Erin Garvin is an exercise physiologist with a B.S. and M.S. in Exercise Science and owns Empower Pilates and Yoga in Roanoke, Virginia. She is a master Pilates instructor trainer, yoga teacher, fitness instructor, Thai yoga therapist and was voted a “top ten Pilates Instructor” for the worldwide Pilates Anytime contest. Erin also is a new face in the shooting world, having started competing in action pistol matches in the past 2 years, frequently walking away with top awards at state International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) and United States Action Pistol Association (USPSA) matches. She also is a certified NRA pistol instructor. We heard about Erin Garvin’s new book, The Bare Minimum Stretch Guide for Shooters, and wanted to find out more about her book and her life. We think you’ll be fascinated by her story.
When I was a little girl, there was 1 man on TV in the tri-state area, Artie Levin, and he would do jumping jacks, ab crunches and pushups. I was about 5 and I can remember saying, ‘I want to do that!’ … I loved that, and I didn’t want to be a P.E. teacher, so I thought I guess I’ll go do a Ph.D. and I’ll do research in metabolism and obesity and I did my internship and got heavy doing that out in Denver, so I thought, ‘No, the truth is I want to be a teacher.’
I figured out my own way and did it. There are so many things in fitness you can do: strengthening, stretching, Pilates, yoga, balance and weights. There’s so much variety within the field; it’s like shooting. It keeps the ADD part of me happy.
With the COVID thing, I was doing remote sessions already, especially when I went to Florida for February, so I was trying to get my clients onboard to do remote training. When this happened, I got busy to figure out how to do a better remote class schedule and how to get my products and services online quickly. Even though it’s been an anxious time, it’s been good for me to figure out how to make things better. I get a weird kick out of it. It’s like being a woman and going to a shooting match.
Why did you take the time to write and illustrate with photography the book, The Bare Minimum Stretch Guide for Competitive Shooters?
I felt like it’s my spiritual job to follow my intuitive urges. Most of the people I shoot with are very tight; they’re males. They’d come up to me at matches and ask me questions about stretching … guys and girls were asking me because they were hurting. They can’t kneel and they can’t go prone. I thought, ‘This is easy.’ They don’t want to do an hour of stretching, so this is the bare minimum – basically touching the basic muscle groups that you have. This is a lot better than me just repeating myself over and over. No one has done this, that I’ve noticed. I have a unique lifestyle – I love to shoot competitively and I love my job. So, I just put it together. I felt like, I want to give back to the shooting community somehow, and this is my way of doing that.
What’s your background in the shooting sports?
In 2017, I googled “fun shooting sports in Roanoke,” and I told them ‘I don’t know anything and I don’t own anything, but if someone will help me, I will be enthusiastic and I will be dedicated once I get started.’ The first people to call me back were cowboy action shooter guys. They taught me everything , and they lent me guns and they were fabulous. Then, I bought my own guns. Then, I saw this thing called Defense Pistol, and I thought, ‘That looks fun!’ … but I don’t like to do anything poorly, so I said to my friend, ‘I really want to get better at this pistol thing, and he said, “Ben Stoeger is having this workshop in North Carolina.”’ … They let me in – took me off the wait list. Ben helped me, and the girls in North Carolina lent me a gun belt, and told me what to order. The shooting community is so supportive. I really liked the sport, but Since we don’t have a lot of USPSA matches near me, Ben told me to sign up for a handful of big USPSA matches and get really good at IDPA in my area. I practice here and then, I’ve shot bigger USPSA matches in South Carolina, Virginia and Florida. [Erin currently shoots B Class, but aims to qualify for A Class. She shoots a CZ SP-01 (Shadow).] I did a couple of IDPA matches, such as nationals. I’m an expert in IDPA. After I got used to competing in the local IDPA matches, I tend to practice USPSA skills rather than compete in all of IDPA matches here. After a certain level of match competence, I needed the USPSA practice more than the match experience. [Note: At a recent IPDA match in Roanoke held before the COVID quarantine, she came in #2 iron sight pistol out of 50 – all shooters, including men.] I also benefitted from training with Robert Vogel early on.
I know you practice what you preach, and you also teach. Do many shooters buy into this philosophy and do they take your classes?
I have a good shooter friend who takes my class once a week, sometimes twice a week. He likes it for the posture; we do squatting – it’s good for getting into low ports. There’s another guy, when we’re at matches, we’ll do stretching together.
I heard, from our mutual friend Kimberly Kolb Eakin, that you stretch at the range and get interesting comments. Have you ever made believers of people and how so?
It’s not as odd anymore. I listen to the “Ben Stoeger” podcast and the “Shoot Fast” podcast, and you’ll hear people talking about mixing in some stretches with training for shooting. For example, at the Virginia State Championship (USPSA), you had to squat low and had 2 prone positions, which requires thoracic extension – where male shooters tend to be really tight in their upper back and shoulders.
For someone who doesn’t know how to approach the regimen of stretches in your book — what do you recommend? In your book, you offer 22 stretches with a minimum time of 20 seconds per stretch.
I almost named the book Under 5 minutes a Day, because if you just choose 3 stretches at 20 seconds each, you’re under 1 ½ minutes. … but if, for example, someone knows his shoulders are tight and isn’t going to do the whole routine, he can pick a handful of stretches and do that … but 3 days a week would be fine for gains and once or twice a week for maintenance. I wrote the book literally for the bare minimum effort someone could perform for some flexibility improvements.
Do you have a favorite stretch?
I like the seated hip-opener, and a lot of the guys were asking me about that one – there are 6 deep external rotators and they’re always tight. If you’re a couch potato, they’re tight and if you do anything active, they’re tight.
I published an article in the USPSA magazine, Front Sight, and I’ll probably do another one. I’ve published stretching articles in the IDPA Tactical Journal and the Cowboy Action Shooting magazine, The American Cowboy Chronicles. I want to make A Class in USPSA. There’s something more I’m supposed to be doing with fitness; it might be this remote thing. This may open the door to something I’ve wanted to do – train remotely. Maybe it’s showing it on a bigger television channel. I just talked to the local PBS this week, who is airing my fitness features and I used to regularly film for the tri-state WDBJ 7 channel for the last 2 years before that anchorwoman moved to Connecticut. I just don’t know where it’s going. I just keep showing up and try to refine myself and something will come.
I also know I’m going to be teaching people how to shoot. It’ll most likely be women, because one of my gifts is that I help women who tend to have fear overcome that fear and transmute it into courage and confidence.
Check out Erin Garvin’s YouTube Channel and her series of exercise and stretching videos.
I’ve always felt like this, since I was a little girl … Fear can stop you from so many things in life, and I don’t want that fear to stop me, even if it means I will look ridiculous … that is for me to get through and that is not a legitimate fear. I will not accept that.
Purchase Erin Garvin’s, The Bare Minimum Stretch Guide for Competitive Shooters: Easy Stretches You Can do at the Range to Up Your Game and Reduce Pain, at Amazon.