I'm currently in hot and steamy Montana for a work project, looking longingly at photos of Bisley on Facebook and planning to do a bit of trail running when it cools down later this evening. Back in the UK it's shaping up to be a toasty warm Imperial Meeting, so it's a good time to remind ourselves of how to shoot in the heat*.
Our sport takes place outdoors, so we're largely at the mercy of the elements. Being able to cope with sun and sweltering heat comes as part and parcel of the competition; however you are limited in the changes you can make to your clothing. If you train with a thick jumper under your thick leather shooting jacket you're going to need to be able to compete with the same thick jumper under the same thick leather shooting jacket. This can make things a bit hot under the collar.
Here are a few common-sense tips to help you manage the heat:
1) Wear Sunscreen - Even in the UK, the sun is strong enough to burn you. In the short term this is a pain in the arse and a distraction, but in the long term repeated overexposure to UV can lead to malignant melanoma. As a fullbore shooter you're going to spend a lot of time outside and get a lot of sun.
2) Stay in the Shade and/or Wear a hat - Pretty obvious this one. Bisley is known for silly hats; please keep up our nation's proud traditions. A hat can keep you cool, but also it will reduce the amount of glare that your eyes have to deal with.
3) Stay Hydrated - Your body's natural reaction to high temperatures is to sweat, reducing your temperature through evaporative cooling; however this and your body's other processes can dehydrate you if you don't take in enough fluids. Don't drink lots of Gatorade and other supposed 'sports' drinks as they contain a lot of sugar, which isn't good for you in the long term but can also cause blood sugar highs and lows. They're fine for running, where you're burning 100 calories per mile, but not so much for shooting. Contrary to popular belief caffeine-containing drinks do not increase your risk of dehydration, so if you're used to coffee with breakfast don't stop.
4) Take Enough Salts - Less likely than dehydration but with as severe consequences, drinking too much fluid and not taking on enough sodium and potassium salts can result in hyponatraemia. Entertainingly, many of the symptoms of too little sodium in the blood are similar to those of dehydration, so if you feel dehydrated take on a little salt also.
5) Go Easy on the Booze - Shooting with a hangover in high temperatures can be a deeply unpleasant experience and is unlikely to improve your performance. Keep it to a couple of beers in the evening, or drink the occasional shandy.
6) Acclimatise in your Gear - Your heart rate is likely to go up when there's a sudden increase in body temperature, so in the relatively moderate temperatures you're likely to encounter in the UK it is worth getting ready in your gear 10-15 minutes before you start shooting to allow your heart rate to come back down. Conversely, when shooting in extremely high temperatures in India in 2010 some of us found that staying in the cool and then putting our gear on at the very last minute managed the overall heat load.
7) Use Eye Mist/Drops - If you find that your eyes get dry and this affects your vision, consider using an eye mist spray and/or eyedrops. Originally a bit on the expensive side, eye mist sprays became a lot cheaper when generic brands came on the market. Eye drops aren't too bad, I buy the cheapest and most basic I can find in the supermarket. I generally spray my eyes 15 mins before a shoot and use eye drops at the end of the day.
Keep cool. Stay hydrated. Maximise your performance and enjoy your Imperial Meeting. Looking forward to seeing y'all on Thursday morning.
* Thanks to Phil T from http://www.full-bore.co.uk for the subject for today's blog.