did notice an improvement in my shooting, especially my blinking / flinching, when I went to double plugging at every match. (foamies under muffs) The quieter gun really makes it seem like you're running around with an airsoft gun!

May have to give it a shot. The sound of guns has never bothered me. Even when I was young and did dumb stuff like shoot all day with zero hearing protection. But hell, maybe it's a subliminal thing. Next time I'll try plugs under my muffs instead of just muffs.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not sure you can ever get rid of the nervous feeling. The USPSA matches cause me more nervous feelings than club practice or Steel Challenge matches. I pick a stage to shoot first that will serve as a warm-up stage. Last match, I shot the "Tight Shots" stage first, and the nerves were very much in play when the start signal sounded. I shot the classifier as the third stage of the day and that one went well, having made it through the "big fancy stage" and having shot another that was pretty simple. I would not have shot the classifier first, nor last (when tired).

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I've found doing some solid dry fire with the timer the morning before a match to really help calm me down. As well as controlling my breathing. Bringing my attention to where it should be directed, NOT letting my body rule me and drive my attention elsewhere.

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  • 2 weeks later...

my local range has been doing what is referred to as first shot as the first stage in every match. IDPA target with the center cut out, youre staged 3 yards away facing target, on buzzer pull and fire 3 rounds ( first mag loaded to 3) then reload and fire 3 more. It actually does help me out of some of those first shot jitters.

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read Lanny Bassham's book "With Winning In Mind". If you can put into practice his techniques you can cure this straight away ...

+1 . Working on putting things in to practice properly .

Recently for me trying to be 100% consistent with a good pre-shot routine (anyone remember Steve Alford shooting free throws?) seems to help get my head where it needs to be while under stress. It is not a complete cure by any means but it is a quick tool to pick up.

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I shot the Florida Open last year which was my first "big match" where I really tried to prepare myself. This was the first time I literally felt the butterflies in my stomach. I dropped a mag on my first two stages and forgot to reload one of my mags with ammo on the third. In fact the last stage was the only one I shot clean. What a goof..... A few of the more experienced guys told me I probably wouldn't find a more difficult match, so at least it was a confidence builder. As Nimitz said, I need to shoot more big matches. And I really need to perfect my stage programming and equipment check routine. Being 100% sure I'm ready to shoot the stage seems to help with nerves. and it obviously helps improve speed and reduce errors.

Another thing I've found interesting is how much running around and practicing at match speed seems to improve accuracy. It may simply be that I'm just warmed up after starting my practice with group shooting and other warmups, but once I start running around everything seems to get better. Even in matches I seem to make more A zone hits than I can in practice. I think maybe the adrenalin and intensity improves my grip and focus. I think I read in a Ben Stoeger book to always do what you have to do to get "A"s in practice, and the adrenalin will naturally push you into the speed/performance you need in a match.

It's a very interesting subject, and I think it's one of the best things about competitive shooting.

Edited by Just4FunLP
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And I really need to perfect my stage programming and equipment check routine. Being 100% sure I'm ready to shoot the stage seems to help with nerves. and it obviously helps improve speed and reduce errors.

I did poorly at my major matches in Florida last year until the last one I shot (Doc Match at the WAC). My Florida State and Open were mediocre and I absolutely beclowned myself at 2015 A6. Match anxiety was one of my issues and it was one of the many reasons that A6 went badly for me.

One of the things I'm doing different this year for my major shooting season (which starts next weekend with Factory Classic at the WAC) is minimizing distractions (no more photography when I'm actually shooting on a squad) and really getting into a set stage routine where I'm doing stage planning/visualization, patching/resetting, shooting, and then post-shooting prep (reloading mags, cleaning mags, hydrating, etc). Rinse, Lather, repeat.

I've been practicing this routine at local club matches so really get it set and refined. Hopefully having a set routine and getting control of the elements I can plan for will help a bit with match anxiety.

What was really nice last year was that one of the major matches (and I forget which one now....maybe the Open) at Frostproof had a stage set up where you could pony up a little bit of cash before the match and shoot some plates before the match to warm up. Nice to just get some rounds through the pistol before you start shooting for a score.

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