Sometimes there’s a disconnect between avid competitive shooters and personal protection. We spend so much time improving our accuracy, split times, reloads, transitions and other skills tested on the range that we neglect to consider our own safety. It’s easy to do. For example, we think about getting #SHOOTFIT for the big match, lace up the running shoes and plug ourselves in with a steady beat or favorite podcast without taking the time to consider how that might put us in danger.
In my twenties I was completely guilty of this lack respect for my personal safety. Now, especially because I am a mom, it’s different. My day-to-day awareness and even how I choose to work out has evolved because bad things do happen. It’s also why I reached out to Jeff Gonzales of Trident Concepts for this post.
Jeff is a widely respected trainer, author and blogger. A decorated US Navy SEAL his experience in dangerous situations is beyond extensive. His company, Trident Concepts, specializes in personal protection tactics for those who are able to carry and also for times when you are unarmed. Their motto is “Concepts that meet reality.”
My goal in introducing Jeff is not to get all Jason Bourne on you, but to help you think about staying safe while you get #SHOOTFIT from someone who’s truly an expert on the subject.
JulieG: In the scheme of things, how important is fitness when it comes to shooting and personal protection?
Jeff: That is a great question and one we have tried to educate people on for a long time. Coming from a background where we place a high premium on fitness and athleticism, I will tell you it is incredibly important for both. We’ve all heard “survival of the fittest” I’m sure, but no truer words apply when it comes to your personal protection (PP) and shooting.
On the PP side, the stronger and healthier you are the better prepared you are to handle what might come your way. But it goes even further, having a healthy body means having a healthy mind, and a healthy mind is more capable of picking up on the subtle clues of an impending attack. Most attacks are ambushes, surprises of sorts. Picking up on those signs early increases your survivability. Then it should seem obvious if you are fighting, wrestling or grappling with an opponent technique is great, but strength is the force to be reckoned with.
From a shooting perspective, we cannot always predict when we will be called to employ our skills. It could be late at night, after a long shift or you fighting off an ailment, the fitter you are the better you will perform or another way to look at it is the more resilient your skills will be. I partially jest when a student asks me for drills or suggestions on how to be a better shooter, I usually give them a few tips, but what I want to say is, “get stronger.”
JulieG: I used to be guilty of this when I was younger, stuffing my ears with loud music and going for a run. How and why is this dangerous?
Jeff: Oh boy is that putting you in you danger. Yes, the loud music can and often times does help you put forth an extra effort, but it comes a cost. That cost is situational awareness and it is not worth it.
I think it is safe to say you stand a higher risk of being struck by a distracted driver than being mugged while on a jog. Not to say it can’t happen, but with today’s technology being so invasive we know it is a leading caused of motor vehicle accidents. I try to explain to people that you could absolutely be in the right, you could have done everything right such as crossing at the cross walk while awaiting the signal. Clearly you have the right of way, the law on your side, but the distracted driver doesn’t see you and from your hospital bed all broken and in pain you have the thought of knowing you were in the right to keep you company.
Obviously, I’m being facetious, but hopefully folks can see my point. When you are jogging, stay alert. Keep your head on a swivel, look around you and do your best to anticipate some bad choices from distracted drivers.
JulieG: How do you stay motivated while working out without plugging in to distractions?
Jeff: That is another great question. All I can tell you is after years, and I mean years, of working out I find myself in a zone. I’m sure folks know what I am talking about and that zone quite simply is goal oriented in nature.
I don’t do much running anymore and if I do run it is over shorter distance, but I do move heavy weight and when I’m in the gym it’s like I’m in a bubble of sorts. People can be talking, music can be playing and it is all muffled. I am completely focused on the movement at hand. I have to be from a safety and injury prevention point of view. If I am distracted or not paying attention I can literally get crushed with the weight I’m moving.
Whenever I approach the bar I have a goal, it is to accomplish whatever, so many number of reps or as fast as I can. It doesn’t really matter, the point is I literally tune out everything and focus on the task at hand. I still need practice, to think about certain points in my lifts because they are not completely habituated and that takes focus.
Now, there is the other side of me that comes out and this is the not so “friendly” side. When I was a BUD’s (Basic Underwater Demolition Course) Instructor there was no music, nothing to keep you as a student motivated. Every day you had to put out, you had to give it your all. Some days were horrible and quitting is so incredible easy when it is a habit. Those who needed external motivation were prime candidates for quitters and you could spot them a mile away. It was like blood in the water to us sharks. Another way to think of it is like an island, if you didn’t bring it, you ain’t going to find it.
JulieG: Let’s just say you can’t carry concealed when you’re at the gym, what are ways people can avoid potentially dangerous situations in this setting?
Jeff: The best thing to do is be mindful of you surroundings. If you show up to the gym during a busy time, parking can be a pain. When you leave, you are tired, probably trying to get home or maybe to work so you might be in a hurry. It takes a few seconds to stop at the doors and look out. Take in the scenery, don’t just look, but actually see things.
As creatures of habit we generally look for patterns and you should be looking for things that look out of place. That should stand out and you should pay closer attention. If you don’t see anything, you should still come up with a plan as far as getting to your car. What route are you going to take and consider where you will go if you run into trouble. Will you run back to the gym, or run to the other side of the car? I don’t know, but the situation will dictate and the mere fact you are thinking about it will give you plenty of insight.
Most people buy a fire extinguisher for their home because they are worried about a house fire, but they buy it before the fire. Well, planning your route and actions is pretty much the same so don’t freak out thinking you are being paranoid. Like you said earlier, bad things do happen.
JulieG: Mindset plays a huge role in your success as a shooter, athlete and everyday life, but changing the way you think is difficult to do over night. What advice do you have for helping people change their mindset and start thinking about safety in everything they do?
Jeff: You are absolutely right, it will not happen overnight. Like anything, you have to practice. The biggest suggestion I can offer is to use an analogy of driving that most of us are familiar with already. Driving takes a lot of awareness.
When you start your car, you check your gauges then your immediate surroundings to see if it is safe to back out of your drive way. You are probably paying attention, but the moment you start driving on surface streets now you have to be on the look out for other cars and people, plus make sure you are going in the right direction. Then as you merge onto the freeway you accelerate, you now have to really pay attention because you have less reaction time. Is that person going to let me in or am I going to have to speed up or slow down? Then you realize you are running out drivable terrain and have to take action, you brake and pull in behind them or whatever you decide for your scenario.
Most people are already pretty aware of their surroundings when driving, now they just need to apply them to those times they are outside their vehicle. I liked something else you mentioned earlier, which is how things changed for you when you became a mom. First off, congratulations, but I can’t emphasize enough to the audience it is not just your personal safety, but your family’s safety at stake. You are your families first responder, you are the line in the sand. Stay safe.
Learn more about Trident Concepts at tridentconcepts.com. Follow Jeff’s blog for insight on personal protection and fitness, like this recent post Chronic Tendonitis in the Elbows. You can also follow on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+.