Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Noobie's Guide to Improving Yourself from Outside the Field

So you've just started getting into paintball. You like the sport. You have a team (or you're looking for one). You think about paintball all the time, and you can't wait til the next session. You're motivated. You're eager. I AM PAINTBALLER, HEAR ME ROAR!

Now you're looking for ways to improve yourself... or so I assume, since you're still here with me... and you're wondering what can you do with yourself during those dreary non-practice days to speed up your transformation from this...

... to this.

1. You Gotta Work it Work it.

Being fit helps you last during tournaments, especially if you're a core player and you're playing just about every game. A lot of people underestimate how tiring speedball can be, especially during tournaments. From experience, if you're tired, you generally get sloppy. Your brain slows down, you start playing loosely, and you make mistakes.

If you're going to be a top-notch paintballer, you need to be fit!

Basic cardio and strength is good. Jogging, swimming (proper laps, not splashing around), even cycling, they're all good. It's a lot easier to think and to move when you don't constantly feel like you're oxygen-deprived, and your heart's about to burst.

Ideally, a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio 2-3 times a week. Make sure you work up to a good heart rate. Toss in some good strength training. Pushups, situps, squats, at the very least. No pain, no gain sweetheart. Besides, think of how sexy you're going to look... and just in case you need extra motivation: Stamina in the field = Stamina in bed. Woohoo!

2. Practice Makes Perfect

Practise all your in-field movements, like snap-shooting, breakouts, and even simple things like changing hands. The more used to a movement you are, the more comfortable, easier and faster it will be (and the better you'll look). These can be done in the field, or in the comfort of your home. For obvious reasons, we don't recommend practicing snap-shooting in the office, unless you don't mind looking like a tie-wearing spastic teakettle.

3. Get Comfortable...

... with your marker. If you have one, you can start by just holding it (fully set-up with tank and hopper). No kidding. It pays to be comfortable with your marker. Move around with it, and get used to holding the marker. You should preferably be able to dance around in the field, and still hold your marker steady. Keep your face as close as possible to your bolt. You should be more or less huddled around the marker, with your elbows tucked in.

A more in-depth explanation about how to hold your marker can be found here.

You can also do reloading drills, where you keep the marker up with your trigger hand while your other hand pretends to reload. Sandie and I do this for a full minute on each side while watching TV. Alternate between your right and your left. At first it was excruciating - we felt like dying while watching the stopwatch crawl its way to a minute, but now we can alternate for 4-6 minutes non-stop.

What if you don't have a marker? Use free weights, or even a 1.5L bottle of water. The point is to build those muscles, it doesn't matter what you use!

4. Streeeeeeetch!

That's right. Bend over honey, and touch those toes! Stretching keeps you limber and flexible, useful when you're trying to do things like fold yourself as small possible to fit in the snake.

Stretching also increases your range of motion, decreasing your likelihood of getting injured, and increasing the strength of your movements. The best time for some serious stretching is after you've warmed up, but light stretches can be done anytime. Be sure to go easy and take things gradually.

Here are two decent stretching charts to get you started:

A few tips:
  • Do balanced stretching: Make sure to stretch both sides, left-right or front-back. For example, if you're stretching your abs/stomach, make sure to stretch your back too.
  • Smooth and slow is the way to go. Yeah, it rhymes. Jokes aside, don't jerk or bounce while stretching. It's easy to overstretch the muscle if you do.
  • If it hurts, definitely stop. You should feel a slight tension, and nothing more. Pushing til you feel pain won't make you a gymnast overnight (but it might injure you).

5. You Are What You Eat

Some people are blessed with fantastic metabolisms. I can only envy those who still look lean despite a daily diet that's more or less like... waffles and bacon for breakfast, pork chops for lunch and Burger King for dinner.

But daily indulgences aside, you should make sure you're adequately nourished pre-tournament. The golden words to preventing cramps are... potassium, magnesium, calcium. These minerals help to maintain normal muscle function, and deficiencies can result in cramps.

Here are samples of foods rich in...

Potassium: Bananas, lean meat, lean poultry, lean fish, avocados, kiwis, potatoes (the peel in particular), spinach, oranges, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage, tomatoes, etc.

Magnesium: Spinach, broccoli, almonds, brazil nuts, cashew nuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, bananas, other green veggies, etc.

Calcium: Milk (of course), cheese, tofu, almonds, soy beans, broccoli, cabbage/bok choy, etc.

These should be part of your daily diet. Preferably not fried or deep-fried. Grilled, roasted, or steamed are all good.

Besides eating the right things, you should be eating at the right times. Make sure you eat a good breakfast, not too large, a minimum of half an hour before you start moving vigorously. Also make sure you've got enough carbs before starting, but not too much sugar. Sugar spikes also come with sugar crashes.

Healthy eating is a habit. You don't have to completely give up beer, fried chicken and pizzas, but keep it as a treat, rather than as part of your daily diet.

6. Know the Rules

Never hurts. If it's a slow day in the office, take a bit of time to read up on the rules, especially if you're playing a major tournament or league. A little dreary reading is way better than getting pulled out off the break or getting a 1-for-1 or 2-for-1 for abso-fricking-lutely stupid mistakes like not touching your barrel to the starting gate (ask me how I found this one out).

Never assume the rules are the same from tournament to tournament, most tournaments have their own rulebooks and the you never know when the nitty gritties could make or break your game.

And... that's it. If you've got any other pearls of wisdom to add, do let me know!