Though some might view the shooting sports and physical fitness as separate disciplines, Dave Castro sees them as inseparable. The passionate action shooting competitor and former Navy SEAL grew up plinking targets on his parents’ California ranch, and currently serves as Director of Training for fitness phenomenon CrossFit. He also orchestrates the company’s wildly popular CrossFit Games.

“Whether you’re competing in a practical shooting match, busting sporting clays or stalking elk on the side of a mountain, being fit will improve your shooting performance and overall good health,” he says.

Castro’s CrossFit duties—which include overseeing all seminars, education and certification for a global network of more than 14,000 affiliates, as well as organizing and running the Games—keep him plenty busy. But he still finds time to compete in United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) matches.

“I really enjoy the sport, particularly the physical and mental challenges of being as fast as possible while maintaining your composure and accuracy,” he says. “It’s a nice escape from my day-to-day work.”

He also appreciates how practical shooting competitions incorporate elements of time into the scoring process to assess a participant’s performance. “This allows you to measure your results and progress through numbers and data,” he explains. “There’s nothing subjective about it.”

In a similar vein, the CrossFit fitness regimen tracks a person’s power output during various functional movements in a given amount of time.

“It’s measurable, observable and repeatable, so you can tell how you’re doing and when you’re improving,” he says. “Compare that to bodybuilding, where there are no performance markers or actual data. You might look more ripped or think you feel better, but you can’t truly assess your improvement.”

Castro became involved in CrossFit while searching for workouts that would increase his endurance during SEAL deployments, which included extended operations in the rugged backcountry of Afghanistan. “Running and other traditional exercises weren’t cutting it,” he recalls. “After months and months of research I decided to try CrossFit, and instantly saw results.”

Although he was a lifelong shooter, Castro didn’t gravitate toward competitive events until a few months after leaving the Navy.

“When I was younger, I was mostly target shooting around the ranch,” he recalls. “I received great training in the SEALS. But I still really wish I’d found the shooting sports while I was in the service, because I think it would have helped me become even more proficient in practical shooting situations.”

Physical Training Benefits

Castro notes that the fitness he achieved in the Navy and with CrossFit was a big plus while learning the ropes in USPSA matches, and continues to be to this day.

“When I first got involved in competitive shooting, I wasn’t as fast or as experienced as the other shooters, but being in better shape gave me an edge in the physical aspect of the sport,” he says. “And it still does now. In fact, it’s interesting to me how even grand master shooters who invest thousands of dollars on equipment and practice overlook one of the simplest and easiest things they could do to improve their shooting—getting themselves in shape.

“I say that about competitive shooting, but it applies to hunters as well,” he continues. “All types of hunting involve some type of exercise. Being fit is going to improve all aspects of your performance and your overall enjoyment of the experience.”

Castro is quick to note that hunters and competitive shooters can realize health benefits without marathon workouts and spending seven days a week at the gym. “Shooters willing to devote just 30 minutes to an hour a day on their fitness can enjoy tremendous results in the shooting sports, not to mention life in general,” he says.

He also acknowledges that—as with many journeys—the first step toward fitness is often the hardest.

“But if you’re willing to take that step and make a commitment to see changes, you’ll reap incredible rewards,” he says. “It can be through CrossFit, but that’s just one expression of fitness. Simply getting off the couch and exercising can help improve your game in the shooting sports and hunting.

“Fitness and good health can also extend your ability to enjoy these activities for decades or more,” he adds. “And those kinds of rewards are priceless.”